It’s easy to find the large bungalow in the Bayshore Beautiful neighborhood in which the McGeachy family lives.
A short stone wall that borders the sidewalk opens to a stone walkway and stairs that lead to the wrap-around front porch where large stone columns stand like sentries.
In fact, these stones, the most distinguishing exterior feature of the house, were almost a deal-breaker for Christy McGeachy when she and her husband, Tom, were house shopping 17 years ago in the South Tampa neighborhood along Bayshore Boulevard.
"I don’t know about those stones," McGeachy, a human resources director turned interior designer, said she told her husband.
But, almost two decades, two children and an understanding of the stones’ history later, they are a beloved characteristic of her beloved home.
The stones, they discovered, weren’t just any ordinary rocks. They’d been used as ballast by schooners in the mid- to late 19th century and brought from where they had been deposited to be used on their house.
Exporters would load cattle onto barges in Tampa, usually to take to Cuba. When the cattle were removed, the empty ships were weighted down with ballast stones to stabilize them on their journey back.
However, the weight of the stones needed to keep the boats stabilized in deep water hindered them from entering the much shallower Hillsborough Bay. So, the stone cargo was dropped along the bay’s entrance. This practice of unloading ballast stones wasn’t limited to the Tampa Bay area. Ships deposited their loads of rock and gravel all along the eastern seaboard. Many of the streets in Savannah, Ga., are made of old ballast stones.
The stones are only part of the history of their house —which turned 100 this year — that has been maintained. The original wood windows still have wavy glass in them. Tall woodwork and crown molding frame the rooms. Floors are hardwood. Previous owners added a family room to the back of the house that can’t be seen from the street and blends seamlessly into the original structure.
Tom McGeachy is originally from this area, while Christy grew up in New England. But they both fell in love with — and moved to — South Tampa. They didn’t want to be anywhere else. They lived in two other homes there before buying the one they live in today.
Seems most of their neighbors feel the same way. The neighborhood changes as its residents age, not because new people move in and out.
It’s not a subdivision. Each home has its own character. There’s a canopy of mature trees and a view of the bay. Often called a smaller version of Hyde Park, Bayshore Beautiful has the charm of St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast but feels much roomier. The streets are wider and homes are on larger lots. In addition, most were built around the same time, in the beginning of the 20th century.
Bayshore Beautiful is tucked away yet close to everything, including the McGeachys’ favorite restaurants where everyone knows their name — and often what they’re going to order.
That’s one of the things the couple’s teenage children like most about their neighborhood.
Max, 17, goes to Tampa Prep. Heather, 15, goes to Plant High. They have plenty of friends in the neighborhood. They like the proximity of Hyde Park, their favorite non-chain restaurants and Bayshore Boulevard, where they walk and go running along its expansive sidewalk.
They also have a perk many teens would die for. There’s an apartment above the detached garage that, instead of being rented out, is kept open to be used by the kids to entertain friends.
That’s something likely not found in the new subdivisions the couple avoided when looking for a house.
Contact Patti Ewald at [email protected]