In garden club home tour, one answer to flood insurance problems




PUNTA GORDA — Among all the ornaments and garland and greenery seen on the Punta Gorda Garden Club’s annual Holly Days Home Tour is a solution for homeowners who are fretting about sharply higher flood insurance premiums.

The tour, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, includes one house (cover photo), a tee shot from Charlotte Harbor, that sits right in the “A” flood zone. But like some others in the city’s National Register Historic District, it actually sits above it.

The house, built in 1940 at 114 McGregor St., survived Hurricane Charley in 2004. President George W. Bush, visiting the city, called it a “miracle.” But the owners at that time did not want to count on a second miracle in the event of a storm surge. So they elevated the house 4.5 feet.

With flood insurance set to soar, the expense of raising a house — $20,000 or more, depending on its size — could pay off in several years, said Punta Gorda home builder John Chalifoux. Raising a structure above the base flood elevation even qualifies for a premium discount, he added.

Nearby, the century-old First United Methodist Church, recently repaired and updated and also elevated, is featured on the tour, as well as three other houses, two of them built around 1920 and another built in 2012.


117 Durrance St.

Each house is decorated “over the top,” said tour co-chairwoman Carol Moore, with all 70 of the garden club’s members volunteer in some way. “It is very generous of them to do this, as many have just come back to town for the winter,” Moore said.

While the city’s quaint Old Florida houses have long been the main attraction of the tour, this year the church’s old sanctuary — construction of which began in 1912 with 40,000 donated bricks — takes center stage following a $500,000 repair/rehabilitation. The sanctuary is on West Marion Avenue at Gill Street, four blocks west of downtown.

Tickets, $15, are sold at the church’s Lenox Hall on Gill Street. Homemade refreshments will be served and poinsettias sold. All tour proceeds benefit the garden club’s scholarship program and other community groups.

Homes on the tour
• Donna Ball Home, 308 W. Ann St. This house was built in 2012 to blend into the downtown Historic District. It has two porches and a raised stemwall foundation faced with decorative lattice and stacked stone. The impact-resistant, thermal windows have Cracker mullions.

“She really wanted to have a Cracker-style house,” Moore said, “and went in front of the City Council 13 times just to get approvals to build the house to the old style, but with the new, modern materials.”


308 W. Ann St.

Its fiber-cement siding looks like traditional clapboard siding, part of an energy-efficient building envelope.
• June Poliachuk House, 724 W. Olympia Ave. Built in 1910, this house has vernacular Florida Cracker architecture with a metal roof, raised floors and large porches. In 2001, the house was renovated down to its frame. The fenced front yard has a variety of plants suitable for the subtropical climate. To the left of the porch, baskets of orchids hang from a fishtail palm.

“This property used to be a duplex,” said Moore. “The owner has gotten authentic windows and doors as replacements, as she wanted to stay with the whole thing of being historic when she was redoing the house. It also has two historic cottages behind it that are rented out.”
• Nickelson House, 117 Durrance St. This house was recently purchased and refreshed by the new owner. It sits on a lot originally owned by Col. Isaac Trabue, Punta Gorda’s founder. The house was built in 1920 by John Weeks, a pineapple farmer and real estate broker, when Punta Gorda was in a boom period.

“The inside is pristine,” Moore said. “But the only leeway they have is to update the kitchen. We were really fortunate to get that house for the tour.”
• Roe House, 114 McGregor St. This house, now owned by Jim and Meredith Roe, was built in 1940 with cypress siding to protect against termites. Heart-pine lumber was used for the floors. Bay windows were added in the late 1970s.

In 2004, President Bush, visiting the city, declared it a miracle that the house was undamaged by Hurricane Charley. “Previous owners liked to think of this house as ‘Miracle on McGregor,’ ” Moore said. Their raising of the house in November 2004 decreased the reliance on a second miracle to save it from a flood.

Last year, about 2,000 people from throughout the region attended the tour.

“The turnout was fantastic last year,” said Moore, noting that tour-goers come from Sarasota, Venice and Fort Myers.

“Downtown Punta Gorda has a lot of nice restaurants — River City Grill, Opus, Trabue, Dean’s, Jack’s on Marion — within a short distance of the tour,” she said. “They can have lunch and visit the houses. And then the 1 million Christmas lights are lit at Fishermen’s Village — they can go down there after the tour and take in the entertainment and shopping.”

Downtown Punta Gorda is two miles west of Interstate 75’s Exit 164 (U.S. 17).


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: December 6, 2013
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.