Monday, February 19, 2018
News Roundup

Pass-a-Grille cottage with a past may skirt wrecking ball

ST. PETE BEACH

The oldest house on Pinellas County's gulf beaches may soon move a few blocks from its current home at 608 Pass-a-Grille Way.

Zephaniah Phillips constructed the little frame dwelling in 1886, using lumber brought from Pensacola on a schooner called the Silver Moon; it was relocated in 1919.

With extensions added several times over the years, it has withstood all sorts of dramatic weather, but a twister born of Tropical Storm Debby in June peeled away a portion of its roof. The Fairhaven, an early 1900s vacation rental apartment building next door, sustained even more extensive damage.

Owners Kenneth and Margaret Herman, who bought the properties in 1999, appealed to the city's Historic Preservation Board this month, requesting demolition permits for both buildings.

Board members gave them 30 days to find someone to acquire the cottage and move it to another site. Engineers have determined that it will withstand another move, Kenneth Herman said.

"Well, we'd certainly love to do that," said Joe Caruso, who owns the Sabal Palms and Coconut inns in Pass-a-Grille.

He said he is working on a site plan and proposes to move it to the Coconut Inn property at 113 11th Ave. In addition to a roof, it will require a new foundation and plumbing and electrical hookups.

"So far, everything looks good," Caruso said. "From what the engineers are telling me, a major part of the house can be saved. I've already consulted with the historic board.

"It's going to be quite an undertaking, but I think it's going to be fabulous when it's done. That's what makes Pass-a-Grille unique, properties like that. If I can save the most unique one, I definitely want to take the opportunity to do that."

Caruso said he hopes to add the Phillips house to the rooms available at the Coconut.

"I think it would be the most unique place to stay," he said, "to be able to stay in a historic cottage like that."

Kenneth Herman said the Fairhaven is irreparable. In March 2006, he and Margaret put their property, which comprises three waterfront lots, on the market, offering it at $3.5 million. It is still for sale, he said. Without the two buildings, the Hermans are asking $2.5 million.

"I moved down here in 1992 to not do anything," Herman said. In working on the two properties and leasing them, he said, "I built up a job bigger than I ever had in my life."

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