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Air of mystery surrounds sale of Tarpon mansion

One of the city's greatest landmarks, the 111-year-old Inness Manor, is expected to have a new owner next month.

The current owner of the historic bed and breakfast, Phyllis Rouhselang of Palm Harbor, has signed a deal to sell the home at 34 W Orange St. She called off an auction set for last week after she was made an offer she couldn't refuse, she said.

As to the identity of the buyers, everyone involved in the deal is as silent as one of the quiet landscapes of the Anclote River that artist George Inness painted at the manor, his former winter home. The sale still has to be closed, but Rouhselang is certain it will be.

"It's a done deal," Rouhselang said Wednesday. She added that she didn't know anything about the buyers other than that they are local people. They have been represented by an attorney, she said.

Inness, often considered the father of modern American landscape painting, and his son George Inness Jr., an esteemed artist in his own right, both lived in the sprawling 8,000-square-foot home at the turn of the century.

Rouhselang has owned the home since 1992, but put it on the market in 1995 because of health problems. Last week, she auctioned off most of her expansive antique collection that furnished the manor.

Nobody at Century 21 Young & Associates, which represents Rouhselang, or at Anclote Key Realty, which represents the mysterious buyer, would comment.

George Klimis, a Tarpon Springs lawyer who represents the buyer, said the deal could be closed by mid-April.

"The buyers want to make sure they've developed their plans for the building before they announce who they are," Klimis said. "The real story is going to be after the closing."

Klimis said his clients were mindful of the historic significance of the building and would probably not radically change the use of the building as a bed and breakfast or home.

Rouhselang declined to disclose the selling price that had been negotiated. For tax purposes, the home and property is assessed at $204,000. Rouhselang paid about $300,000 when she bought it several years ago.

The home has 27 rooms, 8 baths, 9 porches, 123 windows and 89 doors.