Historical Society details plan to operate ‘Peacock’ buildings

Port St. Lucie’s 102-year-old Peacock house would be restored and outfitted with static displays from the city’s pioneer era to educate people about local history, under a plan submitted to the city.

The 67-year-old Peacock hunting lodge would be renovated and operated as a museum and library, featuring historic artifacts, memorabilia, educational kiosks, community rooms and offices. The Port St. Lucie Historical Society would staff the buildings with volunteers and partner with other groups to provide additional features and events.

The Historical Society also proposed holding fundraisers and soliciting donations to help pay for operations, displays and educational materials, according to the business plan.

“Our history might be fairly new right now, but someday we’ll have a lot of history to talk about,” Historical Society Chairwoman Patricia Christensen, a former mayor, told the City Council on Nov. 25.

“We have been very interested in being the operator of the two houses so we could have a museum and an education center – a place where community residents and visitors can come and learn about the city,” Christensen said.

The City Council voted 4-1 to partner with the Historical Society to revitalize the two old buildings the city relocated to Westmoreland Riverfront Park.

The council also authorized city officials to negotiate an agreement with the Historical Society to operate the “Port St. Lucie Historic Village and Museum,” including the two buildings.

The historic village is part of a destination park the city is developing along the St. Lucie River, south of the Botanical Gardens. Other features include the Riverwalk Boardwalk extension, a waterfront restaurant, an amphitheater and a river-themed playground.

City Councilwoman Jolien Caraballo said she supported the Historical Society operating both buildings without converting one to a commercial use, such as a bakery, coffee shop or ice cream parlor.

“These houses were always intended to be historic and providing history to the city,” Caraballo said.

“It’s no secret; I’ve been a fighter for the history of the city. I want to see this move forward.”

Commercializing one of the buildings would hinder the city’s efforts to obtain state historical preservation grants, Caraballo said.

Vice Mayor Shannon Martin and City Councilwoman Stephanie Morgan also said they support turning both buildings over to the Historical Society without transforming one into a restaurant or shop because that would compromise its historical value. “We’ve got to move forward on this and let them take it and run with it,” Morgan said.

But City Councilman John Carvelli, who dissented, suggested the century-old house could be restored and a request for proposals could be issued to establish a business in the newer hunting lodge building.

“I’m not going to support it unless one of them is a business,” Carvelli said.

“The buildout on the interiors of these museums is very expensive. These have shown to be money pits for local governments. I think we can do a low-impact commercial venture without tearing the place apart.”

Carvelli and Mayor Greg Oravec also said they doubt a static historical display would draw many people to the proposed museum.

Oravec voted for the partnership, despite his misgivings

“What I’ve learned personally, from working with Delray Beach and other communities in Florida, is static displays do not generate attendance or any real activity,” Oravec said. “It ends up being dead space and they reprogram it.”

“But if the council wants to pursue the idea of a static display in the second building,” Oravec quipped, “I hope that you rent it out for parties for people that want to go to a 1917 party.”

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