Old Mill House Gallery & Printing Museum in Old Homosassa, Florida

New technology can be great, but sometimes there’s something special about the way we did things in the past. Printer Jim Anderson thought so. Working as a printer in Tampa since he was 14, Anderson knew the ins and outs of the business, but as digital printing came in vogue, the old ways, the old machines, slowly faded out of use. Rather than let them disappear into history, Anderson decided to do something. In 1995, he opened the Old Mill House Gallery & Printing Museum, a place to showcase his collection of vintage printing tools (all in working order) and share the history of the printed word. 

There are ink blocks and iron letterpresses. There’s a linotype machine from 1886, and a foot-operated press called a Heidelberg Press that was used to print money. Each machine is a link in a historic chain. But understanding that the machines existed and getting the actual feel for them are two different things. And Anderson understands that. As historian Tammy Gordon wrote in the Journal of American History, “Feeling and hearing a large press operate is a unique event: the body feels the rhythm of the press through the floor and hears the clacking of the parts as the machine rapidly churns through and over paper. On tours, Anderson invites visitors to assist in the operations.” 

The museum isn’t just a way for Anderson to share his knowledge about printing, it’s also a way to share the region’s deep history. As a descendant of the laborers who used to work in the area’s sugar mills, preserving the region’s Black history is also important to him. The workers are “in my lineage,” Anderson told Gordon. “So I am in search. History keeps me searching.”

Anderson is also the curator of the Old Mill Gallery, a showcase for local artists. He’s also a blues musician. For many years, the museum hosted an annual blues concert.

And there’s a hidden gem within this hidden gem. The Museum Cafe on the grounds has been named one of the region’s favorites, and features another part of the area’s heritage: Cuban food. 

Anderson’s goal has always been to share his stories, his heritage, and those of the region with visitors, not just out of love for history, but because he hopes it encourages others to dig into their own stories. As he told Gordon, Anderson notes, “everybody who comes here sits in my dream. Of what I’ve thought about and how I can make things transpire and happen. [and] by them seeing part of my dream, maybe they can dream and conceive of something that will make them say eventually, ‘That’s mine. That’s the way I’m going.’”

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