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70-year-old house's top speed: 0.1 mph

How do you move a two-story 1930s house? Slowly and late at night. Having the Pinellas Trail nearby its old and new locations is a big help.

A small piece of Tarpon Springs history was spared the wrecking ball early Friday morning.

A two-story building constructed in the 1930s and said to have been used as a sponge business, a psychologist's office and maybe even a bordello, was moved from Pinellas Avenue to the edge of the city's historic district.

What makes this different from an average house move was the route it took _ 1 mile straight up the Pinellas Trail.

Crews started at midnight Thursday, very slowly transporting the yellow and green Key West-style building from Pinellas Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to its new home on the brick streets at the corner of Safford Avenue and Orange Street.

At 7:30 a.m. Friday, the peak of rush-hour traffic, the building was just crossing Tarpon Avenue.

By 10 a.m. it was in place at its new location.

The structure, which was moved to make room for a new, free-standing Walgreens, will become businessman Rick Glass' new offices.

Glass had been searching for a place to move his company, Stephen Richards & Associates, for several months. He found out about the building from his neighbor, Jay Listle, who purchased the property in 1998 and renovated it.

Listle had just finished the renovations when he was approached by Walgreens and asked whether he would consider selling the land to make room for a drug store at 601 S Pinellas Ave. At first he said no. But, Glass said, "as they say in the movies, they made him an offer he couldn't refuse."

The Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office lists the price Listle paid for the property in 1998 as $105,000. It lists the price Walgreens paid in 2001 as $450,000.

Listle kept the salvage rights to the building, so when Glass expressed interest in purchasing it the deal came together quickly.

The biggest obstacle faced by T&B House Movers was the building itself. Because it has two stories, it would damage power and telephone lines wherever it moved. The lot Glass purchased on Safford was a little more than a mile away and the cost to move all the traffic signals and power lines up Pinellas Avenue was over $20,000.

Because both locations were adjacent to the Pinellas Trail, however, Glass reasoned that he could save a lot of money if he could use it as a route for the building move.

"If not for the trail, the move would have been cost-prohibitive," Glass said. "We were just really lucky."

Crews were at the site Friday morning from power, telephone and cable companies to move lines to get the house off the lot and onto the trail. Workers also were on hand to remove and replace street signs and white traffic posts along the trail.

Protecting the trail from damage was of foremost concern to Taylor Bingham, owner of the moving company. Bingham has moved a lot of buildings over the years. He grew up moving houses with his father, and is training his son in the family business. This was the first time he had used the Pinellas Trail as a move route.

"It was a great move, it just took a little longer than expected," he said. "We wanted to make sure we didn't do any damage to the trail, so we had to put a lot of (planks) down to protect it."

Although Glass and many others are happy to see the building spared from demolition, not everyone is quite as thrilled with its new location.

Nick Kousaleos lived in the house from 1948 to 1953 with his sister and brother-in-law, who were in the sponge business. When they moved to Greece in 1953, Kousaleos moved out and his nephew moved in. The nephew opened a psychologist's office on the bottom floor of the building and lived above it until his death in 1985 at age 40 while playing soccer.

The building remained vacant until 1998, when Listle bought it.

"What can I say? I'm sorry to see it go," Kousaleos said. "I've got a lot of memories there."

Moving adjacent to the city's historic district means benefits for Glass as a property owner. He is hoping to have it declared a "contributing structure," which would mean relaxed zoning restrictions.

Glass estimates it will be another six to eight weeks before he is able to move into his new offices. There is still work to be done settling the building into its new location, getting the utilities and power hooked up, pouring a parking lot and landscaping.

The Tarpon Springs planning and zoning department has been involved throughout the move and is willing to work with Glass to facilitate the rezoning process.

"They have gone through a lot to save it (the building)," said the city's planning and zoning director, Walter Fufidio. "And it is so different from the mundane things we do, we're happy to be involved."

_ Staff writer Julie Church can be reached at (727) 445-4229 or churchsptimes.com.

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