The Lafayette County Historical Society is currently restoring the 1898 Mayo Free Press building to its original condition and converting it into a historical museum. Since it was first built in 1898, it has seen many uses. For example, it once housed Dees Drug Store, established by J. J. Dees.

The building is of great historical significance to Lafayette County, in that it was occupied in 1898 before Mayo became a county seat. In addition, it represents a century of history in Florida.

Vi Johnson, Secretary of the Lafayette County Historical Society, first made public her idea of putting a historical museum in Mayo in 2001. She had thought about it long before that time. Her love of history and museums, as well as visiting the museum in Cedar Key, motivated her to pursue her dream.

In 2000, she began her research and gathered and compiled as much information as she could. Later, she submitted a proposal for a state grant in Tallahassee along with other members of the Lafayette County Historical Society. The grant was approved and they were first awarded $47,930. After the first grant was used, a second grant proposal was submitted in Tallahassee and was approved. The amount of funding was $50,000.

Last year, the restoration project began. The first part of the project involved several steps. First, the building was cleaned, top to bottom, inside and outside. Second, valuable items-two presses, printing plates, ceiling tiles, and pieces of original wood-were saved. Third, new framing for the walls was put up. Last, a new roof was installed, identical to the original one. Johnson said the original roof was a poured tar, perripet roof.

The next phase of the project is stalled because of a lack of funding. It involves finishing the inside of the building, restoring it to its original condition. Then, all of the elements of the museum will be added. According to Johnson, the amount of funding needed is a large sum. She said she does not know the exact amount, but it would be far greater than the first two grants combined.

The Lafayette County Historical Society needs all the assistance they can get from funding, to items to be put into the museum. If you would like to provide assistance, Vi Johnson can be reached by calling 386-294-2482.

Johnson thanks the local officials of Lafayette County, the Lafayette County School Board, the town council, government officials of the state of Florida, and the citizens of Lafayette County for helping to make the dream of putting an historical museum in Mayo a reality.

The members of the Lafayette County Historical Society are Drew Bell, President; Irene Calhoun, Treasurer and Project Manager; and, Vi Johnson, Secretary. Calhoun replaced Taylor Cullar as Project Manager who moved to Mississippi.

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