Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Historic house needs a new homesite

ZEPHYRHILLS

If you live in town, the deal of a lifetime could be just around the corner. Literally.

Sitting on the edge of Zephyr Park in front of the tennis courts at Fifth Avenue and Fourth Street is a two-story frame vernacular style house up for auction. And get this: The starting bid is $500.

Okay, there's a catch.

This isn't just a fixer-upper. It's going to be a labor of love. But perhaps the bigger challenge is that the house must be moved — and the contract calls for that to happen within 30 days of purchase.

The city's Community Redevelopment Agency, which focuses on the city's core historical area, bought the nearly 1-acre property in early 2010 for $312,500.

City leaders want to use the land to perhaps expand the park, build more tennis courts or add parking for the adjacent lakeside Alice Hall Community Center. Initial ideas about what to do with the house included moving it closer to the lake and leasing it out to a restaurateur, said assistant city planner R.J. Keetch. That idea and several more never picked up steam.

Last November, the CRA, which is made up of City Council members, voted to auction off the aging home. Council members agreed they would like to see the historical home renovated, only it was time for the city to let someone else do that. The house officially went up for auction on March 15. The bidding closes Thursday.

While the city auction listing states the home was built in 1925, a historical survey done in June 1999 by a consulting firm for the city states the house is circa 1915. In either case, there's no doubt it's a piece of Zephyrhills architectural history.

Stand curbside in front of the white clapboard-sided house with its tin roof, wraparound porch and it oozes with charm, but certainly its exterior has signs of age and abandonment. While what appears to be the wooden siding looks to be in good shape, several windows are broken, weeds are growing out of the gutters and thieves stole the central air-conditioning unit about a year ago.

When potential buyers step inside, they need to click on their imagination. The home has been vacant for several years, city officials say, and one of its last uses was as a professional office. But it's abundantly clear something else has taken up residency here, particularly on the stairs and second floor. The remains of a drywood termite infestation are everywhere. If there's any damage, however, it's not obvious with a quick glance.

Remarkably, with the exception of one sizable spot in the dining room, the original wood floors are in good shape and would probably shine after refinishing. A dark room off the dining room appears a victim of the 1970s with its wood paneling. It could perhaps be turned into a den, or a bedroom, but now the washer-dryer hook-up is located here. On the other side of the dining room are lovely French doors leading to a sunroom or office. The small galley kitchen is an addition to the original house off the back, as is a bathroom complete with a shower.

Back up at the top of a sturdy staircase is a small bathroom with a small non-traditional corner bathtub. While the eaves of the home add architectural interest, they appear to be the reason for the awkward tub. While the three upstairs bedrooms are likely of average size for homes of this era, the closets are a bit larger. Most of the home has drop ceilings, likely to accommodate the addition of central heat and air.

Throughout the 1,665-square-foot home, there are nice details such as wood paneled doors, solid woodwork and even an original door bell. But there's no doubt the new owner must be a visionary, have some money to spend and have renovation know-how.

"That would be a good project for a contractor with a little time on their hands," said City Manager Jim Drumm.

Whomever purchases it must agree to move the home without dismantling it. City leaders agree they still want to see it restored, rather than used for scrap or parts. The ideal location would be within the city's historic district, said Keetch. And if it is moved there, the new owner could be eligible for historic restoration grants to help offset the cost.

"There's only a limited number of these structures left," said Keetch. "I think that's what makes Zephyrhills unique. You've got to hold onto those assets."

 
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