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Oldest house in Tampa area moved, with help from Google

Oldest house in Tampa tri-county area. Copyrighted image courtesy of Google Inc.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – How do you move the oldest house in the three-county area of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco? Very carefully. Also very slowly, in pieces, and with the help of Google.

More than a year after Tampa-based EquiAlt purchased the 176-year-old, four-bedroom bungalow that stood outside of Ybor City at 3210 E Eighth Ave., the structure’s move to a new home in Hyde Park’s National Historic District is complete.

The 2,000-square-foot home was disassembled last week. Most of the first floor was relocated Tuesday morning. The second floor followed the next morning and the final piece — a 500-square-foot first floor room — arrives today.

On Feb. 23, it will be reassembled.

Next will be a year-and-half of renovations to ensure the now-dilapidated home receives historic designation. Most of the exterior’s existing structure must remain intact, and new parts must match the original time period.

When complete, it will be the new headquarters for EquiAlt, which owns and manages more than 400 properties in Central Florida.

“Our goal is to have a fully restored oldest house in Tampa,” said Brian Davison, EquiAlt’s CEO. “And we want hundreds of people a day to drive by it.”

Still, it has been a taxing 14 months since purchasing the home.

“We specialize in distressed properties and mostly buy houses at auctions,” Davison said. “When we heard this house was for sale we thought we could totally knock this [down], then realized historic buildings are different.”

Davison turned to Google to find AJS Structural Movers, Construction & Development, a Lutz company that has a resume of moving large homes. Then he hired Ferrell Redevelopment, one of Florida’s leading historic preservation architects.

He learned online that the city of Tampa’s Architectural Review & Historic Preservation would walk him through all the necessary permitting.

“We used Google like anyone would,” Davison said with a laugh. “There were little things we learned from Ferrell, like where to separate the roof so it can put it back together so it’s period correct.”

Seven Tampa Police Department squad cars led each of the first two relocations that began at midnight. The maximum speed was 10 mph, but Davison estimates the truck hauling the home never got above 5.

To make room while the house was on the road, street signs were taken down, tree branches were chain-sawed and electrical and power lines were raised carefully.

“When it went through Channelside, the roof was just inches from the trees on either side,” Davison said. “I’m happy it all worked out fine.”

In all, the relocation was 4.9 miles, possibly the longest in Tampa history.

“I can say the move was the most substantial we know of,” Historic Preservation’s Dennis Fernandez said.

Davison said to move such an old home that large and that far required logistical planning with Tampa police, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Department of Transportation, the city of Tampa, railroad giant CSX and local utility companies.

This is the second time the 176-year-old home has been relocated.

It was originally built in 1842 on Jackson Street by physician Sheldon Stringer. Then, in 1914, when Tampa decided to build its new city hall on that site, feed store owner Imboden Stalnaker bought the bungalow and had it dismantled and shipped by train to 3210 E Eighth Ave.

By the time previous owner, Darryl Bethune, purchased the structure in 2013, years of use as a low-income boarding home had taken a toll. He wanted to restore it but health issues got in the way. He sold it to EquiAlt for $55,000.

Restorations will cost around $400,000, Davison estimates.

Putting such money into a building few would see at its old location seemed pointless, Davison said, so they spent $215,000 to move it to 118 S Westland Avenue, a vacant lot in Hyde Park that EquiAlt purchased for $210,000.

With consulting fees added in, the total cost of the project will be around $900,000 — about the price to buy in that area, Davison said, except his office has the distinction of being the oldest home in Tampa.

“This has always been a structure the historic preservation community recognizes as important,” said Historic Preservation’s Fernandez. “We’re happy it will be protected.”


Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.),

By PAUL GUZZO, Tampa Bay Times

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