12401 Calusa Ln, Thonotosassa, FL
For sale: $950,000
This historic lakefront Florida home might have been lost in the 1970s if the son of the estate's cook had not stayed in the home to care for it after the owners abandoned it.
Many of the homes around Lake Thonotosassa, near Tampa, were lost during those years when they burned down in accidental fires apparently built by squatters, said the home's current owners, Bonnie and Harry Dunn.
This home was built in 1872 by a Singer sewing machine executive when Florida was a vast frontier. The builder, George Adams, set up a homestead on 300 acres of lakefront property. He planted citrus groves and built a four-room home, which he later expanded into a 17-room house with a cellar and separate kitchen and staff quarters. After 10 years, he bought the 300-acre property for $4.
When Adams died in 1921, a Canadian family bought the property. The Dunns, who bought the home 15 years ago, are the fifth owners. It now sits on five acres.
During their meticulous restoration, they came across moments of like-mindedness with former owners. For example, Bonnie Dunn said she removed a HVAC system from a small closet to make it into a butler's pantry and discovered, as she worked, that the space was originally a butler's pantry.
In another instance, she chose wallpaper for an upstairs hallway, then found under layers of old paper that the original wallpaper was almost identical to her choice. As the couple worked, they tried to balance modernization with the home's history. Homes of this era are rare in Florida.
"I didn't want it to be a museum," she said, "because we have grandchildren and every room in this house is lived in. But I wanted to maintain the integrity of the house."
Photos courtesy of Tony Baroni Team.