Title: Thomas Center : a special place then and now
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00080107/00001
 Material Information
Title: Thomas Center : a special place then and now
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Thomas Center Associates, Inc.
Publisher: Thomas Center Associates, Inc.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080107
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text



Charles W. Chase, President of the H.F. Dutton
Phosphate Company, started building what is now
our Cultural Center as his home, but died before its
completion. Major \',. iilr I r R. Thomas bought the
property, finished construction, and in 1910 moved in
with his wife Kathryn and their 5 lively children. They
c i-:.1 it "Sunkist Villa" and made it their home for 15
The luxurious residence covered 15,000 square feet
built around a sunken, fern-- il-. atrium. There were 21
spacious rooms, 7 ,:'i-,, and 12 fireplaces, each
different. The grounds contained 6.2 acres and included
a barn, garage, gymnasium, and gardener's cottage.

Sn the boom years of the 1920's, Gaine: iill's need for
a resort hotel prompted Major Thomas to convert his
residential property into Hotel Ir :-, Construction was
financed by rih,: sale of bonds, which were sold out in a
matter of days.
Thomas hired W.A. Edwards, architect in the Atlanta
firm of Edwards and Sayward and designer of early
University of Florida buildings. Together they planned the
conversion of the house and the addition of a 3-story wing,
creating a lovely Mediterranean Revival-style hotel with
Italian Renaissance decorative motifs. Total cost of the
conversion and new construction was S1 62,000
T-rer; were 94 guest rooms, 3 dining rooms and 4
lounges. Hotel Thomas became a popular social center for
the town and the university as .-: i as for tourists. It
remained in operation for 40 years.

decline of the once elegant Hotel Thomasp F r -11W'-i- I
decay of the entire downtown area as Gairr- 11.-
grew towards 1-75 and the suburbs. The Thomas family
sold the property in 1968. The new owners, MJ. Hanes,
RA Hanes and J.M. Se.lJljrn, leased it to Santa Fe
Junior C,-iieje for 7 years while its new campus was
being built. Classrooms, Cri 1i-, and administrative
offices filled the '-iu.l -li i and the first Spring Arts Festival
was held on its grounds in 1970. Hard use and little
maintenance characterized these years, as the property
was ripe for demolition and commercial development
when Santa Fe left for the new campus.


A native of Gaine :. i- Thomas was always c nle.
"Major" afir serving at East Florida Seminary, a
military school. He was active and influential in business
and civic affairs as an-educator, school administrator,
banker, hotelier, land developer, --i ri,-i and state
senator. As mayor from 1901 to 1907, he played a
primary role in locating the University of Florida in
Gair- i!-. Thomas H ii, the first campus building, is
named in his honor.

One of the
h.- ,[ i s 4 lounges

Major Thomas used
these photographs
in an early brochure
advertising Hotel

Residents of the old northeast neighborhood S
concerned with historic preservation banded
together in 1972 to form Historic Gair-:: Iii-. Inc. From
1'i beginning, interest in preserving the old hotel
spread. The site was listed on the National Register of
Historic Places in 1973 and purchased by the City of
Gairn- '- in 1974.
Other civic groups involved in restoring and
developing the Cultural Center as a community resource
are Spring Pilgrimage, Jr. League of Gaire- 1j:. and
Thomas Center Associates. Individual contributions have
been significant, also.


R restoration of the hotel wing -u: Iing B) was begun
first, using local and federal funds and providing the
city with needed office space.
Our Cu ji i:', Center (Building A) was rehabilitated
from the original house in the next phase, using mostly
federal funds. Architectural Designs Associates and
M, ,-,- .-, and Tuckerman both worked on plans for the
M.M. Parrish was prime contractor with Early White
as project supervisor. Formal dedication was February
10, 1979.
The City of Gairn-. '-- is proud of its 2 sound and
handsome historic buildings They cover 58,000 square
feet and sit rr j-. 1 on more than 6 acres of land -
,<-! for a total cost ofjust over 2 2 r-,~i ,n c..1 ', Surely
the Major would approve of this beautiful and versatile
space, contributing to the ( ." .-'al, civic and social life
of Gair-:. iir- -just as it always has.


* Art g iir-,n
* 1920's Period Rooms
* Guided tours
* Performance space
* The Grace and Sidney Knight Children's Theatre
* Meeting rooms
* C,,rrf:. of Gair-:. 11,'s Department of Cultural and
Nature Operations
* Office space rented to non-profit organizations
* Areas to rent for business or social occasions
* The Thomas Center Gardens

This brochure is provided by The Thomas Center
Associates, Inc., a support group for The Thomas Center,
P.O. Box 12752, University Station, Gainesville, FL 32604.

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