SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — A long time ago, a naughty monkey ate from the sugar bowl on the dining room table in the house. It tangled and tugged the long hair of three daughters who lived there. ¶ It was a stately house, built by a ship's captain who brought the monkey back from his regular route to Cuba. He had retired from the sea in 1887, built the two-story home and settled to farming cattle and growing oranges and sugarcane on 152 acres that spanned from Nebraska Avenue to the Hillsborough River. ¶ If you live in Seminole Heights, chances are good you're on a piece of Capt. William Parker Jackson's farm.
But today, a sale sign hangs in front of the unoccupied house at 800 E Lambright St. Priced for a short sale song at $114,000, it needs so much, including perhaps a move from its plot just yards from Interstate 275.
"Capt. Bill," as he was known, and his wife, Louise, lived in this three-bedroom house with their eight children. At the time, it was known "as the rendezvous of social life of the community, and a center of generous hospitality," according to the captain's obituary.
A jolly man, he weighed about 300 pounds and smoked too much — hence the cancer that later killed him. He charmed people in a way so that they "insensibly came under the attraction of his genial disposition and cheerful spirit," the obituary read.
This was many years before his fields were carved into plots for bungalows, mail-ordered from Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogs, before suburbs grew up around a streetcar line, and before the interstate split the heart of the community. And it was a long time before the renaissance of today swelled to create the trendy lifestyle of Seminole Heights.
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Enter the front door into a central bright foyer with steps leading upstairs. A door to the right leads to the parlor, and another to the left, the living room. Behind the parlor sits a kitchen with the bread oven, now set to hold wine bottles. Behind the living room, the dining room connects to the kitchen. Upstairs are three bedrooms. Bathrooms on each floor came later. Throughout the house, strips of pine wood line walls and high ceilings.
Current owner Debbie Rowland inherited the house from her father and lived there for more than a decade.
Folk Victorian trim adorns the front porch. Rowland's husband replaced some that had rotted, and the couple restored other parts of the home.
The ornate trim may have been inspired by the captain's trips to New Orleans, which was also on his route, said Ann McDonald, chairwoman of the preservation committee for the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association.
Through the committee's work, the house was listed in 2011 on the National Register of Historic Places.
Now the group is working to get a local historic designation and applying for grants to pay to move and restore the home.
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The captain's family had settled in Tampa when it was a wilderness. His grandparents, Levi and Nancy Collar, came in 1823, fleeing Nancy's family home near Jacksonville after her father was scalped by Indians.
Capt. Jackson's great-granddaughter, Barbara Jackson Rossman, now lives in Sun City Center.
Rossman, 81, told the story recently of how her first ancestors in the area sold vegetables and deer and bear meat to military members stationed at Fort Brooke.
They were the first pioneers in Tampa, said Rossman, who grew up in Seminole Heights, next door to her grandfather, Bartow Jackson.
Bartow was the captain's son and grew up in the house, then known as the Nebraska farm. He told his granddaughter about the monkey and a parrot, too. He told her about Sunday suppers at the house, and picnics and boat rides with other pioneer families, such as the Hannas and Robles.
"The women wore dresses to the neck and skirts to the floor, as hot as it was," Rossman said.
Three of Bartow's siblings died young in the house. In 1893, his sister Willie died at 13. In 1887, Oscar died at 5 and William Fred died in 1899 at 6. Yellow fever, or malaria, may have killed them.
"When the fever came, people would pack up and get out of town," Rossman said, but she doesn't know for sure what killed them. The children are buried in the family plot downtown in Oaklawn Cemetery.
In 1880, Tampa had 720 residents, before the railroad came in 1884, linking Tampa to Jacksonville. It was the railroad that ended the captain's shipping mail route and brought about his retirement to farming. The railroad also brought a boom to Tampa in later decades.
In 1914, the captain served as a county commissioner. He donated the land for Seminole Heights Elementary School, which Rossman attended.
A few years back, Rossman sat in the parlor of the home during a neighborhood tour, telling visitors about the mantel over the fireplace. During a hurricane, the captain's steamship, the Hiram Cool, ran ground between here and Cedar Key. He had salvaged some of the oak wood from the wreckage to build the mantel.
How can anyone place a value on that?
Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.