Old Seminole Heights Home Tour

Old Seminole Heights Home Tour

Each year, our locale opens some of its distinguished homes to the public, typically attracting over 1,500 visitors.  The Old Seminole Heights Home Tour is deservedly popular and well attended.  Because our residential district was designated a Local Historic District, it’s a rare opportunity to visit some of the loveliest local houses.

What makes Old Seminole Heights special?

There are so many reasons to enjoy our district. Just one example, in 2003, Southeast Seminole Heights was named Best Neighborhood in America by Neighborhoods, USA. Similarly, in 2009, This Old House magazine considered Seminole Heights one of the best places to buy and renovate. Erehwon Retreat itself is a perfect example of 1920s architecture, lovingly restored to its original condition but full of modern conveniences and charms.

Old Seminole Heights Home Tour Erehwon Retreat

The Garden Center epitomises the elegant design and tasteful renovations common around Erehwon Retreat. With mellow brick and mature planting, it naturally makes a great centrepiece to our local gardens.

But we have plenty of quirky and modern elements too – so look out for the mosaic two-headed crocodile statue. Based on a Tampa folktale recorded in the 1930s by Perez and Lopez it commemorates a local fable. One day a rabbit taunts a crocodile by dropping a rock on the croc’s head, believing it is fast enough to escape. It doesn’t end well for Rabbit, because this crocodile turns out to have a second head. Our handsome statue might have recently enjoyed a rabbit dinner.

Out of the blue, in 2014, a local naturalist sends a picture of a two-headed croc to the local papers, so maybe the story isn’t a fable after all?


Neighborhood Documentary

Seminole Heights Neighborhood Documentary

Very early after completing the first of two restorations of the cottage and bungalow, I was approached by Suzanne Prieur of Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association regarding the development of a historical film on Old Seminole Heights. I was instantly engaged and helped support the project.  Seminole Heights An Intimate Look at the Early Years was written and directed by Gene Howes of Cigar City Pictures.

It’s a good documentary (and I’m not saying that just because I financially supported it). Suzanne and Gene did an excellent job with balance, places, and stories.

A year later, Suzanne and I met to discuss where to screen the film.  My initial reaction was to modest but Suzanne, insisted, “Henry given you produced Ballet and Theater professionally, you must have a view of how we go about selling out a night at the Tampa Theatre (1950-seats).”  There’s only one way Suzanne, you need to connect to Hillsborough High School Alums, those citizens who own or rent in Seminole Heights, and those who want to own or rent in Seminole Heights.”  Well, months later, it was SRO (Standing Room Only).  The various Seminole Heights Neighborhood Associations are a very involved group. Pride was worn on every face for the 50 minutes screening April 17, 2008.  Those who lived in the neighborhood prior to 1945 were admitted at no charge. Wonderful touch. It was with quiet pride when I saw Suzanne coming out to the Street Ticket booth to greet the hundreds still trying to purchase tickets.

Among Seminole Heights notables seen:

Former Mayor Dick Greco (elected 4 times 1967 to 1974 and 1995 to 2003) and a graduate of historic Hillsborough High School. He grew up on Shadowlawn.

Former City Council Member and Former County Commissioner Jan Platt who served a total of 24 years on the County Commission. Who grew up on Giddens

Here’s a teaser from the film’s introduction:


We’re a Best Old House Neighborhood

We’re a Best Old House Neighborhood

And not just because we think so! Seminole Heights was selected by the editors of This Old House Magazine as one of the eight best communities in the country in which to buy and enjoy an old house. I am often asked “where should I stay in Tampa?” In a state known for blinding sunlight and shoddy high-rise condo construction, Seminole Heights offers shady streets, with solid homes fronted by gardens both wild and manicured. The neighborhood’s many parks offer ample opportunity to commune with nature, and families looking for strong public schools will be thrilled by Hillsborough High, recently named one of the best schools in the country by Newsweek magazine. One thing’s for sure: The community fabric here is strong. “We’re all about porch parties and potlucks,” says resident Suzanne Prieur. “We want to make sure our old-fashioned way of life here is preserved.”

The Houses:
This is Florida, so you’ll find plenty of Spanish Mission and Art Moderne–style homes here. But Seminole Heights is best known for its single-story Craftsman-style bungalows, built in the 1920s to accommodate the thousands of families who relocated to Tampa after railroad lines were established. These houses feature full-length porches with stone or brick supports, and plenty of built-ins The article emphasized the beautiful neighborhood landscaping, the local parks, our Craftsman bungalows, and Newsweek magazine’s choice of Hillsborough High as one of the best schools in the country.

Pick up the July/August 2009 issue to see the full list of 51 neighborhoods or view the Editor’s Picks (including the Seminole Heights entry) online.

You can also read more about this great neighborhood in the November 2008 issue of American Bungalow magazine.