New executor says Kerouac home will be sold and turned into museum

Published April 4 2017

The house in St. Petersburg where Jack Kerouac left the road and spent his final years is now destined to become a museum honoring the author, whose books ushered in the Beat generation.

"Kerouac was an amazing writer and his work changed a lot of people's lives," said Kerouac's nephew John Shen Sampas, 33, of Greenwich, Conn., who owns the St. Petersburg house and oversees most of the literary giant's estate.

"I want to sell the property and sell it to someone who can turn it into something historical that honors him."

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Sampas assumed responsibility for Kerouac's home last month when his father John Sampas, the On The Road author's brother-in-law and longtime estate executor, died.

Sampas then read a Tampa Bay Times article on what the future may hold for the three-bedroom, one-story, 1,760-square-foot house at 5169 10th Ave. N and how local nonprofit Friends of the Jack Kerouac House want to turn it into a museum.

He agreed that was a good idea and called Margaret Murray, secretary of the friends group.

"It went very well," Murray said. "He has a clear vision that is similar to ours."

The University of South Florida, Salvador Dalí Museum and St. Petersburg Preservation support her non-profit's vision, Murray said, and are most qualified to turn the Kerouac house into a museum.

Still, if Sampas chooses someone else for the job, Murray is fine with that.

"Preserving the house is all I am concerned about," she said.

Kerouac moved to St. Petersburg in 1964 with his third wife, Stella, and his mother.

He was known to frequent Haslam's Book Store and The Flamingo Sports Bar in St. Petersburg, the Beaux Arts coffee shop in Largo, a riverfront home in Sulphur Springs, and the Wild Boar bar near the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Kerouac died from liver cirrhosis on Oct. 21, 1969, at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He was 47.

His mother died in 1973 and his wife in 1990.

Sampas and his father stayed at the St. Petersburg house on occasion but not for a few years.

Friends of the Kerouac House became voluntary caretakers there in 2013.

They held fundraisers to pay for the home's upkeep and were in talks to buy and turn it into a museum.

But the Sampas family cut off access to the nonprofit in 2015 and decided against selling.

Now, talks have resumed.

The Pinellas County Property Appraiser lists the house's worth at $128,832. Real estate websites put the value at more than $240,000.

Sampas has not decided on how much he'll ask for it.

"The value of the property is its history," he said. "It is not about the highest bidder. I want to find a group or person with a good vision for the house who can execute the plan."

The exterior looks bad. The lawn is overgrown. The mailbox has been stolen. The gate to the back yard is broken.

"We haven't been inside the house for a few years," Murray said. "We're hoping it is still in good shape. We're excited."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

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