DUNEDIN — Tom and Jan Bowers bought their six-bedroom home on Victoria Drive in 1987. Since then, they've spent many a weekend restoring to its former grandeur the 1902 three-story Victorian home with original fireplaces, clawfoot bathtubs and heart of pine flooring.
But they've spent many more hours in their white rockers on the front porch, relishing the sweet saltwater breezes, the calls of seabirds and the laid-back views of St. Joseph Sound and Caladesi Island.
"When we bought this house, we didn't realize how it would change our lives," Jan said. "It's opened up this wonderful life of coastal living in a charming old Florida town."
"It's been an idyllic place to raise our sons," Tom said.
Now, for the first time, they are sharing their little piece of paradise with the public during the 2013 Tour of Historic Dunedin Homes.
Sponsored by the Dunedin Historical Museum, Saturday's tour will feature eight historic structures built from the 1880s to the 1940s. The self-guided tour showcases six homes, plus Andrews Memorial Chapel and Curtis Fundamental School, the original Dunedin Junior High School.
Tickets are $20 per person and include refreshments at the First Presbyterian Church, 455 Scotland St.
Today a Patron's Party house tour will run from 5 to 9:30 p.m. For $50 a person or $85 per couple, visitors can enjoy the tour via the Jolley Trolley. Hors d'oeuvres, refreshments, and live entertainment will be offered at Andrews Memorial Chapel, 1899 San Mateo Drive.
The chapel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. It was completed in 1888 and boasts decorative clapboard siding, Gothic-style windows, an original stained-glass window and a "bridesmaids room" that connects to the sanctuary.
The 50-foot-high vaulted ceiling is trimmed in heart of pine with massive beams hand-carved into cloverlike shapes. Some of the hand-blown glass in the windows is original — and charmingly full of character flaws.
Originally located at the corner of Scotland Street and Highland Avenue, the structure was named after William Andrews, who was killed at age 25 by a falling tree. His father John, one of the first homesteaders in Dunedin, donated $200 toward construction of the church in exchange for naming rights.
The chapel was nearly demolished in 1970 to make way for a church parking lot.
"That's when the Dunedin Historical Society stepped in to save it," said Vinnie Luisi, executive director of the Dunedin Historical Museum. "It's a very important piece of Dunedin's history."
The structure was cut in half, transported by truck and placed on city property at the entrance to the city's Hammock Park, where it was restored to its original condition by the Historical Society.
It now serves as a nondenominational chapel used for weddings, small receptions, musical performances, lectures and other special functions.
"We've had every type of wedding imaginable — gay, biker, Celtic, medieval. You name a group and we've had them here," Luisi said.
The chapel and the school will open Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All other stops on Saturday's tour are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Among the many interesting and notable homes on the circuit is a 1922 craftsman bungalow on Louden Avenue that once belonged to Tom Anderson, a former Dunedin mayor and state legislator, and his wife Alice.
The bungalow is owned by Fairlie Brinkley now. He's artfully restored it, painting the walls in vivid colors that contrast with the broad white moldings and yellow heart of pine floors.
And he's filled it with an abundance of family heirlooms, each with their own interesting story to tell.
Like the older books in the bookcase.
"Some of these belonged to my great-grandparents, who took them to Colorado during the 1859 Gold Rush," he said.
On the way out, pass through the garage and check out the cherry red 1952 MG TD British roadster — in mint condition of course.
"The World War II vets fell in love with this car over in England and it started the sports car craze in America," he said.
Terry Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected]