TAMPA — By 1912, Tampa already had a big-city feel. The lavish 500-room Plant Hotel welcomed guests from New York and Boston. Steam-powered streetcars chugged between downtown Tampa and Ybor City. Maas Brothers Department Store displayed the latest fashions.
As the city's population more than doubled between 1900 and 1912, swelling to about 40,000, Bayshore Boulevard was becoming Tampa's premier address. So the Tampa Times took note when a prominent resident, W.E. Dorchester, decided to build a mansion in what was then called "Suburb Beautiful.''
"It will be one of the largest and finest residences constructed in the city in a number of years,'' the story said. "The house will have many innovations, principal among which will be the largest number of lights on the lower floor. ... The porch will run halfway around the house and on one side there will be an automobile drive with an immense automobile house in the rear.''
A native New Yorker, Dorchester had briefly practiced dentistry in Bartow but moved to Tampa in 1893 and established a "very large and lucrative'' real estate business that handled leasing for "a number of important buildings,'' according to the History of Hillsborough County. He was a director of the Citizens Bank and Trust Co., an organizer of the Tampa Yacht and Country Club and a member of the Palma Ceia Golf Club.
Today, scores of mansions and condo towers line Bayshore Boulevard, but the house Dorchester built for his wife and three daughters still stands out. It went on the market this month for $2.995 million.
"Though the kitchen and bathrooms have been updated, the home still has remarkable period charm," said Autumn Etheredge. She and Sarah Weaver, both of Smith & Associates, are the listing agents.
Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, the seven-bedroom, five-bath house has 110 feet of frontage along Bayshore and water views from many of the rooms. Italian-style columns and arches grace the porch, while the entrance leads into a grand hall with a domed skylight and stairways on either side. The 7,615-square-foot house still has its original molding, fireplace and floors.
At a time when most houses were built of wood or solid brick, the Dorchester mansion employed an unusual construction method — hollow brick filled with concrete and covered with stucco (now painted marigold orange). That makes the home unusually quiet inside.
In another innovation for the era, the 200 tungsten lights in all first-floor rooms were concealed behind gold borders. Mirrors behind the lights reflected the glow onto the ceilings, creating the effect of sunlight even on a cloudy day. The downstairs rooms also boasted steam heat — a more welcome innovation, air conditioning, was still decades away from widespread use.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.