ST. PETE BEACH — A veteran of the Civil War who moved to Florida for his health, Zephaniah Phillips lived in a tent for five years on Long Key, the area now known as Pass-a-Grille.
The first homesteader there, he obtained a land grant and built a cottage in 1886, using lumber brought in by boat from Cedar Key.
That little structure, expanded over the years and moved to 608 Pass-a-Grille Way in 1939, is the oldest in Pass-a-Grille, which celebrated its centennial in 2011.
It is situated on the site of a Spanish fishing camp visited by Spanish naval officer Jose Antonio de Evia in 1783, one of six residences that open to the public for the 15th annual Pass-a-Grille Woman's Club Home Tour on Sunday.
Tennessee natives Kenneth and Margaret Herman bought the house and the adjacent guest suites in 1999.
"We looked at it after we bought it, and we thought, 'What have we done?' " Margaret Herman says now.
The couple spent countless hours working on the property. They restored the cottage's sash windows, revealed the original ceilings in several rooms and saved many of the original hardwood floors. It is a private residence.
Phillips, the original owner, still occasionally checks in.
"He's still here," Margaret Herman said. "I see him every now and then. He's tall, very skinny and wears long black pants."
Both the house and the adjacent Fairhaven, a vacation rental apartment building, are for sale.
"It does very well supporting us," Margaret Herman says, "but I would like a vacation."
Five other homes will be open during the tour, which raises money for the Woman's Club's community projects. The event often is a sellout.
Refreshments and restrooms are available at the Woman's Club building, 2201 Pass-a-Grille Way. The Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, 115 10th Ave., will host special tours for home-tour patrons throughout the day. The Pass-a-Grille Beach Community Church, celebrating its 100th anniversary, will feature artists and antiques all day.