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Their dream house

After 17 months of investing in it, a family prepares to move into their renovated 1924 house.

By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002

Facelift isn't a strong enough word for the ongoing transformation of the old Farrior house on Sunset Avenue.

Grab a punch list.

New roof. New electrical and plumbing systems. New siding and vapor barriers. Breakfast room. Family room. Master bath. Master closets. Laundry room. Front porch. Back porch. A builtout attic. A detached two-story garage with a home office, upstairs bath and pool bath. A covered outdoor porch for a summer kitchen. All new.

Still to come? The final paint job, a white picket fence and a family that has waited 17 months to live in their dream home.

Renovation specialist John Anderson figures it might have been cheaper to start from scratch, but his clients, Karen and Jae Heinberg, wanted to preserve a piece of Tampa's past.

They bought the 1924 Colonial-style house in June 2000 from J. Rex Farrior III, whose grandfather lived in it. J. Rex Sr. had been a tall figure in Tampa's legal community since the early 1920s. J. Rex Jr., who publicly battled his former wife for $38-million in Coca-Cola Co. stock, had helped Tampa Bay to land the Devil Rays.

"I don't think tearing it down ever crossed our minds," said Karen Heinberg. "There's a lot of history in that place."

The Heinbergs paid $426,000. Their total investment, including the purchase price, now tops $1-million. They have added more than 1,000 square feet of living space.

"Structurally, it was in very good shape," Heinberg said. "It had some beautiful features that we didn't want to do away with."

The Heinbergs loved the tall ceilings, casement windows and heart pine floors, but they wanted more space, better flow and a less choppy floor plan.

They added a few beautiful features of their own, including three dormer windows and a galvanized aluminum roof.

"I love the sound of the rain on a metal roof," Heinberg said.

The refashioned house would now look at home in coastal Carolina or Key West.

Tropical landscaping is in the works. Down the road, a pool.

The Heinbergs worked with architect Stephen Smith of Cooper Johnson Smith Architects Inc. and with Anderson, a familiar face at old home sites in South Tampa.

"It's very detailed and handcrafted," Anderson said of the home. "There were a lot of things that had to be custom-made, and that was very difficult."

Heinberg said Anderson was the right man for the job.

"He's meticulous, and his lead foreman is just the same," she said.

Florida natives, the Heinbergs first met on Clearwater Beach. Jae Heinberg is a real estate developer. Karen, a former Mitchell Elementary guidance counselor, now cares for twin sons, Ethan and Tanner, 3.

The family expects to be unpacking in March. They now live in Virginia Terrace, a neighborhood south of Bay to Bay and west of Dale Mabry, but they already have joined the New Suburb Beautiful Civic Association. Karen Heinberg organized New Suburb Beautiful's July 4th party last summer from afar.

"We've had our eye on this neighborhood for years," she said. "We love the tree-lined streets and the sidewalks and the fact that there are many, many young families with young children.

"It's got the true neighborhood feel. There's a cohesiveness there and a strong sense of neighborliness and friendliness we've admired."

- Patty Ryan can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or

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