Twelve properties located west of Beach Boulevard and south of Gulfport Boulevard were on the tour, said co-chair Caron Schwartz. The section of the city was close to or bordering Boca Ciega Bay so this year’s theme was “Sashay by the Seaside.”
The tour is a fundraiser for the Gulfport Merchants Chamber and is organized and run by a team of volunteers.
“It takes a good nine months to put it together,” said Schwartz. “Three to four people serve on sub-committees doing the program write ups, ad sales and logistics like registration and signage.”
Volunteers also work on inviting homeowners to participate and organizing participation gifts for them, she said.
“We had excellent attendance,” said April Thanos, the other co-chair. “Most of all I heard is that people were really happy with it. They liked the variety in the different sizes and styles” of tour locations.
Two Tour Homes
One of the ways that Betsy Pheil has made her Gulfport home, built in 1919, her own is by adding period memorabilia from her family who has deep historical roots in St. Petersburg.
In her kitchen, a Christmas angel from the Pheil Hotel in St. Petersburg, which was located at 4th Street and Central Avenue, greets visitors. Her family’s hotel opened in 1924 and was recently torn down.
In Pheil’s computer room, 100-year anniversary commemorative wall posters showcase the first scheduled commercial flight in the world that took place from St. Petersburg to Tampa on January 1, 1914. Her grandfather, St. Petersburg Mayor Abe C. Pheil, was the first passenger for Tony Jannus.
“The Benoist air boat flew 18 miles and never went above 25 feet,” she said. “But, the chain fell off the propeller so they had to land in the middle of Tampa Bay! By the time my grandfather got to Tampa, his hands were already greasy” because he helped Jannus make the repair.
Pheil’s home is located at 2713 Beach Boulevard.
At a 1960s vintage home located at 2221 59th Street S., owners Jon Arterton and James Mack opted for a bit of wall accent paint and landscaping to put their mark on a home they recently purchased.
“All the walls were a beige color,” said Arterton. “We thought that it needed a little bit of a kick so we painted two walls in the kitchen.”
In the front and back yards, Mack has been focused on choosing plants that “grow well and quickly.” His goal in the back yard has been to hide the fence but with landscaping doesn’t look “too planned and is more natural” in appearance.
From a Visitor’s Perspective
Joanne Windrem from Ontario, Canada was one of the locals enjoying her fourth year taking tour.
Halfway through the 12-stop map, Windrem said, “My favorite is Karen Love’s who has the funky cottage” located at 5848 23rd Ave. S. “It’s beautiful and she’s done most of the work herself. It’s absolutely stunning and so cute.”
She described the 2019 tour as being great and very organized.
“It’s a wonderful time,” she said. “Very enjoyable.”
For 2020, the tour will showcase homes located east of Beach Boulevard up to but not including the Marina district, said Schwartz.