If These Walls Could Talk: How to Research Your Home’s History

Date
November 30, 2021
Category

Have you ever wondered about the history of your house, such as when it was originally built and by whom, what did it look like, what were the building trends at the time, or why does or doesn’t your home look like the others in your neighborhood? We all know the ‘Burg has an exciting and storied past—who wouldn’t want to know the role their home and neighborhood played in it? 

Whether it’s a century-old bungalow or a mid-century gem, every house has a story to tell, and in this post, we’ll show you how to learn about your home’s history.

Where to Start

There are many ways to discover the history of your home, from title deeds  to architectural style guides , historic markers, monuments, and even finding artifacts in and around your home. You may already have plenty of information about your home right under your roof.

To find out who built your home and when or who lived there before you, look at papers you may have in your possession, like the title deed, which may include details of past transactions. If you don’t have this information, your county tax appraiser will have records that point to your home’s history, such as purchase and sale dates and estimated values. The Pinellas County Property Appraiser has an online database of properties, and also some great resources to get started if this is your first time researching your home. Your mortgage provider may also be another resource to help you track down documents that point toward key information.

Front view of a historical home.

Determine Your Home’s Architecture Style 

Once you’ve determined the year and era of your home, it’s time to examine its architecture style, which can reveal some interesting history about your home. To determine your home’s architecture style, begin by assessing the structure and roof, as well as fine details like moldings, ceiling style, the hardware on doors and windows, pavers, and entryways.

St. Petersburg boasts many fabulous home styles including Colonial, Tudor, Revival, Craftsman, Art Deco, and Mid-Century Modern, to name a few. However, one local developer, in particular, Perry Snell, placed his personal stamp on the city with Mediterranean Revival, also known as Spanish Colonial. Numerous homes and public spaces around town are adorned with stucco walls, lush gardens, and red-tiled roofs, which is still one of the most sought-after and well-recognized styles in town. Some additional architectural styles can be seen in iconic buildings including hotels such as the Vinoy and The Don Cesar. 

In 1925, the historic Vinoy Park hotel in downtown St. Petersburg was built by Aymer Vinoy Laughner and architect Henry Taylor, who also designed St. Mary’s Church, the Jungle Hotel (now Admiral Farragut), and the Jungle Prada neighborhood.

The Don Cesar, widely known by locals as the “pink palace” because of its grand pink façade, is another architectural icon on the Gulf Coast. When built in 1928, by architect Henry H. Dupont, the hotel acted as a playground for the elite, who would roam the baroque hallways and dance on the marble floor of the King Charles Ballroom.

These many design styles can reveal interesting facts about your home’s place in St. Pete’s history. To find out more about your home’s architecture and design and how to maintain it, take a look at St. Petersburg’s Design Guidelines for Historic Properties

Historically Helpful

If you have a particularly old home or live in an area with a unique past, go to a local library or bookstore to find books about your town; you never know if your home is part of a compelling story! Visit the St. Pete Museum of History as they may have official records or other information.  You can also email Preserve the ‘Burg and we can help point you in the right direction.  We also offer historic guided or self-guided walking tours of Downton St. Petersburg and its historic neighborhoods where guests can learn more about the historic buildings, landmarks, and stories that define St. Pete’s unique sense of place. 

You can also look into old census records and check the St. Petersburg Register of Historic Places to see if your home or property has already been designated as a local landmark. Below are a few additional websites that can also help you with your home history search:

Home Sweet Home

By researching your home’s past, you’re likely to reveal its previous residents and their stories as well as the home’s architectural history. Not only is this information interesting, but it helps you appreciate your home’s quirks and charm, as well as to guide you along for preservation purposes. To learn more about how to research and preserve your St. Petersburg home, be sure to check out our Homeowners Resource page on our website.

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