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Historic Largo house gets reprieve from demolition

Jason Perkins served as town manager from 1916 to 1918 and again in 1923. He built this house at 61 Fifth St. NW. Believing it would be demolished years ago, the city allowed firefighters to practice in it, which damaged it somewhat.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Jason Perkins served as town manager from 1916 to 1918 and again in 1923. He built this house at 61 Fifth St. NW. Believing it would be demolished years ago, the city allowed firefighters to practice in it, which damaged it somewhat.

The future of the 82-year-old craftsman-style bungalow on Fifth Street NW was looking pretty grim. The Jason Perkins house, built by one of Largo's early town managers, was slated for demolition. But, in a rare move, Largo city leaders took another look at the historic home and now plan to save it. "I'm really glad that they're doing it," said Bob Delack, past president of the Largo Area Historical Society. "Especially in light of all of the ones that we've lost."

Over the past year or so, the city has lost about a dozen historic structures, Delack said. They include the 99-year-old Largo Hotel and the home of the late Virginia Laney, which was built by Robert "Dr. Bob" McMullen in 1898.

While Largo has a history of razing history, the city did save the Moss-Feaster Largo Chapel at 206 First Ave. SW after buying it a decade ago to redevelop West Bay Drive. The city moved the structure, which also used to be a McMullen family home, to Seventh Ave SE.

Now, the city wants to do the same thing with the Jason Perkins house, which it bought last year as part of its plan to redevelop the north side of West Bay Drive. Largo leaders want to move the house a few lots north and sell the four-bedroom, two-bath home to a first-time home buyer through its Homestead program.

It would cost the city $170,000 to buy, move and refurbish the 2,200-square-foot house. And those costs can be recouped by selling the house, said Matthew Anderson, city housing manager.

But the home was at risk of demolition up until a month ago.

A former building official said the house wasn't worth saving because it had extensive termite damage and was infested with bats and rats, City Manager Mac Craig said.

Then, as Largo was forming its new Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, officials decided to take a second look. A little more than a month ago, the city's community development director and economic development director discovered that the house at 61 Fifth St. NW was listed in a 1986 survey of Largo's historic sites. They wondered if it could be restored, Largo Community Development director Carol Stricklin said.

Anderson visited the house and found it was actually in pretty good condition. An architect estimated that it would cost about $46,000 to refurbish it.

But the house also had a bit of wear and tear that had nothing to do with termites.

Largo Fire Rescue had used the house as a training site for a number of years, mostly for nondestructive drills, fire Chief Mike Wallace said. As a result, the home sustained about $10,000 worth of damage and a few holes in the ceiling, floor and walls, Anderson said.

Had the city known the house was in good shape it would not have let Fire Rescue train there, Craig said.

Before hearing Craig's explanation, Commissioner Woody Brown said he was disappointed that the home came so close to being razed, especially since he inquired about it 10 months ago. But Brown, who lives in a 1924 bungalow downtown, said he's glad the city is moving away from the idea that "redevelopment downtown begins with a bulldozer."

Forming the historic preservation committee gave the city a chance to review resources to save homes like the Jason Perkins house, Stricklin said.

"I think we certainly took a lesson from our experience of writing off this house too early," she said.

Fast facts

Who lived there

Jason Perkins, born in 1884, came to Largo with his family in 1912. He built the house at 61 Fifth St. NW in 1926 and served as town manager from 1916 to 1918 and again in 1923. Besides managing the city, he was also responsible for keeping water pressure steady during firefighting.

Source: City of Largo and Largo Historic Sites Survey

Historic Largo house gets reprieve from demolition 09/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 3:39pm]
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