Monday, July 23, 2012

Seminole Heights, Tampa

Wonderful broken Terra-cotta tile entryway

When I first started investigating the Tampa Bay area as a possible place to relocate I started looking in neighborhoods that were in Pinellas County which is on the Gulf and near to my family.  I knew that Tampa had wonderful neighborhoods but of course all of this was on the bay and far from the beaches.  I never looked around for more than discovering places to visit and be a tourist of sorts.  Some years prior to me coming down here an acquaintance of mine moved for work and found a great historic district in Tampa:  Seminole Heights. Upon first visiting the newly married couple I was amazed by the character and beauty and concentration of these great Craftsman homes.

side entry with Japanese flair
The neighborhood dates from the turn of the 20th Century when T. Roy Young acquired 40 acres and developed Craftsman housing three miles north of Tampa as a way to provide elegant housing for the growing city and those early snowbirds who came to Tampa.  The neighborhood is a collection of every style of Craftsman housing imaginable.  Most of the houses are single story with ten to twelve foot ceilings located on a slightly elevated plateau north of the city and bordering the Hillsborough River.  

three bays wide with classic urns

There are combinations of shingle, brick, clabbers with great porches and flanking pylons that frame the  entries.  Certainly my house in Tarpon Springs is an example of the same style, but in Tarpon Springs even though there are many Craftsman houses there are even more Victorian structures due to its earlier development.  So when I visited my friends I was amazed and thrilled to see this gem of a place. I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I kept wondering if I had made and mistake in not looking further than I did.
Great fenestration and doors (note louvered attic vents to cool house)
Of course, these houses are a century old like mine and like anything that old they are in every stage of repair.  Somewhere along new neighborhoods came along with block housing that purportedly is safer during hurricanes, but of course they have their own problems because of materials that are not as natural to the area.  Concrete block tend to hold more moisture than plaster wall cavity houses that breathe naturally.  You leave a concrete block house closed and you will have mildew odor and stains  everywhere if the air conditioning is not left on whereas old Craftmans function just fine. The old Craftsman houses have a natural way of cooling off by not being built on a slab.  They float and have air all around them to keep them naturally comfortable with their wide overhangs that shade and further cool the houses.  Remember, in 1911 there was no air conditioning and people lived here.

Enjoy the wonderful examples of Seminole Heights.  What is remarkable to these house is that because most of them are a century old they have great landscapes all around them.  The streets are spanned by live oaks and beautiful old plants you don't find in nurseries today.

Rare full two-story house

Nice house questionable color!

Wonderful color scheme and giant elephant ear philodendron

Another Asian inspired Bungalow

Crape myrtle entryway

Wonderful Stain Glass Door

Classic Florida Bungalow with flanking giant bird of Paradise plants

Another gem

In 1908 the Gamble family ( of Proctor and Gamble fame) hired Charles and Henry Greene to design and build what would become one of the most celebrated Craftsman Bungalow of its day or any day.  The craze for this architecture swept the nation and every manner of copy was produced inspired from the Gamble House.  From the Asian inspired motifs and joinery, Tiffany windows and light fixtures and uses of exotic wood, houses appeared around the country making homage to this spectacular residence.   The Gamble House cost fifty thousand dollars in 1908.  Most of the homes of Seminole Heights sold for five thousand dollars in 1911.  From 1908-40 Sears  and Roebuck sold seventy five thousand craftsman houses through the mail-order-catalogue in over four hundred styles.  World War II brought an end of the fashion of the Craftsman Bungalow.  After the war we all wanted modern or Googie architecture; a subject for another day.  Happy Gardening!


  1. I'm in love! I love them all! How to choose just one? --- And please explain the term Googie. Did I just spend a couple of days at a dreamy Googie hotel in Atlantic City? And by the way... you're seriously missed around here.

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