Old Seminole Heights is a tree-shaded gem nestled in the heart of Tampa, providing tranquil relief from the heavily-trafficked thoroughfares that border it. This neighborhood is filled with stately old bungalows dating back to the early 1900s. Some of these homes are included in the United States National Register and the local Tampa Historic District ensuring their preservation for generations to come.
A guest recently said, ” the Bungalow’s front porch is the perfect cure all to all the digital screens we look at daily. How we’ve become used to the increasing hum and fans of electronics in our lives. We so enjoyed the renewal that came with this holiday home’s Front Porch along with the ease of a chat face to face with passing neighbors. Oh that Southern Hospitality! ” The image of the front porch remains “as one of the few semi-public outdoor spaces associated with community and neighborliness,” says Victor Deupi of the Institute of Classical Architecture. Porches link us to an idealized past—one before e-mail (or even the telephone), when face-to-face interaction formed the core of communities. Then there are the practical considerations that have long kept the porch in favor: “Porches add beauty to a streetscape,” Depui says, “and they also offer environmental advantages by providing shade and breeze in the summer, and, if oriented south, allowing low winter light to enter the house.”
In contrast to many other American architectural traditions, however, the roots of our porches don’t appear to be found in Europe, but rather in the architectural heritage of colonial trading partners. Traders en route from the Caribbean to the British, French and Spanish colonies were influenced by island architecture, rich with large open porches to accommodate the humid climate.
Bungalows, were th last major historic architectural style in the United States to incorporate the porch. Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes made great use of porches, which reach out from under his signature cantilevered roofs. Wright, however, had a tendency to reorient the porch from the front of the house to the side or back, wishing to maintain the privacy desired by the modern family while also preserving his belief in the importance of a connection to the outdoors.
This Old House writes, “Soon, streets filled with Model T’s and the twin indoor delights of television and air-conditioning, and a middle class focused more on work than leisure conspired to dethrone the porch from its prominent place in American culture. But the underlying love for porches and their associations with the American identity never waned, and recent decades have seen a revival of porch-building. The classic image of a front porch filled with family and friends on a hot summer evening has long been a symbol of traditional American values, and it’s one that still holds true today.”
Sophie Tucker’s record ‘Fifty-million Frenchmen can’t be wrong’ alluded to the comparatively free and easy attitude to drinking in France seven years into Prohibition in the U.S. which began 100 years ago yesterday. I was reminded by a guest historian of her Tucker’s hit, after mentioning a number of weeks ago our 1000th guest vacation checked out. 2020 marks our tenth season … a decade of welcoming vacationers, practicing the skills of hospitality and offering a relaxing, inspirational home base from which to explore Tampa and the wider central Florida region.
A thousand vacations … what makes Erehwon Retreat so special?
I’ve worked hard over the past decade to make Erehwon Retreat something quite unique. Florida is full of places to vacation, it’s been my mission to combine the traditional charm of a vacation home rental with the best features of more space, safety and security and white glove cleaning and disinfection with personal welcome and on site concierge. When Wilcox Nursery and I started to plan to convert all turf to a Florida native plant garden, it was with the desire to show my visitors a range of native plants and wildlife that they would then be able to recognize in local hikes. And for those in Executive Transfer who would stay for a month while looking for a Florida home how to avoid landscaping that damages the environment and fails to support bird life and pollinators. My dream became a reality, delivering dozens of different varieties of native bird and butterfly life to Erehwon Retreat’s doorstep, and this year the garden was designated as a Wildlife Habitat by no less than the National and Florida Wild-life Federation. It’s a huge honor, but more importantly, it means that the vacationers who stay with us get to experience the very best of Florida, right on their doorstep. My Grandmother used to say planting a garden is to believe in tomorrows.
The universal language of hospitality
My life was spent working in the performing arts – so I have always known that music and dance were international languages, a way to communicate across boundaries. Since developing Erehwon Retreat, I’ve come to truly appreciate that hospitality is also a universal language. When Erehwon opened it was mainly aimed at American, but today 12% of our guests are from overseas. Their expectations are different. Whether they come from America or Asia, it’s important to know what their particular likes and dislikes are – that makes for so many fascinating new discoveries. Offering a shared experience of the 1920’s to people from all around the world has been a real joy to me. As part of our 10th Anniversary, I decided to develop a stronger guest experience, which is why, since December 8, www.erehwonretreat.com has been available in 25 languages in addition of English. I chose the languages based on having hosted at least one guest from each language represented. As an example, Erehwon Retreat has hosted two guests from Argentina, and one each from Spain, Paraguay, Mexico and the Dominican Republic – hence our Spanish language site is likely to be very popular! When one looks back its hard to believe we’ve hosted guests from so many countries.
The Erehwon Retreat perspective
From period decorative details to wildlife-watching opportunities over breakfast on the deck, I’ve tried to design my holday house to be something truly special and utterly unique. Luxury used to be associated with three-piece-suits and starched shirts, that was really the reputation of a five-star hotel, but that is changing and we see that our guests want that genuine approach to service rather than formalities. It seems that many people agree that I’ve achieved my aim. This year, Erehwon Retreat was selected winner of the Tampa Award for Vacation Rental Agency. What makes my vacation home unique is my commitment to service, and just as AirBnB is moving to AirBnB Plus to offer guests a more valuable, unique rental experience, I know that when you visit you’ll discover just what makes 1000 Guests right. Erehwon Retreat is special, and whatever language you speak, I’m certain that we’ll share the language of hospitality.
I look forward to welcoming you to Erehwon Retreat!
Rebuilding a 1920’s treasure led to restoring vacation rentals in Tampa, Florida
Many boats meet undignified ends, scuttled, wrecked or just abandoned. Some though, are restored to life. In the summer of 1979 I was wandering through the storage field of Essex Isle Marina in Connecticut when I came across a long-abandoned gaff rigged Wianno Senior Knockabout Sloop named Simba. Built in 1923, at some point she’d been left to rot in storage, but immediately her lines appealed to me. It was the beginning of a long relationship, and the foretaste of how much her launch year of 1923 would influence my life and restoration of my vacation rentals in Tampa, Florida Erehwon Retreat.
Wianno Seniors – a brief pedigree
Since 1914, Wianno’s have had a reputation for rounding the mark and slicing past in a flash of brightwork, canvas and speed. Their ease of handling and seaworthiness made them popular both as racers and coastal voyagers. Fantasy #11 can be seen at Mystic Seaport Museum and Victura #94 – the boat purchased by Joseph P. Kennedy and sailed by his children and grandchildren – is on show at the John F Kennedy Memorial Library.
I found Simba to be able, safe and challenging – as did the many friends who sailed her – and for me, learning to get about without the fallback of auxiliary power allowed me to develop patience and a sensitivity to wind and tide that served me superbly when I moved, a decade later, to a Rhodes Offshore 40.
By 1986, the Wianno Association members were considering a fiberglass version. A few years earlier, Sparkman Stevens had hauled in five wooden Seniors at mid-season, weighing and electronically measuring each one. Using that study to determine the ideal characteristics of a Senior, the vessel was re-created as a three-piece fiberglass hull, deck and interior. The fiberglass Seniors look great and sail well, but as a veteran of the wooden sloop, I notice that the sound of the boat has changed.
Wooden sailboat restoration – love affair and learning curve
Simba, originally Hull 51*, was a leaking bucket when I bought her; years of hard racing on Nantucket Sound had put enough leaks in the bottom that just keeping her bailed would have exhausted a strong man and the cabin seemed only to filter out leaves. She was valued at no more than her unpaid yard bills – $500, so when I’d paid off her dues, I had her carefully loaded onto an overland boat carrier and moved from Essex to East Haddam, CT.
Her new home was the back yard of the wood boat repair shop run by Robert K. Wilmes whom I hired to serve as consultant for her restoration. Included in his consulting fee were storage rights on his property and the use of his tools, so, in season, we would meet every Friday evening for dinner before, on Saturday morning, list in hand, he would indicate exactly what I would need to accomplish in the next two day’s labor. I would leave NY City center with sufficient time to make the 15:30 Amtrak Boston train arriving at Old Saybrook station at 18:04 and then would come 48 hours of patience, practice and learning because, at least for the first few months, it was less accomplish than re-do. Getting the cut right was a literally painstaking process – winching in the curve to the right fit caused a beam to break and the wood flew back to within three inches of my head – a fraction further and I’d have been dead.
Wianno Seniors were constructed from native white oak which was used for framing the stem, keel, deadwood, sternpost, knee and horn. Simba, whom I renamed Corsair, was carvel planked using 13/16-inch cypress. This was standard until 1932, but Wiannos from that date onward had planks of Honduras mahogany. They all had 600 lbs. iron on the keel as external ballast.
Bob Wilmes directed me to start with the deck, deck beams, demo the cockpit, cockpit staving, so that I could inspect, repair or sister her frames, which were 1 1/2 inches square, spaced 9 inches on centers. The original frames were dovetailed and wedged in the keel.
Then, under his tutelage, I moved onto deck beams – oak spaced 10 inches on centers – and added a watertight cockpit floor made of fir plywood 5/8-inch-thick, before fiberglassing the surface. The cabin trunk was the steam bent white oak that had nearly cost me my life.
The new cabin deck was 3/8-inch marine plywood, canvas covered, glued and ironed, the same for the process of fixing the deck canvas, covered with white oak rub rails I had fashioned. The hull itself was wooded – removing all paint and exposing the bungs. Following their removal, I drew out as many of the galvanized fasteners as I could, replacing each with a new stainless steel one.
The hull above the waterline received a coat of Penetrol followed by a primer and then Interlux French Gray with white intrusion line. The decks, received three coats of buff. The outside bright work was given two sealers and eight coats of spar varnish. Below the waterline, after the garboard and shudder planks had been replaced by Bob himself, she received one prime coat followed by two coats of antifouling green.
By the time she was ready to launch in June 1982, I was ready to move from the NY City Centre Joffrey Ballet and accepted a position at the Guthrie Theater. It was, as people say today, a no-brainer; a new wood Wianno Senior would cost me $40,000 and anyway, I had thousands of hours literally grained into the wood of the boat, so I negotiated her transport to Minnesota as part of my relocation costs.
In Minnesota, I changed Corsair to Kirby paint, after consulting with the restoration team at Mystic Seaport. They advised me to move away from paints that contained modern acrylics as these would harden the wood. Acrylic-free surfaces definitely made prepping the topsides much easier each spring. Another advantage of moving to Minnesota was that some of the many talented craftsmen in the Guthrie scene shop were available to hire for boat work on the side. The Wianno’s new tiller, fashioned as a copy of the original, was the result of one such collaboration.
Boat restoration – a bug you can catch
There was another unexpected outcome to the Minnesota move. Boats are one of those places that great friendships spontaneously and naturally develop, and it gives me great pleasure to recall teaching my boss, Ed Martenson, to sail. He caught the bug, has restored two boats of his own, and we’ve crewed on each other’s boats for over a quarter of a century.
The history of Hull 51
I sold Corsair following the 75th Anniversary of the Fleet at Osterville in 1989, where she won Best Prize for Restoration. But she wasn’t done with me. One evening I found myself wondering how many fiberglass Seniors had actually been built? Going through the Wianno Senior Class Association‘s members list by hull number and comparing that information with a page from the 75th Anniversary book revealed who had owned a Senior in 1935. I discovered that, at that time, Hull 51 was named King Tut and owned by Lawarson Riggs Jr of Woods Hole. A Google search later I had turned up a letter from his law office written, as Treasurer of the Woods Hole Institute, to the Rockefeller Foundation. Riggs was born in St. Louis, where I went to college at Washington University. He attended Columbia Law School and lived at 70 W 11th. When I was a similar age, I lived at 20 E 8th. His law focus was Estate and Tax, an area I follow intently as a career fund raiser. The parallels intrigued me.
In 1989, Victor M Tyler purchased Corsair through my boat broker and renamed her Hilda. Several months later I received a registered package containing her name board and brass letters along with a note asking if Corsair had ever been moored off of Bracketts Point? I called him to confirm – George and Sally Pillsbury had indeed been gracious enough to invite me to place a mushroom anchor off their property. His response was a deep sigh; he had visited his cousin Ella Pillsbury who lived right next door and Corsair was part of a boat class he had long known.
1923 – a year that has come to dominate my life
With Corsair gone, my awareness of 1923 slipped from sight, but it was simply waiting under the surface. When I retired to Tampa, Florida, I purchased a bungalow and cottage built in … 1923. It took me a year of restoration to achieve the 1920s ambience I wanted for the properties and when I’d finished, I named them Erehwon Retreat – vacation rental properties in Tampa that are lovingly crafted reminders of the glories of the Roaring Twenties.
* For those who love the genealogy of boats as well as people, Hull #51’s name history is: 1. King Tut 2. Golden Fleece 3. Simba 4. Corsair 5. Hilda
Florida in winter is an amazing place to take a vacation – and while the weather can be variable, it’s usually warm during the day this time of year and Tampa Bay always steps it up for Christmas starting with the boat parade on the Hillsborough River in early December and taking place throughout December from Dunedin to Treasure Island, St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs.
Between December and the end of February, the whole of Florida is enjoying the time when holidaymakers from around the world come for our weather, the opportunity to bask in a little winter sun and swim in our fresh water springs with year-round temperature of 72 degrees. In fact, once Labor Day is over, savvy travelers start to book their winter breaks to get the perfect vacation rental – so this is the time to make both winter and spring bookings. For those visiting from overseas, specialist tour operators can put together tailor-made packages using scheduled air services.
Tampa – a relaxed winter destination
Tampa takes it easy over the high season period – there are wonderful events taking place but they are a little more laid back, giving vacation rental visitors a chance to relax and take Christmas at their own pace. Winter gets a Florida twist with wonderful weather, good old-fashioned Christmas cheer and as peaceful a vacation as you can possibly imagine. What to expect?
The Busch Gardens become a wonderland of wintery delights, all beautifully lit with hundreds of thousands of tiny lights – live music, holiday shopping and seasonal entertainment turn the Gardens into a true Christmas celebration.
Stroll into Christmas at the Henry B Plant Museum which hosts a Victorian Christmas stroll every year. Fourteen gloriously decorated rooms with antique holiday artefacts, games and activities, spiced cider and cookies on the veranda make this a delicious experience for all the senses. We also recommend visiting Bok Towers. Enjoy a peaceful retreat along with your favorite seasonal music at Bok Sanctuary where carillon music will be played during daily performances. All concerts are free with Sanctuary admission. We particularly enjoy the Candlelight Tour of Homes in Old Northeast, one of St. Petersburg’s historic neighborhoods.
December – February Vacation Rental in Florida
Top tips for a perfect vacation rental include:
Remember to pack a range of clothing, some warm socks and a lightweight fleece or gilet alongside your shorts and sandals will help ensure you have everything you need to enjoy every minute of your stay.
No need to pack your stockings – at Erehwon Retreat we’ll have them hung ready for your arrival. If you’re staying in the bungalow, they’ll be over the fireplace mantel and lucky guests spending Christmas in the bungalow also have an oven, so they won’t need the recipe in our fourth tip!
Many grocery stores will not open on Christmas day, so be sure you’ve either bought your groceries in advance or booked a table at one of the many hotels providing wonderful festive fare over the Christmas period. If you’re lucky enough to be spending New Year’s in Tampa, you can book a very special dinner at The Refinery, Rooster and the Till, and Ella’s American Café.
Want to cook your own turkey, but staying in the Erehwon Retreat cottage so you don’t have a stove? No worries, we have a recipe for you. Buy a turkey of less 12lb or less, and Thaw it thoroughly. Heat some vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or pot big enough to hold it. Fry some onion, carrot and celery until the onion is translucent and then put the turkey on top of the vegetables, adding around two inches of stock, white wine or water or mixture of all three. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Check every thirty minutes to ensure the liquid level doesn’t drop below an inch, if it does, top it up. After two hours, check with a meat thermometer – the thickest part of the thigh should record at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue to cook for at least another hour, basting the turkey with the liquid each time you check the temperature which you should do every 15 minutes. Remove to a carving board, and cover with tinfoil to relax for 20 minutes before carving. While you wait you can be reducing that delicious stock to make gravy!
Take time for a stroll, because there is something truly special about wandering through Florida’s lush landscapes at this time of the year. Our wonderful overhead canopy of tree growth is a century’s worth of verdant greenery. A fantastic way to start your day is to take a cup of coffee outdoors and enjoy this beautiful scenery first hand.
And with all the time you spent sea shelling, remember many Floridians make their holiday unique by showcasing shells they’ve picked up on the beach. Why not add them to a string of lights or use them as decorations on your holiday tree? You’re only limited by your imagination.
Tampa is rich in history, geography, weather and cuisine, so here are a few of our insider tips to help rental vacationers make the best of their Tampa trip.
1. Tampa’s got history
Best kept secrets in Tampa include the 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel where Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders mustered here before heading to Cuba – Remember the Maine. Tampa’s exotic history may not be obvious to a vacation rental visitor but 150 years ago it was the railhead for cattle shipments to Cuba. This influenced almost every aspect of Tampa life, and today visitors can take a trip on an electric streetcar from Tampa to Ybor City whose architecture reflects the area’s Spanish-Cuban roots, with a style reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Beautifully renovated cigar factories make clear the strong links between the two nations.
2. Sandwiches and Coffee
Ybor City was once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World” – it boasted 200 factories with 12,000 cigar-makers who rolled 700 million cigars a year, outproducing Havana. Difficult to believe? Not if you try Tampa’s strong coffee and satisfying pressed sandwiches – both part of our Cuban heritage. Where do you find the best of both? That depends on who you ask, but the family-run Aquila is a great start; fabled for their delectable roast pork. In nearby Seminole Heights Jet City Espresso (5803 N Florida), just half a mile from Erehwon Retreat, is hosted by Jessica Conlan and her cozy bungalow dispenses coffee, espresso, chai latte and her signature Cafe Borgia, a honey-and-orange-infused latte. For pure Cuban coffee, kick it old school at El Molino, a simple café attached to Ybor City’s Naviera Coffee Mills, which has been in business for nearly a century (2012 E. 7th Ave.).
3. Beer city
Recently rated one of “America’s Top Ten Emerging Beer Towns”, Tampa has a bounty of brews to tempt vacationers. Cigar City Brewing (3924 W. Spruce St. an industrial estate near the airport) salutes its hometown by brewing up some very Tampa beers: a bright, fruity Guava season (the city’s nickname is the Big Guava) and the rich Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout -it’s what makes Cigar City famous. For more of the local good stuff, head to Seminole Heights where The Independent was one of the pioneers of the craft beer movement in the Tampa Bay area and continues to offer rare and unique beers and wines from around the world. In the same neighborhood, Angry Chair has a unique tasting room with diverse offerings. Folks love C 1949, a quaint, dog-friendly little hole-in-the-wall beer garden with plenty of seating, live music and rotating food trucks outside. Finally, take in America’s oldest beer-brewer, which has a home right here in Tampa Bay. The Yuengling Brewery, complete with a “biergarten” where you can sample Yuengling’s rich heritage, offers free tours of the facility Monday-Friday.
4. Manatees, the cutest animals on the planet
So, you might not think a giant power plant is the best vacation spot, but the adorable manatees who winter in the warm waters adjacent to the gargantuan Tampa Electric facility (6990 Dickman Rd., Apollo Beach) think it’s just perfect. The utility company has constructed a popular Manatee Viewing Center, with exhibits that teach visitors more about these friendly beasts, surrounded by other delights including butterfly gardens. Winter vacation rentals are the lucky ones because the manatees tend shove off around mid-April, once the weather gets warmer and return by early December.
5. The great food offerings of Seminole Heights
Make tracks for the neighborhood’s Taco Bus, a hipster-junkyard set-up with a very good food truck and outdoor seating; it’s open weekends all year round (913 E. Hillsborough Ave.) For something more elegant dine at the James Beard nominated ‘The Refinery’ (5137 N. Florida Ave.) Finally, drop into Ichicoro, a unique fusion of Asian and Cuban ramen (5229 N. Florida Ave.) or a check out Ella’s Folk Art Cafe on Sundays (they’re known as “Soul Food Sunday”) for chicken, waffles, live music and fun cocktails like the Po-mosa, combining Narragansett beer and Tang (5119 N. Nebraska Ave.).
6. Key Lime Pie
So, it might be a staple of the whole South but it began in the Keys. The key lime tree arrived in Florida in the 1500s and recipes for the pie began appearing as early as the late 1800s, though it became really popular in the 1930s. Some restaurants make it with graham cracker crust, others with pastry. Either way, it’s a must-have several times over and in Seminole Heights we love Trips Diner for this very special confection.
7. The world’s longest continuous sidewalk
Tampa is a record breaker. Bayshore Boulevard, which runs along Tampa Bay through the city’s pleasant Hyde Park neighborhood and on to points south, isn’t just the city’s most scenic street, it’s also a four-and-a-half-mile linear bay-front park favored by local joggers and walkers. It’s a fantastic way to work up an appetite for lunch. On Sunday follow the in-the-know local foodies and make a beeline for lunch at the Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida (a.k.a. the local Thai Buddhist temple). Here, food vendors set up mid-morning every Sunday, dishing out authentic Thai eats (cash only) to a hungry audience. Stick around to enjoy the riverfront grounds (5306 Palm River Rd.)
8. The kids will totally dig it
With exhibits that combine the educational with the awesome, the Glazer Children’s Museum – a 53,000 square-foot spa which opened its doors in 2010 – has been a hit with the younger set from day one, featuring climbing structures that teach about water, a firehouse with a working pole (and a “fire truck” you can drive), plus many more items that make learning fun. The nearby Florida Aquarium offers exhibits that range to the dramatic (anyone want to swim with sharks?) to the educational. Still got energy? There’s always Busch Gardens, Tampa’s most famous family attraction.
9. Life’s a beach
It certainly is in Florida which might be the third most populated state but still has miles of beach not covered in footprints or fishing lines. One of Florida’s greatest beaches and hiking areas is at Ft. Desoto State Park, with its nearby historic beach community of Pass-A-Grille. Travelers from St. Petersburg and Tampa began visiting Pass- A-Grille as long ago as 1857 and have never stopped. Great beach-combing, quaint shops, sunset dining, it makes for a perfect day. And talking about perfect days – according to the National Weather Service, the sun shines, on average, 361 days a year in Tampa Bay.
10. Perfect vacation rentals
There are 2,000 restored Craftsman and Mediterranean bungalows in Seminole Heights where you can find well reviewed Arts and Craft vacation rentals like Erehwon Retreat (5801 N Suwanee Ave). Proprietor owned vacation rentals give their guests the lowdown on all that’s best in the local area … so your trip is unforgettable and your memories are wonderful.
We have a comprehensive listing of Area Attractions & Events where you can find details, maps, addresses, and links to the area’s entertainment.