Hays-Lee Boarding House | Sumter County | c. 1880-2017
In the 1880s, John and Elizabeth Hays lived in a home that sat here along what was once a well-traveled route for Florida cattlemen who were driving their steer to the coastal markets. This home, which was reportedly moved here by mule train in the 1880s, was opened up for boarders along the route.
In 1900, the home was sold to the Lyman Lee family who continued to open the house to travelers and cattle drivers passing through the area. They were widely known for having the best biscuits in Florida that many folks who fill their bags with before heading on to their next stop.
Locals recall that the home had been empty since the 1960s, but over time, it became a favorite of Florida photographers and passerbys. Sadly, not everyone had the same appreciation for the place and it fell victim to vandals, arsonists, and thieves over the years. This damage and years of disuse found the building too far gone to be repaired. Shortly after my last visit in 2015, the entire front porch collapsed. In 2017 it was dismantled.
But the story doesn’t have an entirely sad ending. A local salvage company was able to reclaim most of the materials, from the tin roof, to the foundation stones, to the longleaf pine. These bits and pieces of a once-grand home are now being repurposed in the homes and businesses of people who are writing a new chapter for these cherished materials.
Locals have sent me photos of the materials in their living rooms, kitchens, restaurants, porches, and others who have sent me the plans they have to use interior finishes of this home, like mantels, in the design of a home that they’re currently building. A lovely testament to the fortitude of these original buildings and their parts!