1. St. Petersburg

City okays demolition of Driftwood house that many consider historic

The city has decided to let the Schuh family tear down this home because it has fallen into disrepair. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
The city has decided to let the Schuh family tear down this home because it has fallen into disrepair. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
Published Aug. 15, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — In a unanimous vote, the city's Community Planning and Preservation Commission agreed Tuesday to grant a request to demolish a crumbling house in the newly approved Driftwood Historic District.

But the decision to allow demolition of the home of Daniel Schuh, 82, once a well-known St. Petersburg lawyer, came with conditions. The waterfront house at 2420 Driftwood Road SE, built in 1939 and since expanded and renovated, is considered a contributing property to the historic district.

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Only if the city's building official inspects and finds the house "unfit or unsafe for human habitation," can the demolition proceed without the required certificate of appropriateness for new construction and building permit.

The homeowner's daughter, Elizabeth Schuh, is frustrated. She said her family hired and submitted documents from a respected restoration expert, Place Architecture of St. Petersburg, that showed the extent of damage to the property and costs nearing $1 million to repair. Another report showed toxic mold, she said, adding that she doesn't understand the necessity of another inspection by the city to deem the home uninhabitable.

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Like the Driftwood house, the Schuh family has deep local roots. Daniel Schuh and his brother, Charlie, a former St. Petersburg mayor, had a law practice together. Their father, Charles J. Schuh, was in the Florida House of Representatives. He was murdered in his office by the estranged husband of a client in a divorce case.

Elizabeth Schuh said the house went into disrepair following a confluence of events, including the divorce of her parents, poorly done repairs, her father's failing health and financial difficulties. "You have to lay bare all of these private details in order to get compassion," she said. "It's so incredibly hard."

An added complication is the ongoing legal fight in which her father and several other Driftwood residents are involved against the historic designation of the neighborhood off 22nd Avenue S.