Brooksville is a reflection of “the Old South.” It grew from two communities: Fort DeSoto and Pierceville. In 1843, Hernando County incorporated what is today known as Pasco, Hernando and Citrus Counties. Visiting Brooksville today brings southern hospitality into fun shopping, dining and discoveries.
Quick Brooksville History
Brooksville was originally known as Melendez and then Benton. Incorporated in 1856, it is a wonderful city featuring a hilly terrain that ranges in elevation from 175 to 274 feet. There is a long history of successful planters, growers, and cattlemen in and around Brooksville.
Its southern background is reflected in its name, honoring South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks who is best noted for hitting abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner on the head with his cane.
The downtown area features the iconic Hernando Courthouse, along with great shopping in unique stores featuring everything from antiques, outfits, high end resales, stationery, flowers and bric-a-brac to formal gowns – and an centennial hardware store. Some streets still show the Augusta bricks laid by slaves in the 1800s.
Visiting Brooksville Today
There are several downtown restaurants and coffee shops, along with legal and banking offices, a library and a park. Brooksville is working hard to revive their downtown to attract more visitors, and became a Florida Main Street community in 2016.
Local art is displayed in several downtown business and buildings, as well as murals painted throughout the downtown area. The Brooksville City Hall building houses a changing art exhibit and all are welcome. There is no charge.
The architecture is interesting in several buildings and a wonderful historic walking tour can be had for the simple act of following the map here. If you would like more information about each building on the historic tour, download the complete guide here.
Visit the May Stringer Museum, located at 600 West Jefferson. Housed in the 1850 Stringer House, a Queen Anne masterpiece with a four-story tower, this historic building is reputed to be haunted.
F. L. Stringer was a State Senator and judge. With thousands of historic artifacts and regular tours, it commemorates the Civil War era and provides a glimpse at the lifestyle and relics of a gone but not forgotten segment of American history. Ghost tours are held on Friday and Saturday nights by reservation.
Continue east to find another wonderful shopping area, featuring the Hawkins House, Peace Tree Trading Company, Rogers Christmas House at Saxon Manor, The Wired Bird, and the Florida Cracker Trading Company and Tap Room. There is even an old-fashioned Coney Island.
Expanding Beyond Brooksville’s City Limits
If you travel north on US 41, you can visit the historic Chinsegut Manor House at the Chinsegut Retreat Center and rediscover the magic that caused its last private owners to name it Chinsegut, meaning, “place where lost things are found.” Learn their story of courage and civil rights for all. Then spend the night in one of the unique cabins on the former plantation’s grounds.
Head back south on U.S. 41 and then travel east on S.R. 50/U.S. 98. Make a right on Spring Lake Highway (541) and follow it to the top of the hill. On the left is Boyett’s Grove Citrus and Timeless Attraction. Here you will find a wonderful zoo where you can feed the animals, a dinosaur cave, aquariums, birds, snakes, alligators and more.
A putt-putt golf course winds through part of this fun-filled tourist trap. There’s even a snack bar, ice cream parlor, and an old fashioned Florida gift shop! It’s one of my favorite places in the Nature Coast.
In season, you can see citrus washed and waxed the old-fashioned way and then have some shipped north from Boyett’s Grove or purchase some for local consumption.
A day trip to Brooksville for shopping, dining, and exploring can be a wonderful escape.