Monday, April 23, 2018
Business

Oldest home in Tampa has new owner, maybe new location

TAMPA — The oldest home in the Tampa Bay area has a new owner and could have a new address within six months.

Built in 1842 and located near Ybor City, the four-bedroom, two-bath, 2,000-square-foot bungalow was purchased for around $55,000 by Tampa-based Equialt, a hedge fund company that owns and manages more than 300 properties in Florida.

The structure is sturdy but in need of major renovation, possibly as much as $300,000 worth, according to Brian Davison, CEO of Equialt.

What it will be turned into is still being discussed. Options include but are not limited to a bed and breakfast, an art gallery and a rental home.

Regardless of what it becomes, Davison has some doubts that the home, at 3210 E Eighth Ave., has a future at its current location in the industry-heavy southeastern Tampa community of Gary on the outskirts of Ybor City.

"The plan is to restore it to pristine condition," Davison said. "My concern is we will put a significant amount of money and time into a property that no one will visit. So we are considering moving it."

The relocation could occur in the first half of 2017, he said.

The where is still being considered but the how is obvious.

Its current neighborhood is boxed in by two Interstate 4 overpasses, so the home must be disassembled.

While it is not considered a historic structure, it is more than 50 years old which means the city will first need to approve of the plans. But Davison is not concerned.

"We can do that and still preserve it," he said.

That would mark the second time the house has been taken apart.

It was originally built on Jackson Street by physician Sheldon Stringer. Then, in 1914, Tampa decided to build its new city hall on that site.

Feed store owner Imboden Stalnaker bought the bungalow and had it dismantled and shipped by train to Gary, where it was rebuilt on its current plot.

Stalnaker's son, Leo, who was raised in the house, would go on to become a municipal judge known for taking on organized crime at a time when elected officials were known for looking the other way in exchange for kickbacks.

"In a perfect world we'd move it back to Jackson Street," Davison said. "But that's probably not possible."

The home's immediate past owners, Darryl Bethune and David Eisenmann, were careful when choosing among the nearly dozen interested buyers.

The sale came with a contracted caveat — the house cannot be used as a boarding home or be flipped.

"Brian seemed sincere in his intention and has the financial stability to save the home," Bethune said. "And he has a company with a good reputation in the real estate industry."

When Bethune purchased the bungalow in 2013, it was in poor shape from years of neglect as a low-rent boarding home.

He envisioned making it a museum or a rental space for garden weddings or social meetings. He gutted and stabilized it, but health issues prevented him from completing the work.

"It was hard to sell," Bethune said. "I didn't sleep for several nights."

Davison says Bethune chose the right person.

"I bought it because I saw it as a piece of Tampa history," he said. "It should be preserved correctly and brought back into the community."

Contact Paul Guzzo at [email protected] or (813) 226-3394. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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