Historic Florida Estate on the Market in Tampa, FL
3824 W. Bay to Bay Blvd.
After last being sold in the spring of 1996, a 4,039 square foot Mediterranean Revival “Ship House” is back on the market in South Tampa, FL for $1,200,000. As one of the few remaining historic estates in the Tampa area, this home carries with it a rich history. Originally constructed in 1924, the home features original oak floors, a unique layout, and plenty of character. The current owner has collected stories about the home and shared them with us.
In the spring of 1996 our children were twelve, six and nine months old. We’d outgrown our little house on Bay to Bay and were looking for something bigger. Of course, we hadn’t counted on anything as big as 3824, just down the street. The day we saw the house for the first time, we met Kitty, the woman who owned the house and who had grown up in it.
Kitty was a Parker by marriage. Her mother wed her step-father in the 1930’s. At the time, he was dabbling in the motion picture business, and she told us the story of how he lost everything, how one evening during a large party someone arrived with a truck to repossess all the home’s furniture. One of the guests stepped forward and wrote a check to cover the debt, and the furniture remained, and I’m assuming the party continued. Kitty’s step-father disappeared soon after—her mother didn’t know where he’d gone—the suspicion was NYC, but eventually he returned and started up Tampa’s first Pepsi franchise.
I met an older man who claimed that his father was the first principal of Plant High. His father told how Dale Mabry wasn’t even a road then, and that the high school was off in the woods. He often played at 3824 Bay to Bay as a boy--“They always had bottles of Pepsi on ice for us,” he told me. After we moved in, we met others with stories of the house: the ancient telephone repair man who claimed that Joan Crawford, once the CEO of Pepsi-Cola, was a guest. Kitty herself told my husband that Elvis Presley stayed in the house. Our neighbor behind us told how her property had been the tennis court, and how the pool, a Lang, was installed for Kitty’s health.
Kitty’s husband, a dentist, also shared unique details of the house. Under the dining room table, for instance, there’s a brass plate where a buzzer used to summon the help from the maid’s quarters—a space which became our pool room for a number of years, and then a studio. The house was so grand that we named the side room filled with bookshelves “the library.” We learned from a Virginia Park newsletter that Kitty’s mother used to stroll the front lawn in the mornings in her peignoir, she had a Packard with a driver who took her to church, and fresh flowers delivered every week.
This sense of a grand past remains with the house. As its caretakers, we’ve changed very little—modernizing when necessary, re-glazing and painting the original windows, refinishing the oak and heart-of-pine floors, peeling off wallpaper to paint the plaster walls and discovering the layers of color beneath. But most of the features that made the house a 1920’s icon remain: the arched windows and doorways, the brass screens in the dining room windows, the wide baseboards, the heavy glass doorknobs, the etched light fixtures on the front porch, the French doors to the courtyard with its ninety-three-year-old grape vine, its terracotta tiles, its cherub-faced fountain, and porthole walls.
Most distinctive though, is the plaster base relief of a ship on the facade of the house above the living room window. The wave-tossed galleon depicted on the front of the house somehow reflects the romance and mystery of the house itself. It’s been a joy to live in the “Ship House” on Bay to Bay, and we hope that whoever answers the call to take over the stewardship of this unique home appreciates its beauty, and experiences just as many years of happiness.
Listed by Lara Champ Mays