Once it was home; now, only rubble

The condemned home of a musician and his girlfriend is demolished, but the community helps them out.

By EILEEN SCHULTE, Times staff writer
Published August 9, 2007

SAFETY HARBOR - Not much was left of the sagging 100-year-old duplex on Wednesday.

Just a pile of debris from a previous life.

Phillip Terry watched it being chopped up and hauled away on 18-wheelers with sad eyes. The demolition took just over half an hour.

"Somebody asked me if I was going to build a new one," he said. "I said I wasn't done with the old one yet."

Terry, known by the stage name Vgo in Florida's folk music community, and his girlfriend, Terri Musgrove, both Civil War buffs, had lived in the home like pioneers, getting heat in the winter from a wood-burning stove.

But last winter, when local officials saw that the house at 323 Third Ave. N was falling apart, they condemned it. There were holes in the ceiling and floor, broken windows, a bathtub that drained onto the dirt outside and a gap in a door large enough for rodents to crawl through.

The couple, known for their duets on the folk festival circuit with their group Banjos Unlimited, said the house fell into disrepair after Musgrove suffered a serious illness. Terry quit work to care for her and medical bills piled up.

As the city prepared to tear down the ramshackle house, City Manager Billy Beckett asked the community to pitch in and help the couple.

It did.

Members of First Presbyterian Church of Safety Harbor have been paying their rent at an apartment a few doors down from where the duplex once stood among grapefruit trees. The church's pastor, the Rev. Joan Hill, has helped guide them through the process of finding new housing and giving them odd jobs around the sanctuary.

The church also is helping Terry, who owns the lot where the house stood with his estranged wife, Janette Terry, with legal issues affecting the property.

Friends from the folk music community threw a fundraiser at the Whistle Stop restaurant.

Money raised at such fundraisers and through the community paid for the cost of the demolition.

And the city forgave hundreds of dollars in unpaid water and sewer bills.

By the weekend, all that was left to do was clear away the couple's books, tapes and albums. They brought 10 cats who lived at the house to the SPCA.

Terry thought he had gotten them all. But while he was cleaning up, he discovered two tiny kittens, their eyes just open, under the house.

They were the last to go.

But where the human couple who loved and lived in the home goes next, Terry said he doesn't know.

Times photographer Jim Damaske contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at 727 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com.