On the corner of SW 232nd Street and 157th Ave, Homestead, Florida sits a two-story building encircled by a chain link fence. The openings for the windows are boarded up and it dilapidates by degrees. None would guess by its appearance now that over 100 years ago it served the farmers in the area not only to purchase supplies but a place to trade information.
William Anderson was born September 24, 1877. He left Indiana and arrived in Jupiter, Florida in 1898. There he worked in butchering cattle. By 1900 he moved to the Silver Palm area of South Florida, and lived with his sister Flora in a small house on Farm Life Road.
In 1902, he worked for William Krome who surveyed for the Florida East Coast Railway for a route to Key West from Miami via Cape Sable.
In 1904, the Florida East Coast Railroad founded Homestead as settlement for the railroad families.
Gaston Drake opened the Drake Lumber Mill which supplied all of South Florida, the Keys and Cuba until 1923 when the lumber gave out. Anderson worked at the mill, running the commissary car at the skidder camp, which was in the area in which timber was being cut away from the mill itself.
In 1908, Atka (AKA Atta, Atha, Avka) Harper a widow moved to the area from Palatka, Florida with her three children, Francis W. Harper 8, John W. Harper 6 and Annie V. Harper 5 as well as her mother Elizabeth Newlan. She ran the hotel for the lumber company in Princeton.
William Anderson and Atka Harper married in August 1912, and decided to go into business for themselves.
They purchased five acres for $500 on what became known as Silver Palm Drive (SW 232nd Street). This was a logging road connecting the Everglades to the shipping port of Black Point in South Biscayne Bay.
They hired a shipbuilder by the name of Mr. Rawls to build the structure using sturdy Dade County Pine. He designed the interior of the upper story like an inverted ship's hull. They named it William Anderson General Merchandise Store. A small grocery store operated on the first level and the family lived on the second floor. The east side of the store sold stapled such as beans, flour, sugar, lard and bacon; the west side had sundries such as men's work clothes and yard goods. Horse and cattle feed, fertilizer and gardening needs were contained in a lean-to on the west side.
Community meetings were held at the school house across from the store. During those years he became known as “Uncle Will” to those who lived in the area.
Atka bore William 5 children in addition to the three she already had.
In 1919, Annie Harper was attending the university in Gainesville, and by 1920, only one of Atka’s three Harper children still lived in the household which was Annie. The rest of the household was made up of the five Anderson children, Atka’s mother and William’s 80 year old father. The household was completed by a 25 year old servant named Samuel Speller.
In 1922, 18-year-old Annie married Ansley Grantham, a sergeant in the armed forces who served in France during WWI, however they divorced in 1925.
In 1930, Atka’s mother Elizabeth, and William’s father James both took falls that resulted in their deaths within a 24 hour period.
However, period newspaper accounts and court records suggest that all was not well within the Anderson household. Atka filed for divorce from William on April 28, 1936. She moved to a different building on the Anderson property, and coincidentally this year part of the building was made into apartments. The United States was still recovering from the Great Depression.
Rumors began circulating that William left his wife for his stepdaughter, Annie. After the divorce, Annie moved back into the building. In 1940, she kept house for her step-father, her two brothers James and William and her 15-year-old son George Grantham. She died in September 1946. William Anderson remained at Anderson's Corner until he died on Feb. 17, 1961 at age 83. Atka Anderson lived in the area until her death in August 1963.
The store was in operation until the mid-1930s.
In 1938, J. Edgar Hoover used Anderson's Corner as his headquarters while searching for a criminal who kidnapped a 5-year-old child named James “Skeegie” Cash from his home. This was the only crime he personally investigated. Franklin Pierce McCall, 21, a tomato picker and one time boarder with the Cash family confessed to the kidnapping for ransom, and murder of the child. He was executed in the Florida’s electric chair in Raiford, Florida in Feb. 1939.
Anderson's Corner underwent a series of transformation, both during and after William Anderson's lifetime.
Portions of the building were used as a flophouse for migrant workers.
In 1970, Anderson's Corner was sold to Mr. and Mrs. James Cothron by Mildred Anderson, and the building was once again converted into an apartment complex. The Cothrons rented two apartments in the old house for $15 per week, and they leased the newer grocery store and gas station next door. In February 1975 it was condemned by the county’s housing inspectors.
In September 1975, the movie “Jonah” was filmed on location at Anderson’s Corner. It was a film produced by the First Baptist Church of Florida City.
In 1977 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks which held off the wrecking ball, and the hope was to obtain funds to restore the structure.
In 1980 it was sold to a group of investors, and it was finally restored in 1985 and opened as an eatery by Tom Henry, however by 1986 the bank was foreclosing on it.
In 1988 it was known as the Inn at Anderson’s Corner, and operated by restaurateur Dick Hissing. He managed it on a lease from the bank.
Tropical fruit farmer, Joan Green and chef Mario Martinez bought Anderson's Corner and opened it in December 1991 renaming it to the Harvest House. Nine months later, Anderson's Corner was severely damaged Hurricane Andrew, and the restaurant went out of business. The property was sold after Green was unable to meet the historical criteria while refurbishing the house.
When did it develop its reputation as a haunted house is not known. Was it during the 1970s or even earlier before that? There are unsubstantiated rumors that Annie died from a sleeping pill overdose or a fall from the second floor balcony in 1946.
According to Alan Long in his book, Stories from the Haunted South detailed the following:
A former tenant named Beulah Glenn lived there only two months, but her short stay was long enough to convince her that someone other than she and her family were occupying the downstairs apartment. She said that at night they were frequently awakened by lights that came on by themselves. It was what they heard upstairs though that really put their nerves on edge: "We heard people screaming and chains were dragging. Nobody else lived upstairs... The door was padlocked, and it was used for storage. My husband would look upstairs, and nobody was there. We thought it might be neighbor kids playing tricks, but we would go outside and nobody was there." One night, after hearing a girl's voice screaming, "Help! Help!" Mrs. Glenn decided she had had enough and the family moved.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer