Located in rural Hernando County, Chinsegut Hill and its historic Manor House has significant connections to local, national and even international events through the many people that lived and worked at the property. The property provides a tangible link to many important eras in history including: the initial development of Florida during the pioneer years; the development of a Florida slave plantation and its transformation after the Civil War; the US labor movement including women’s and children’s labor regulations; women’s suffrage; early 1900 literature; the Russian Revolution; the Great Depression and the Civilian Conservation Corp; and the early years of University of South Florida development. Chinsegut owner Raymond Robins, along with his wife Margaret, had the ears of four presidents and numerous political advisors as well as being the only US or Allied representative to have direct discussions with Nikolai Lenin during the Russian Revolution and the emergence of the Soviet regime. During the first half of the 20th century, decisions and discussions made within the walls of Chinsegut influenced national and world leaders and the impacts are still felt today.
For many years now, the care and conservation of this significant historic resource had fallen under the University of South Florida’s (USF) jurisdiction. With USF’s decision in 2009 to no longer utilize the property, the community support to keep the property accessible to the public has been overwhelming. A dedicated group of community volunteers have stepped forward, forming the non-profit Friends of Chinsegut Hill, Inc. (FOCH) and explored numerous avenues for the property’s ownership and use. While many possibilities for its preservation did not come to fruition, the group did not give up, finally partnering with Hernando County to lease the property and for FOCH to take responsibility for its on-going care. After careful economic study, the group now plans to continue the property’s history as a conference center, building on USF’s investment in the cabins and accessory buildings, and using the Manor House as the Center office, gift shop, and accessory meeting rooms, as well as the centerpiece for special events for the community.