By Nicole Heubusch
Allen’s Cracker House was built by hand about four years ago. A Florida Cracker House is a house with a woodframe style that was used widely in the 19th century. They are characterized by metal roofs, raised floors and large porch areas.
Billy Wayne Allen wanted to recreate the house where he lived growing up to show the younger generation how things used to run. He started off with a church, then a house, an outdoor patio, a general store and then a blacksmith shop. He put it all together, nail by nail, until he constructed a little town right in his own backyard.
Allen, a Florida native, grew up right down the street from where his cracker house is located, and was a graduate of what is now Pinecrest Elementary School in Lithia.
“I wanted to build this place to show the kids how things were back in the day. For someone who hated history growing up, I sure do love it now,” said Allen. He lives right on the property with his wife of 49 years, Linda, both who are quick to welcome guests with a warm smile.
The whole site is open to the public, and completely free to visit. Billy said he’s had church groups, field trips, high school reunions and families come see all that he has built. The church is equipped with a few pews and a cross, and on the walls are pieces of history, documenting the history of Florida since the early 1900s. The church has electricity and has even been fitted with air conditioning to accommodate the hot Florida weather. Allen welcomes anyone to come hold a sermon, or even stop in for a few minutes for a quiet prayer if needed. The church is almost an exact replica of the church he attended when he was a small boy. It even has a piano in the corner that is about 100 years old.
“This is pretty similar to the house I grew up in. This place is very livable, my wife and I stayed out here for about three months earlier this year,” said Allen. The house has an electric stove, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom (with upgraded plumbing) and is very cozy. It’s filled with rocking chairs and quilts and pictures of Allen’s family.
Next to the meal house is a patio and bar area. This is the perfect place for families and friends to gather around. “We will have a fish fry out here every so often,” said Allen. “Pig roasts too.”
Fall is one of the best times of the year to visit the cracker house when the weather starts to cool down. It’s a great gathering spot for parties and get-togethers, and though they do not allow alcoholic drinks on their property, they keep the bar stocked with soda and water.
Next to the bar is an old barber shop set up, complete with a chair. There are a handful of picnic tables as well as a swinging bench for guests to sit on and enjoy themselves.
The general store sits next to the porch, and is full of antiques and different things from the past that are fun to examine. Next to that is the blacksmith shop where Allen has tools that were used for carpentry in the 1860s.
Allen’s Cracker House is a great place for not only students or families to visit, but also groups like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. It’s a little piece of history right in Lithia, and it’s open for the public to come and discover. Allen’s Cracker house is located at 19007 Dorman Rd. and Billy and Linda welcome anyone who wishes to visit; just call 758-4570 to set up a day and time.