Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Dobyville dollhouse, smallest home for sale in Tampa Bay, has vivid history

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TAMPA

From one angle, this dollhouse looks like one of those trendy, minimalist micro-homes, all 388 square feet of it tucked into a tiny thumbprint among the oaks of Historic Hyde Park North.

It is by far the smallest home on the market in Tampa Bay, thinner than a lane of traffic and built in 1910, a clapboard relic lost in one of South Tampa's fastest changing neighborhoods.

Tom Scarritt, 57, a lawyer, bought it with his wife, Linda, a decade ago, convinced it would make a good one-room rental for "singles and short people."

He would call it a shotgun shack, but you can't fire from one door clean through the back. The house has only one door.

But he was still charmed. The shoebox hid whispers of a century-old mystique, something prized but lost to time — all atop "the prettiest wide-plank, heart-pine floors in the world."

"These materials, they aren't going to be around in 10 years," Scarritt said. "They're going to be gone."

Turn-of-the-century shotgun cottages hold a weathered place in Southern history. Immigrant cigar rollers in Ybor City lived in cedar-shingled "casitas," paying for the $400 homes at about $2 a week. New Orleans' early creole cottages were, as one preservationist told the Times-Picayune, "beautiful in their plainness."

Scarritt's Orleans Avenue bungalow was crafted from the same mold. When it was built, it sat at the heart of Dobyville, once a thriving community of black families in segregated Tampa.

It housed generations of maids, cooks, yard workers and nannies, who walked to the mansions of Bayshore Boulevard on the wealthy white side of Hyde Park. But it blossomed into a cultural center, buzzing with churches, businesses and fraternities. A photograph, kept by the Hillsborough County Public Library, shows a woman crowning Dobyville School's short, smiling queen.

The homes of Dobyville were built of sturdy wood, with breezy windows and 10-foot ceilings to sweep in the breeze. But in the 1950s, new-home building stopped when the neighborhood was rezoned for industry. Two decades later, Dobyville was crushed beneath the Crosstown Expressway.

The Dobyville School was bulldozed. So, too, its students' homes and neighborhood stores. The Seybold Bakery, a bread factory and chief employer at the neighborhood's center, became the Seybold Lofts condominiums.

Save for a historical marker near the expressway, Scarritt's cottage is one of Dobyville's last lingering remnants. Matt Clarie, a 34-year-old lawyer, rents there now, his dark-furred pug, Blackey, guarding the porch swing.

Inside, he hung his tie rack near the stove pipe for an old furnace. He likes being able to walk to the nearby movies at CinéBistro, the upscale Hyde Park Village shopping district, his yoga studio.

Because prices are going up, Scarritt wants to sell it for $199,999, and in the two weeks since listing he has fielded a few curious buyers. The location is prized, and down the street the newer, nicer homes stretch outward in all directions. Clarie intends to move to a one-bedroom condo.

It's uncertain how much time is left in the dollhouse of Dobyville, so small, and fading, yet unmistakably there. But in a century, some things haven't changed. When an acorn hits the tin roof, the thud still resounds, as if from an old limb in free fall.

   
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