Changes at Chinsegut include continuing Historic Manor House Tours
Have you ever toured the Chinsegut Hill Historic Site and Manor House in Brooksville, Florida? It is located at 22495 Chinsegut Hill Rd, Brooksville, FL 34601
The expansive white structure features a two-story wraparound porch, a porte-cochere, large windows with shutters, and amazing views for miles around due to its location on one of the tallest hills in Florida.
Inside guests see period furniture and artifacts from Chinsegut’s residents. On Saturdays and Sundays, schedule a tour of this magnificent piece of Florida history through the Tampa Bay History Center.
Costumed docents share stories of the families that called ‘Mount Airy’ and ‘Chinsegut Hill’ home over the years. The cost is only $5.
Truthfully, the grounds alone are worth a trip from anywhere.
Chinsegut is a magical place… a hallowed ground to many. The hill is so high that visitors enjoy views for miles. The Tampa Bay History Center has done a great job placing historical plaques that tell stories of the people who inhabited it over the years.
When I have visited “the Hill” with children, we have enjoyed the grounds so much that we never got inside to take the house tour. There is a lot of space. A bamboo forest. Citrus trees. Huge grandfather oaks. A staircase into one oak to climb. A swing. And those wonderful rocking chairs and swings on the porch.
But I have taken the house tour several times with adults and enjoyed it every time.
Currently, tours encompass the first floor of the stately mansion, but in 2022, Tampa Bay History Center plans to open the second floor as part of the tour, as well as plans to add an elevator for handicapped access.
How Did the Tampa Bay History Center get Involved?
In January of 2020, the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners signed leases with the Tampa Bay History Center and Mid-Florida Community Services – TBHC would operate the manor house and grounds as Chinsegut Hill Historic Site and MFCS would operate the cabins, dining hall, conference room, and events as a Retreat and Conference Center.
“The Tampa Bay History Center’s ability to tell the stories of this historic and beloved Hernando County landmark and Mid Florida Community Services’ ability to showcase and share the property with the community is something we are most excited for,” said Hernando County Administrator Jeff Rogers. “The expertise and available resources these two organizations can provide will help propel Chinsegut Hill into a positive healthy future.”
The Tampa Bay History Center went to work, cataloging and organizing the many artifacts that had been accumulated at the Chinsegut Hill property. It took many hours and lots of dedication.
Mid Florida Community Services would run the Retreat and Conference Center
Mid Florida Community Services, Inc. (MFCS) planned to use and operate the conference center, dining hall, classroom, caretaker’s house, cottages and related facilities for events and activities such as retreat lodging, weddings, training, conferences, retreats and community events. MFCS planned to utilize any and all profits to supplement services and activities administered to the low-income and/or vulnerable populations of Hernando County. 
MFCS hired a Retreat Manager and began the job of renovating the seven cabins USF had built. Two caretakers were on site, and they worked hard, restoring walking trails and assisting in repairs. They added a beautiful firepit with benches and outlook bench for guests.
Hernando County Facilities would repair and maintain systems like water, sewer, and air conditioning.
Christie Williams and MFCS made continuous Improvements despite Obstacles
Meanwhile, Christie Williams took on the Retreat Manager position, under Ashley Hofecker, Mid Florida Community Services’ Community Liason. The venue fulfilled previous reservations and began scheduling new events within a month. Cabins could be rented for a single person, or a group.
In April, 2020, COVID stopped everything in its tracks.
As the virus’ infection rates slowed and people started moving about again, tours were reinstated. Christie became a Notary Public so she could marry people on site. She painted, cleaned, crafted brochures, planned luncheons, events, and more.
By August 1, 2020, the Chinsegut Hill Historic Site was open to the public for manor house tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. with masks required. Docents in costume offered tours and a gift shop was established.
Christie began reaching out for new groups to utilize the retreat’s facilities. What about family reunions? Business Team Building? Spiritual Retreats? And more Weddings.
Things began moving forward again. We made it through 2020. Vaccines were created and made available. Travel opened up a bit.
Then the next wave hit. The Chinsegut Retreat and Conference Center caretakers retired and moved away. Events were put on hold.
Mid-Florida Community Services continued to work on improving the retreat center.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay History Center continued to offer tours on Saturdays and Sundays, requiring masks.
A Transitionary Team will recommend the Retreat’s Next Steps
January 2022, Mid Florida declined to renew its lease on the Retreat Center. Hernando County will honor all event reservations through June 2022.
Hernando County has put a transitionary team in place to evaluate the best way to manage Chinsegut Retreat and Conference Center. This team consists of Tammy Heon, Hernando County Tourism Director, Nikki Bell of Hernando Parks and Recreation, and Craig Becker of Hernando County Facilities and Maintenance. They will make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners and more will be revealed.
Tour of the Chinsegut Historic Site any Saturday or Sunday
Meanwhile, you can go this weekend or next to enjoy a tour of the Chinsegut Historic Site, including the manor house.
Billy Summerfield, Director of Marketing for Tampa Bay History Center, told NatureCoaster, “We are going full steam ahead. We are definitely sorry to see Mid Florida Community Services leave the Retreat Center. They were a great partner in welcoming so many guests to the property for events and activities.”
The History Center continues to focus on the historic preservation of the home and its grounds. Group tours are available now and new stuff is coming up this winter – including the current work on the second floor. Many objects and artifacts have been cataloged there. There will be expanded home tours and lots of new stuff.
“The future is definitely bright for the historic home tours and those will continue,” Billy explains.
“This is all about continuing our research of the property and the families who lived there and telling the story as it unfolds. Chinsegut Hill Historic Site is such an incredible place, and it is held dear by so many residents. We are thankful for Hernando County and their dedication to preserving Chinsegut Hill.”
This is a great time to take a drive to Brooksville and enjoy this amazing place. Mark your calendars because there will be a Nature Tour of the Chinsegut Historic Site with Jim Davis of the University of Florida Institute of Agricultural Services (free) and Group Tour of the Manor House ($5) on February 23.
Things to Know about Touring Chinsegut Hill Historic Site:
- Chinsegut Hill Historic Site is located at 22495 Chinsegut Hill Rd, Brooksville, FL 34601
- Guided Manor House tours are available Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. The last tour begins at 4 pm
- Cost of manor house tours is $5 and are by trained docents, usually in period costumes.
- Cost of visiting the Chinsegut Historic Site is free for the outdoor portion, and great for families with young children.
- Tampa Bay History Center will continue the Tours, despite the Retreat Center changes.
- The second story of the Manor House will open for tours this winter.
- Field Trips and Group Tours of Chinsegut Historic Site are now available. Click the tour type for details.
- The Retreat Center will honor all event reservations through June 2022.
- A transitionary team was appointed by Hernando County to manage the next steps for the Retreat Center.
- A Nature Tour of the property will be held February 23, 2022.
- Historic Site and Manor House Tours will continue in their schedule, uninterrupted.
- Chinsegut Hill is rich in history. Find out more at Wikipedia.