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St. Pete’s Kerouac house to become a writer’s retreat

A nonprofit needs to raise $500,000 for the purchase and restoration.
The house at 5169 10th Ave. N, St. Petersburg, was Jack Kerouac's home during his final years.
The house at 5169 10th Ave. N, St. Petersburg, was Jack Kerouac's home during his final years. [ SCOTT KEELER | TIMES (2018) ]
Published Jan. 30, 2020
Updated Jan. 30, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — After years of back and forth and stalled negotiations, Jack Kerouac’s estate will sell the On The Road author’s St. Petersburg home a local nonprofit.

The nonprofit intends to turn it into a writer’s retreat.

“We reached an agreement that I will sell the house to the organization for 300k in cash,” John Shen-Sampas told the Tampa Bay Times via email.

Shen-Sampas is the son of Kerouac’s brother-in-law, John Sampas, who was deeded the home in 1990 when the writer’s widow died.

John Sampas, left, and Jack Kerouac in Lowell, Mass., 1966.
John Sampas, left, and Jack Kerouac in Lowell, Mass., 1966. [ HANDOUT | Courtesy of John Sampras ]

Sampas died in 2017 and left the house at 5169 10th Ave N. — near Fifth Avenue North and 49th Street North — to his son, Shen-Sampas.

The Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s website lists the market value of the one-story, 1,750-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms at $169,401.

Related: Repair work is finally under way at former St. Pete home of Jack Kerouac

On the real estate website Zillow, the value is placed at $284,350.

Members of the Friends of the Kerouac House nonprofit that work to honor the author are seeking to raise $500,000 to complete the purchase and then restore the home.

To do so, they will form a new nonprofit, Jack Kerouac’s House of St. Pete Inc.

“The roof needs a lot of work,” said Pat Barmore, president of Friends of the Kerouac House. “It has pest problems. We want to restore it to the period” of the 1960s.

Kerouac moved to St. Petersburg in 1964 with his third wife and mother. He died from liver cirrhosis on Oct. 21, 1969, at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Kerouac might have authored the semi-autobiographical Vanity of Duluoz from the home, Barmore said, but he is not certain.

“He wrote sports for the Evening Independent,” then a sister publication of the St. Petersburg Times, Barmore said.

Related: Jack Kerouac found the end of his road in St. Petersburg 50 years ago

There had been discussions over the years of turning the house into a museum honoring the writer, but traffic could negatively impact the residential neighborhood, Barmore said.

For two years starting in 2013, the Friends of the Kerouac House served as caretaker of the house while taking steps to fully restore the aging structure and pursue status for it as a historic landmark.

Then, Kerouac’s brother-in-law took away their keys and hired a property manager.

Through it all, the nonprofit continued to negotiate. They nearly finalized the deal on a few occasions but always came up short.

“John Shen-Sampas is a good guy,” Barmore said. “It’s been a long journey. But don’t congratulate us until we raise the money. But I don’t think it will take too long. We have a lot of support and interest."