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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Abandoned 1913 home in Hyde Park restored to historic glory

If there was any charm to the century-old house at 722 S. Fielding Ave., six years of weather, litter and vermin had obliterated it.

The hulk marred an otherwise upscale Hyde Park neighborhood, a blackened tooth on a brilliant smile. Repairs by a new owner came only in fits and starts. Neighbors complained and the city of Tampa was just about to have it razed, saying it had already undergone “demolition by neglect.”

“This poor house,” recalled contractor Andrej Petrov. “It was a perfectly nice house and they completely took it apart. It was a nightmare.”

Today, dream home better describes the two-story, five-bedroom, 2  bath showpiece, its exterior reflecting its 1913 construction in every detail while its inside features the latest in 2016 technology.

“It became a really nice luxury home,” said Jeff Greenacre of Greenacre Properties, who bought the property for $473,000 early last year and started working on it with contractor Petrov.

It’s on the market now for $2.2 million.

The Tribune reported in August 2013 about tension between neighbors and the couple who had purchased the house to renovate it, Herbert and Jill Wax. Only a minimum amount of work had been done on it to continue renewing building permits, city officials said then, and the house had been reduced to bare plywood walls with a plastic tarp for a roof.

The city brought a code enforcement action against the owners — an unusual step in this historic neighborhood with its active homeowners association, just a block off scenic Bayshore Boulevard as it bends to the west.

Things got so heated that fistfights and restraining orders ensued.

Neighbor Steve Olsen owned a home next door and hoped to sell it to support his ill father, but he felt he couldn’t put it on the market with the never-ending construction project next door.

“There was absolutely no way during the entire time that was under construction that it would be economically feasible,” Olsen recalled. “It kind of ruined my economic view for quite a few years there, but it also brought down the whole neighborhood.”

Contacted last week, Wax declined to comment for this story.

Greenacre made the purchase in January 2015.

He and Petrov faced a daunting task reversing six years of rain damage and decay. Everything had to be stripped and examined to determine what needed replacing. Walls were torn down and immediately replaced to preserve the house while fixing the damage.

“It would be easier to build it new,” Petrov said. But the structure and the style will endure longer, he said: “It’s good to go for another 100 years.”

The home’s original windows and other pieces like railings and moldings were preserved and restored. The rest of the house was rebuilt and modernized.

It is the first house in Tampa, Greenacre said, to be sprayed with a cork insulation system called Suber for energy efficiency, waterproofing and soundproofing.

The house is also equipped with Smarthome technology, allowing control of lights, thermostats and anything else electric through a smartphone app.

“I love bringing these old homes back to life,” Petrov said. “These old houses ... I feel that they have soul.”

Selene San Felice is a Tribune intern and a student at the University of Tampa.

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