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Houses, family built on solid foundation

Published Mar. 4, 1991|Updated Oct. 13, 2005

Big shady oaks hang over winding brick streets, large stone and masonry homes, some with red tile roofs and sloping lawns, and azaleas in bloom. That is Allendale Terrace, built on a hill on M. L. King (Ninth) Street N, from 34th to 42nd Avenue N. Allendale was the creation of Cade Allen, who came to St. Petersburg in 1911. He bought the land in 1922 and designed the subdivision with another developer, Frank Smith.

A true hands-on builder, Allen toured quarries in many states to buy stone. He then had it shipped here by railroad.

He laid many of the stones and did much of the masonry work himself because he loved to work with his hands, his sons said.

"He would build the houses of hollow tile and then cover them with stone," son Donald Allen said. "It was as cheap as stucco. Can you imagine?"

He chose stone because "he wanted something unique that everybody else wasn't doing," Don said.

Don recalled that the Georgia Engineering Co. built the streets and curbings and the late George F. Young surveyed the area.

Cade and Eva Allen had three daughters and five sons. "I was brought up in the building trade," Don said. "We all pretty much were. I worked on the Spanish tile roofs, did carpentry (and) concrete work."

Most of the Allen children followed in their father's footsteps. Don and Harold are retired from the construction business and Bob is an architect. The three of them live in St. Petersburg, as do their sisters Rena Leadbeater and Eva Lewis. Burton of St. Petersburg has a construction business. Ralph of Clearwater is a contractor, and Esther Chandler lives in Flat Rock, N.C., where the family spent many summers.

"And we all get together once in a while," Burton said. He is pleased that his sons Tim and Jeff have just started Allen Brothers Construction Co. in Pasco and Hernando counties.

The senior Allen died in 1959 and his wife died in 1971, but the large family has many fond memories.

"Dad loved to build, loved to work with his hands," Burton said. "He laid the stones, did a lot of masonry work, and was a good finish carpenter."

To the best of Burton's knowledge, his father "just picked up" the masonry trade. "He came off a farm in New York and went into Albany (N.Y.) as a brick mason."

But construction wasn't Allen's first vocation when he arrived in St. Petersburg with his bride.

"He was in real estate," Don said. "Back then, you didn't even need a license. We have a picture of his old sign, "C. Allen for real estate _ the man with the bargains.' " The office was at 510 Central Ave.

"As I recall, he bought the 160 acres, from Seventh Street N to Haines Road and 12th Street N, and 34th Avenue N to 42nd Avenue N for $186,000," Don said.

That was Allendale Terrace. It helped Cade Allen get back to his first love, construction.

In 1922 the Allendale area was known as Foster Grove, a large citrus grove. The only house on it was built about 1900 on what is now Foster Hill Drive.

"And when the citrus trees died out, the oaks just grew naturally," Don said.

The money for the land purchase came from the sale of a dairy farm and truck garden Allen owned on the north end of Crescent Lake.

When the Depression hit, "my dad came through with very little," Burton said. "Fortunately, he had been able to buy the land and put in streets without encumbering the land financially. So between what little building was going on (during the 1930s) and occasionally selling a lot, he was able to keep the family in food and clothing."

His sons said their father's deep religious faith might have helped him get through those times.

"He taught all of us to live our lives in the Christian faith and whatever we did, to do the best we knew how," Burton said.

Cade Allen did the best he knew how by taking pride in his workmanship on the Allendale houses. "His primary aim was to build the very best house he could," he said.

Patsy Baker, a lifelong Allendale resident, is an associate with Prudential Florida Realty. Her parents, Jewel and Murray Lester, built their Allendale home in 1925 (it is not a Cade Allen home).

Mrs. Baker and her husband Jimmie bought an Allen house in 1962, have reared their three children there, and now many grandchildren come to visit.

"The homes are so well built that people continue to buy them and fix them up," she said. "It's high and dry, and it's one of the few places in St. Petersburg where you feel like you can really see spring."

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