ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay's oldest and most historic homes has new owners but whether it will escape the bulldozer is still unclear.
Descendants of George "Gidge'' Gandy Jr. — who helped his father build the namesake cross-bay bridge — sold the century-old house Friday for $1.73 million. The deed has not yet been recorded and agent Natalie DeVicente would not disclose the names of the buyers but said they are locals who ''fell in love'' with the one-and-a-quarter acre waterfront property on Big Bayou.
"They are not really sure what they are going to do with it,'' DeVicente said. "They are working with a local architect and are planning for some renovation/addition but I don't know what they are actually going to do to the existing house. But she has renovated old houses before so she enjoys that.''
DeVicente said there multiple offers on the property, which went under contract within a month of when it was listed in March for $1.95 million.
George Gandy Jr. was part of a prominent family of builders whose credits included St. Petersburg's Plaza Theater, where such internationally known stars as ballerina Anna Pavlova and opera singer Enrico Caruso performed. By 1921, George Jr., brother Albert and their father, George Sr., were well underway with construction of the three-mile toll bridge that would link Tampa and St. Petersburg across the bay.
That October, George Jr. had just moved his wife, Edith, and their son into the house a few miles south of downtown St. Petersburg when a major hurricane roared into Tampa Bay and left much of the area in ruins. But the sturdy two-story house, built of cypress and heart pine, sailed through the storm unscathed like "a well-built ship,'' George Jr. later recalled.
In the 1940s, the large piece of property — dubbed the "Mullet Farm'' for the fish jumping in the bayou — was subdivided and a house built next door where the Gandys' daughter Helen lived. After her parents died, Helen moved back into the main house in 1983 and lived there until her own death two years ago.
Helen's daughter, Kim O'Brien, who inherited the property with her brother and sister, told the Tampa Bay Times in March that while the Mullet Farm held wonderful memories, the 3,634-square-foot house was just too big to maintain.
O'Brien, who lives next door and was married in the house in 1983, acknowledged mixed emotions today after the sale.
" It's been such an integral part of our lives,'' she said'' But we are thrilled at the prospect of the house being resorted and expanded upon and having people as enamored of it as we have all these years.''
Even if the house is not preserved, the Gandy name lives on in the bay area, and not just on spans that succeeded the original 1924 bridge.
George S. Gandy IV, a professional photographer, is in Tampa. One of his sons, Ryan Gandy, works in St. Petersburg as a research scientist for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. And Ryan's brother, Eric, is Clearwater's deputy police chief.
On learning of the sale, Eric reminisced about visiting the Mullet Farm as a boy, especially on Christmas Eve, and being enthralled with the den and the enormous compass rose painted on the ceiling.
"What I remember about the house most distinctly was the den where all the nautical stuff was because my great grandfather was a big sailor,'' he said. "That was my fondest memory -- hanging out in that cool den --- but I remember going down to bayou and walking out on the dock. It's beautiful piece of property, taht's for sure.''
Gandy said he occasionally gets questions about his name.
"It's almost like, 'You're not related to the Gandy bridge are you?' and I'll say, 'As a matter of fact I am.' It's an interesting point of conversation when it comes up. It kind of connects me to the community and that's cool.''
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate