St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Tampa and Hillsborough
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
tampabay.com

printer version

For many, this fire hits home

Tampa grew up around this "special old house,'' built in 1850, that in recent decades has sheltered dozens of people in need.

By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002


TAMPA -- Susan Taylor has lived in the four-bedroom bungalow on Burger Street for more than 30 years. She raised five boys there, sheltered the homeless, fed the needy and stored blankets and other supplies for the indigent.

The home, rich with history dating back to 1850, was heavily damaged in an electrical fire Thursday morning.

"This was my special old house," Taylor said, near tears. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

Taylor, a hospice nurse, came home from an overnight shift caring for a heart patient to find firefighters battling the blaze shortly after 8:30 a.m.

Her thoughts quickly turned to the house's past, documented in a 2-inch-thick folder that firefighters were able to salvage.

Although singed around the edges, a land grant shows the home was built by Thomas Fisher in 1850. He died in 1896 and bequeathed to his family all of his possessions, which included the house, one horse, one wagon, one buggy and cattle.

Over the next 100 years, extra rooms were added to the structure, which started out as a one-room cabin made of virgin pine, Taylor said. Its original walls, now enclosing the living room, were covered by wallboard and paneling long ago.

Taylor, 58, said the documents came with the house, which she bought for $12,000.

The fire started in a back room and was caused by an overloaded electrical outlet, Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Wade said. Neither Taylor nor her friend, who rents the back room, were home.

Most of the damage, estimated at $41,000, was in the back room. Taylor said she has insurance and hopes to restore the home.

Annie Hart, the Historic Preservation Commission administrator for the city, said she had no idea a home of such significance sat on Burger Street, just north of Waters Avenue. That neighborhood consists mainly of homes built in the 1950s.

"What an unusual location," she said. "But it's possible."

Hart said that homesteads were scattered, but rarely that far north. The homesteads were absorbed into neighborhood developments in the early 1900s.

Hart said the Historic Preservation Commission would be interested in inspecting the house to find out how much of the original cabin is intact, and what condition it is in.

"That's incredibly interesting," she said.

For Taylor, the house provided her with wonderful memories.

Aside from raising five sons, she also unofficially raised 32 foster sons and sheltered several families. Once, one of her sons found a couple and two young children living in a tent in the woods. He invited them home and they stayed for three years, Taylor said.

She most likely will move now into her camper, which she uses to travel on medical missions. She provides care on the Seminole Indian Reservation, as well as to the ill around Tampa.

"I'm terribly upset about the house," she said. "And I worry about all of the people who need help. I supposed I can still cook and care for them. But all of the things I collected for them are gone. Just like that."

-- Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Back to Tampa area news
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
 
Special Links
Mary Jo Melone
Howard Troxler


From the Times
Tampa bureaus

CityTimes - South Tampa

  • Grand Central: Hit men vs. the gas guy
  • Howard Avenue institution to get a make over
  • Who we are
  • City Times
  • Datebook
  • A royal flush of parties
  • A new design on life
  • Everybody's business: Get ready for bargain safaris
  • Residents ready to plant trees, paint
  • A life anchored firmly in the water
  • Testosterone will flow
  • Their dream house
  • Port tour flaunts what floats
  • What's in a name?: Busy road, daring hero
  • Showing off their school's heritage
  • The new Plant High takes a bit longer
  • Middle ground is goal in zoning arbitration
  • We're in / We're Out

  • Hillsborough
  • For many, this fire hits home
  • Father helps link son to knife attack
  • Indictment accuses eight of defrauding government
  • Sitcom writer brings funny business to USF

  • North of Tampa
  • Hidden corners show Town 'N Country's diversity
  • Leaders chosen for 3 new schools
  • Serene warriors
  • Anniversary
  • Out and About
  • Homeowners group promotes vinyl mailboxes
  • For hockey fan, paycheck is just icing
  • Road to traffic relief is maddeningly long
  • Golf outing will benefit disabled
  • Landscaping job will get day in court
  • Of India, in print
  • Competition draws in ideas for art center
  • Quick on the takedown
  • Gryphons hold their own in wrestling tournament
  • Looks can be deceiving
  • With teamwork, they enjoy success
  • Distractions cause stumbles
  • Gryphons' game is two of a kind
  • Remember, houseplants need wintertime boost

  •