Joshua White finds new homes for old house parts. He runs Tampa Bay Salvage, a Tarpon Springs business he started a couple of years ago after leaving a similar family enterprise in New Jersey to move to Florida. For him, it's a spiritual calling. "I'm not a pastor or a surgeon," said White, 37. "But I do feel like we do a lot of good. We're tree huggers — part of the green movement. We save things for other people to enjoy."
White and his crew recently were called in to retrieve parts of what is known as the "Tsaveris House," located on Spring Bayou at 164 N Spring Blvd.
One found artifact, a triangular wooden sash window, was donated to the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society. Phyllis Kolianos, vice president of the organization, said she's not sure what they will do with the piece just yet, but hopes to show it off prominently.
"We're in a historic train depot; the idea is to have (the window) displayed in remembrance of the home that was there," she said. "It has a small 'T' on it from when the Tsaveris family lived in the home." She doesn't know when the Tsaveris family occupied the house, but believes it may have been prior to the 1950s.
Other items mined from the home have included scrolled Ionic columns, antique heart pine flooring, heart pine corbels, a Federal Revival-style door frame and an old fountain overflowing with character.
White says he has about 1,000 square feet of the home's flooring that he's selling for $4 a square foot.
"There's a big demand for reclaimed heart pine flooring," White said. "It's very hard. The boards were milled with really mature pine trees that were probably 100 years old or more. Today they harvest young pine trees so the flooring is much softer."
White opened his 4,000-square-foot store at 700 N Pinellas Ave. in August. It features all sorts of reclaimed architectural goodies, including stained glass windows, staircase spindles, tin ceiling tiles, porch railings, concrete balusters, wrought iron and nautical items.
The store is in an old sponge warehouse built in the 1930s.
"We brought it back to life," White said.
The house on Spring Boulevard won't be quite so lucky.
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Located in the historic Golden Crescent area, the house was built circa 1890, though some records say 1910. It was a frame home, smaller than it is now, and originally constructed in the Florida vernacular style.
However, it was substantially modified over the years. Stucco covers its wooden frame, creating a sponge for moisture and mold. The roof line, porches and columns have been altered from the original. The Cracker look was replaced with Greek neoclassical, which stands in contrast with the surrounding homes, predominantly Queen Anne style.
The structure belongs to John and Wilma Byrnes, who bought it in 2004. Numerous attempts to reach the owners were unsuccessful, but earlier this year Byrnes told the Heritage Preservation Board that when he bought the home, he wasn't aware of its historic nature and wanted to replace it with a historic-looking structure.
Demolition had to be approved by the preservation board, since the home is located in an area that is part of the National Register Historic District. However, it is not identified as individually eligible for the National Register, according to a report by Tarpon Springs.
Experts said the house was too structurally and architecturally compromised to rehabilitate. It suffers from poor construction techniques and has serious foundation problems. Termites, mold and water intrusion are problematic and the electrical system is outdated and could be dangerous, they reported.
And, the cost of preservation would be far more than a renovated house would be worth, they said.
So the preservation board gave the couple approval to demolish the structure and construct a Queen Anne-style home compliant with the city's historic district design guidelines.
"There is some sadness in losing this historic structure, with understanding that it had changed significantly over time," said Kolianos of the Historical Society. "My hope is that the structure they put there will be compatible with and enhance the bayou area."
White feels he did his part with his salvage work.
"If I wouldn't have been involved in the reclamation, all this stuff would have been lost forever," he said.
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.