Some Buyers Discover Satisfaction in Restoration of Historic Homes

By Naples Daily News on February 27, 2005

The scarcity of building lots in Olde Naples has prompted many buyers to purchase older homes and tear them down in an effort to build new residences designed to meet today’s standards of style and convenience. There are, however, some buyers discovering that restoration of these “older” homes offer a different level of advantages.

According to Bob Devlin, FEMA coordinator for Naples, historic homes are not necessarily subject to certain newer code restrictions, such as a lot elevation.

“Someone interested in purchasing an historic home for restoration and renovation would first need to present their concept to the Naples building officials for review and permitting.” Devlin said. “The exterior of the property must maintain much of the original look. Internally, however, the home must be modified to be code-compliant.”

Stephen Fleischer was looking for a property that offered such an opportunity – a prime Old naples location with a solid structure that would support renovation and restoration. He found and purchased 132 10th Avenue South, a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Interior View of 10th Avenue South

According to Fleischer, this house has “great bones.”

“It’s only one block to the gulf beaches and just a few blocks to Third Street South and Fifth Avenue. It’s a great setting and the neighborhood homes have all been well-maintained.”

Built in 1927, the two-story property at 10th Avenue has a list of notable owners. E.W. “Ed” Crayton, hailed for his watchful growth and development of early Naples, was the original owner. Crayton and a group of fellow businessmen from Ohio purchased the Naples Co. from pioneer Walter Haldeman, who built the Naples Hotel in 1890.

In 1928, Leila Bryant moved to Naples as one of a handfull of schoolteachers who relocated to Naples in its early years. She later met and married A.E. Canant, then manager with Florida Light and Power. In a recent interview with the Naples Historical Society, Mrs. Canant said that after they rented the home from Crayton, who was nicknamed “the boss,” Crayton came to her husband and told him, “Canant, you should buy this house.”

“My husband made very little money, like us school teachers back then,” said Mrs. Canant. “We couldn’t afford to purchase the home, but ‘the boss’ told my husband that he would apply the rental payments as our downpayment so we could buy the home – so we did.”

Fleischer is the managing director for SRF Realty Associates Inc., builders in New York, Massachusetts and Naples. His most recent development in Old Naples is Parkside Off Fifth.

“I fell in love with the charm of Old Naples and have lived here for many years,” said Fleischer. “Having restored a home built in 1710, in Stockbridge, Mass., I’ve come to appreciate the great satisfaction of saving a historic property. For me, this is a ‘labor of love.’ A project of this magnitude, however, requires a team effort.”

Fleischer first learned of this property from Realtor Virginia Wilson, a broker associate with Premier Properties of Southwest Florida Inc., Realtors. Wilson is the listing agent for Parkside Off Fifth, which is currently under construction.

“After learning of Stephen’s interest and background in historic properties, I introduced him to the property on 10th Avenue South.” said Wilson.

“There is definitely a rewarding feeling to saving a piece of history. Clearly, however, one must thoroughly research an historic property, weighing not only the pros and cons of restoration, but the financial considerations, as well. Stephen was well positioned by virtue of his past experience in this area and immediately realized the property’s potential.”

James P. Johannsen, president of U.S. Trust in Naples, in another valued member on “the team.” U.S. Trust has financed many projects with Fleischer over the years.

“Our innovative mortgage financing helps clients maximize liquidity and take advantage of opportunities,” Johannsen said. “We take pride in personally working with each of our clients in a relaxed and friendly environment. As a past president of the Historic Home Foundation in Louisville, Ky., I have a personal interest, from a historic perspective – in this endeavor in Old Naples, as well as the pleasure of working with Stephen on this project.”

Fleischer worked with The Vintage Group, the general contractor for Parkside Off Fifth, to assist him in the initial stage of restoration. According to Carl Nagel, restoring an historic property presents some inherent challenges as well as benefits.

“Obviously, you have to work with great care not to disturb the exterior of the home,” said Nagel. “It’s like discovering an old buried treasure and cautiously shedding unwanted layers. As one example, we are reclaiming the yellow pine floorboards, which are now quite rare, from the upstairs and installing them into the living area downstairs.”

As his final team member, Fleischer called upon architect Mark Leonardi to draw the plans for the renovation and the addition. Fleischer and Leonardi, working with designers experienced in vintage properties, continue their research into architectural elements and design to insure a seamless blend of the charismatic details found in historic homes with the luxury features demanded in today’s upscale homes.

“This is truly a one-of-a-kind home.” Leonardi stated. “The original structure, along with the property’s setting inspired the new design. The southern exposure is ideal for the pool area and the west facing bank of windows will allow natural light into the rooms.”

The National Register of Historic Places maintains the official listings of sites and properties throughout the United States that reflect the prehistoric occupational and historical development of our nation, states and local communities. Criteria considered for evaluation includes sites, buildings, structures and objects considered to have significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and/or culture.

Working within the parameters set by the National Register of Historic Places, Fleischer and his team will continue to preserve the history and recognition of 132 10th Avenue South.