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St. Pete’s Acheson-Mackey Home gets local historic designation

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved an ordinance providing local historic designation of a home located at 3900 9th Street North known as the Acheson-Mackey Home.

Allendale Terrace creator Cade B. Allen built the stone residence in 1931. The home stands today as Allen’s most defining work.

Real estate developer Nick Ekonomou now owns the home. He had initially been opposed to local historic designation. Instead the Allendale Crime Watch Association filed a third party application to designate the home and the property. After negotiations with Ekonomou, the association was able to come to an agreement both parties were satisfied with to present to Council for approval.

The agreement includes three lots instead of the six proposed in the original application. That limits the designated property to just the southern lots. The change also now includes the home’s garage that was also built in 1931 and gives the owner rights to relocate the garage to be on the same lot as the home.

The ordinance approved by Council also changes the name of the applicant from the Allendale Crime Watch Association to Ekonomou.

“The only reason I purchased this was that I loved the home,” Ekonomou said. “I never intended to do anything but bring this home back to its previous glory.”

There was overwhelming support for the home’s historic designation. Because City Council didn’t get to the item until about 9 p.m. many speakers had left, but most turned in cards voicing support. Only a couple of people voiced any objection.

One critic, neurosurgeon David McKalip, voiced his concerns over the process, but not necessarily the Acheson-Mackey Home in particular.

“The process has been flawed and political and very concerning,” McKalip said. “I am concerned that there was a bit of strong-arm tactics used to create this designation.”

But even McKalip didn’t specifically say the home should not be designated a local historic landmark. And if he had, it would have been difficult to compete with at least one resident showing up to offer support – Burton Allen, Cade Allen’s son.

“I remember when it was being built. Dad had all of us boys working,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of fond memories growing up there.”

The Allen family never actually got to live in the home. Cade Allen originally intended for it to be the family home, but as economic conditions continued to worsen in the wake of the Great Depression, he was forced to sell it instead.

Allen learned of Edward Acheson, a famous inventor who spent winters in St. Petersburg. Acheson had worked with Thomas Edison experimenting with a conducting carbon that could be used in Edison’s light bulbs.

Allen traveled to New York to meet with Acheson and, as his son described it to council, came back with a contract.

The home’s stone façade is indicative of Allen’s work. He often shipped in various types of stone from other parts of the country for the exterior of homes he built.

According to the city, Allen’s development was a significant driver in St. Pete for future development. The Acheson-Mackey home shaped design in the area from the 20s all the way through to the 50s. The home was intended to stand as a showcase of Allen’s talent and skills.

Under the local historic designation, Ekonomou may still make changes to the home and even demolish it, but he would have to obtain the appropriate permits to do so.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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