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Terrace snuggles in charm

By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 28, 2003

You can see it from Swann Avenue but only a glimpse.

You can't drive down Bungalow Terrace.

You can't even find a place to park, really, unless you cruise around the block and ditch your car on a side street.

Then it's a journey on foot.

Who hasn't peeked at this Historic Hyde Park street and thought, "Ah, nice. I'd like to live here"?

Imagine a quaint ribbon of a road with 19 homes facing a communal walkway. Some are tucked behind vine-shrouded picket fences. Some have front porches. All are historic.

"Who can give this up?" asks Jeff McLane. His wife, Anne Timmerman, bought the one-bedroom, 1,016-square-foot house before they were married in 1989. She paid $63,500.

A short stroll from Old Hyde Park Village, where Timmerman works at Williams Sonoma, Bungalow Terrace is an exercise in communal urban living. With no yards to speak of, and cheek-to-cheek proximity with the next-door neighbors, it's definitely not for everyone.

But those who do live here say life's a peach.

"You get used to being able to walk to a meal," McLane says. "And my wife jokes that she hasn't filled the gas tank since January."

Developed by Alfred Swann and Eugene Holtzinger in 1913, the street once featured a 10-foot-high, 345-foot long wooden pergola with sitting benches and archways in front of each bungalow. The walkway was soon ravaged by tropical weather, but the houses weathered the decades well. Modeled after the low-cost California-style bungalows, known for their craftsmanship and low maintenance, the first house was built for $4,500, including the land.

Almost a century later, a 1,271 square-foot, two-story, three-bedroom house at 704 Bungalow Terrace is for sale. The asking price? Try $224,000.

"My wife bought the house for the pending character of the area," McLane says. "The street was a little run-down then. I didn't quite see the charm that I do now."

McLane jokes about the 80-year-old knob and tube wiring that he and Timmerman recently were forced to replace. Last week, he had to take the day off from work when the electrician arrived, mostly to keep their two "very inquisitive cats," Tyler and Henley, from sticking their noses in the exposed outlets.

And he's had to get used to living in tight quarters.

Permanently tight, he adds.

The neighborhood's local historic designation prevents them from adding on in such a way that would alter the character of the house. An upstairs addition can only extend five feet in any direction, he explains.

But that's a breezy trade-off. Where else, he wonders, could you have a neighborhood Thanksgiving dinner literally in the middle of the sidewalk?

Or honestly know most everyone on the entire block by name?

Almost on cue, a young couple ambles up the street.

Soon they are sitting with McLane on the front porch, declining offers of a drink and telling their own Bungalow Terrace story. Molly and John Newman, both in their 20s and both English teachers at Berkeley Preparatory School, live three doors down. Newly married, they call their cream-and-white "airplane-style" rental cottage, their "honeymoon bungalow."

For the past year, they've rented the 1,300-square-foot 1916 cottage with hardwood floors, a fireplace and sleeping loft. Built-in bookshelves hold their collection of poetry.

They stumbled upon the house after plans fell through to move into another apartment in Tampa.

"We had two weeks to find a place to live," Molly explains. "So we took a walk on Bungalow Terrace."

For one reason only: "To lift our spirits," says John.

That same day a "For Rent" sign sprouted in front of one of the bungalows. They signed the $1,250-a-month lease almost immediately.

Now, McLane jokes, like everyone else, their biggest problem is probably explaining to the pizza deliveryman how to get to Bungalow Terrace.

Since you can't drive a car on the street, he explains, the conversation usually goes something like this:

"They say, what's out front? And I tell them: "Oh, probably a Big Wheel."

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