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Tour displays, helps preserve Dunedin's past

Money raised by the Dunedin Tour of Historic Homes on March 18 will help pay to expand a museum.

Patricia Hoard remembers taking her kids downtown and gazing at the trains rumbling past the town station.

When the station built in 1923 closed, she thought, "It would be a shame to see a building like that torn down."

But it wasn't torn down, because residents turned it into the Dunedin Historical Museum.

Hoard soon will play an important role in the museum's future when she opens the doors to her 1929 bungalow with Spanish arches for the Dunedin Tour of Historic Homes.

The money raised during the March 18 event will help pay for the upstairs expansion of the museum, a project that museum officials hope will help it attain national accreditation.

That the tour was benefiting Dunedin's efforts to preserve history helped persuade Hoard to participate.

"It was what we believe in: preservation and history," Hoard said. "That was a big, important part for us. That was one of the reasons I'd allow all those people in my house."

Museum director Vinnie Luisi is hoping the tour will be the final push in the $100,000 fundraising effort. Dunedin donated $50,000 toward the museum expansion. Luisi said a person who does not yet want to be named has donated another $30,000. He is hoping the tour will raise the final $20,000.

Preliminary plans for the expansion have been completed and include adding an exterior elevator disguised as a brick clock tower. Luisi said he expects the expansion will be completed by year's end.

The first Dunedin Tour of Historic Homes in 1998 drew 1,200 visitors and raised $17,000.

"It was our biggest fundraiser ever," said Historical Society board member Roberta Gunn, who is co-chairwoman of this year's tour. "We had long waiting lines in the houses."

The money raised in 1998 paid for air conditioning and heating to be installed at Andrews Memorial Chapel, a 111-year-old building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Those improvements have allowed the Historical Society to rent the chapel for weddings _ which raises money for the operation of the museum.

This year's event kicks off on Feb. 9 when the Historical Museum opens a new exhibit tied to the tour, "Dunedin's Blooming 1920s, A History of Dunedin Isles." The exhibit is aimed at educating people about the history of the homes and life in Dunedin during the 1920s and 1930s, when all the houses were built.

"We want people to appreciate this is a house tour, but it is an historic house tour," Luisi said. "This will give people an opportunity to have knowledge _ it's to educate people about their community."

There are six homes on the tour and all reflect Spanish architecture of differing degrees. A home on Rowena Lane is an example of Spanish colonial revival, while an Edgewater Drive dwelling reflects Spanish Mediterranean architecture with a barrel-tile roof.

"All of the houses are wonderful," Gunn said. "Even if you don't like Spanish architecture, you'll like the way they fixed them up."

Part of the exhibit focuses on Dunedin Isles, where four of the six houses are. The 225-acre neighborhood includes the waterfront neighborhood around Santa Barbara west of Bayshore Boulevard and the homes around San Jose east of Bayshore.

Dunedin Isles was developed between 1925 and 1929 by Edward Frischkorn, a Detroit businessman who dreamed of building a city within a city for 50,000 people. His original plans included building five islands, which never happened.

Although the Florida building boom of the early 1920s already was on the downswing, Frischkorn was convinced his endeavor would succeed.

He built the home on Buena Vista known as the Kellogg mansion as his personal home in Dunedin Isles, Luisi said. The home eventually became the winter home for the Kellogg family _ of cereal fame.

"Frischkorn fought off everybody's feeling that the land boom had gone sour," Luisi said. "He dared everyone, and for a while was very successful."

Most of the homes Frischkorn built were Spanish-style, a 1920s fad, Luisi said. Leena Fennander's home at 1727 Bayshore Blvd., which is on the tour, was built by Frischkorn and features a Spanish tiled fountain in a courtyard. Fennander said she agreed to take part because people have always had an interest in her home of 27 years and she liked the idea that the tour benefits the community.

"I'm happy to do something for the Historical Society of Dunedin," Fennander said.