About‎ > ‎

Pioneer House & Museum

Pioneer House History

In 1977, the Oakland Park City Commission voted to hold its November 28, meeting inside a little house with big plans.  The house located at 3876 NE Sixth Avenue is now the home of the Oakland Park Pioneer House and Museum.

One year earlier, Midge Turpen got word of an old house that was available for the taking to anyone who would take it away.  Resident Marye Lord just wanted the crummy looking structure to go away.  This wasn’t just any old house.  It was built by Dewey Hawkins, the first Mayor of Oakland Park, in the early 1930s as a rental property.  It later served as home to other city leaders, including a later mayor and Fire Chief  Ed Bailey.  The home was built of sturdy Dade County Pine which remained solid and sturdy despite the disintegration of some of the other materials used in its construction.  Note the beautiful Florida Slash Pine, behind the house in all its gangly elegance. 

The house was in need of costly repairs and the Oakland Park Historical Society (OPHS) did not have funds.  This did not deter them.  Through hard work on the part of the Historical Society, Commission, laborers from Manpower and a $6,000 grant from the Florida Bicentennial Commission, the project was a labor of love, and more importantly, a step toward preserving a piece of important history for the city of Oakland Park.

The move itself was a project that nearly ended the whole plan.  The streets were too narrow and it took three half days to move the house two and a half blocks to its new grounds.  The roof was mostly lost in the process but the two bedroom Florida Cracker style house was settled in by Christmas 1977.

The house was repaired and renovated.  The grounds were sodded and planted.  The project was a reality after much discussion.  When the project fell short of funds, Dean Yates stepped in and took charge of the rest according to Midge Turpen.  Ms. Turpen is reported to have said that, “Yates is the best con man you’ll meet in these parts, outside of myself.  He got everything we needed by donations.”

The job of collecting what items were used to fill the house was to be left to the residents who lived in the area in the 30s.  Thanks to generous donations, by December 1977 the house was completed and furnished with period pieces like a 1901 treadle sewing machine, old glass butter churns, a wooden icebox and a water pump in the kitchen.

OPHS opened the house for a preview to the Broward County Historical Commission in January 1978, and made plans to begin meeting in the house and open the house to the public early in 1978.  Ms. Turpen announced the house would be open to the public by spring and that she hoped to have a gazebo in the side yard before the project was done.  The gazebo was built and dedicated to Ms. Turpen for all her energetic hard work in this effort to preserve Oakland Park.  Residents Fred Henry, Bob Stevens and others made the gazebo a reality.

The house has had some difficult times in the more recent past.  It was upgraded to include air-conditioning to preserve the artifacts stored inside, but work was not properly done causing leaks and damage.  Between leaking ducts and the hurricanes of the past few years; the house is not able to withstand the rigors of daily traffic.  The fragile items such as clothing, books, pictures and city papers have been moved to a climate controlled facility for the present. 

The members of the current City Commission have committed to preserving the house and supporting the Oakland Park Historical Society.  Two studies of the house have been performed, to determine what will be required to repair and make the house useable again.  Although the house is not available for tours at present, it is important that the necessary preservation efforts be made to keep this important structure from deteriorating further and that the full history be captured while there are still residents who have stories to share.  The City Commission has passed a Historic Preservation ordinance, a critical step toward bringing the house back to life.  The house must now be submitted to the soon-to-be-created City Historic Preservation Board, so that it can be declared a Historic Structure and the careful balance between current building codes and proper historic preservation.

Stay tuned for the news on the repairs and re-opening when the house can shine again for its residents.  Our little house has many stories to tell.  And I, for one, can’t wait to hear them!