Chris Wescott boldly undertook the restoration of the Cade Allen Mansion without knowing about the bees.
Neglected for decades, this 5,000-square-foot stone-clad residence stood at the entry of the Allendale neighborhood in St. Petersburg. Although Wescott had remodeled several other residential properties, including some in Old Northeast, he’d never taken on an historic project of this scale and complexity.
When he purchased the property in November 2013, Wescott noticed a few bees buzzing around the front door. What a shock when the bee-removal expert found a honeycomb dating back 50 years.
The bee remover discovered 400 to 500 pounds of honeycomb hidden inside the front entryway, which required the sudden, dramatic demolition of part of the stone parapet above the front door.
“He’d never seen such a massive honeycomb in his entire professional life,” muses Wescott.
Fortunately, the bees turned out to be the only surprise during the reconstruction process, which has been very extensive.
In order to qualify for tax credits, Wescott had to satisfy the preservation staff’s requirements for historical accuracy. He replaced over 70 windows with architecturally appropriate frames and more than a dozen exterior doors.
Spending over $400,000 in renovation costs, Wescott replaced the roof, doors, windows, bathrooms, plumbing and electric systems, upstairs flooring, pool, patio and garage. Landscaping will come last.
Cade B. Allen developed Allendale (which he called Allendale Terrace) from 160 acres of farmland in 1925. He had worked as a mason and finish carpenter as a young man, and he maintained his passion for these materials. He imported stone from all over the country to use for his Allendale homes.
Allen created well-detailed wood floors, stone fireplaces, decorative tile and lively brick or stone facades for his residences. The grand home he built for himself sported five fireplaces and imaginative balconies and terraces. He had eight children, one of whom, Burton Allen, still lives nearby.
Allen’s grandest homes were built prior to the Crash of 1929, with the red brick streets, grand oaks and high ground attracting home-buyers to the non-waterfront area. The neighborhood’s generous gardens and curving lanes continued to inspire investment into the 1960s. The fortunes of the area have ebbed and flowed, but by 2000 the Cade Allen Mansion badly needed maintenance. Wescott is proving to be the home’s salvation.
He notes that since he undertook this restoration, three other adjacent homes have begun improvements. This strategic investment could well be the tipping point signaling a return to health of not only this landmark structure, but other less notable homes in need of TLC in the area.
Historic preservation is being recognized throughout Pinellas, given special attention by Commissioner Charlie Justice as a key to economic development. The link between reinvestment in neighborhoods and increased pride in the community is palpable. Hopefully, tools like tax credits will continue to provide incentives to inspire brave souls like Chris Wescott to take the step to reinvest in historic properties — bees be damned!