Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

Take a stroll through historic Oldsmar

OLDSMAR — A funny thing happened while Gabby McGee worked on a historic district designation for downtown Oldsmar.

"I fell in love with the history of the city," said the 27-year-old City Council member and owner of a 1918 Craftsman bungalow.

She's inviting the community to do the same.

On Sunday, McGee will narrate a walking tour to showcase the history and architecture of downtown Oldsmar. The tour begins at 10 a.m. at 101 State St., where the Oldsmar Historical Society and the City Council chambers are headquartered.

The recently restored structure, built in 1918, boasts an Italian white glazed brick façade. It's the only building in the state with such an exterior, according to McGee, and, "the oldest commercial building still standing in Oldsmar."

Inside, visitors will view an assortment of early artifacts, including a mammoth's molar found in Oldsmar. Old photos and renderings detail the city's early beginnings, when founding father and inventor of the Oldsmobile Ransom Eli Olds decided to turn the untamed land at the top of Tampa Bay into a community for the working man.

The tour is free, but donations are encouraged as this walk — one of several McGee leads during the cooler months — will benefit the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life and the Oldsmar Historical Society. It will cover a four-block radius and is expected to last an hour and a half.

Walkers will pass homes that once sheltered the city's first mayor, one of the first teachers, the president of the Oldsmar Bank, and Louis London, brother of author Jack London (who wrote Call of the Wild).

One residence on Jefferson Avenue housed the city's original white grammar school; a 1918 frame vernacular building on Exeter Street is home to the Woman's Club of Oldsmar.

Tour participants will learn that Olds designed the wide city streets to be like the spokes of a wheel, leading from downtown to the bay, where a 1,000-foot pier stretched into the waters. A casino was a popular place back then.

Three homes will be open for viewing during Sunday's tour: two 1918 R.E. Olds Farms Company bungalows and the largest historical home in the city, a 1920s pink Mediterranean.

McGee has been working to get the area designated as a National Historic District for a couple of years now, filling out forms, taking photos of contributing structures, writing summaries and plotting out structures on a map.

It's a labor of love. She says a historic district will provide official recognition to the community, raise property values, and provide access to potential tax incentives and grants. Once a historic district nomination is sent to the State Preservation Office, it can take up to another year before it results in a final designation, she said.

     
 
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