Preservationists lose battle to save 108-year-old St. Pete home

- The house that stood for 108 years came crashing down today: The big old home known as The Mullet Farm.

"It was special to everyone in the neighborhood," said Robert Morey, a resident of St. Petersburg's Driftwood neighborhood. "We had been lead to believe it would be restored.”

But demolition day finally came after a long fight by historic preservationists who argue that the Mullet Farm should be saved. 

The new owner, Tim Ranney, said he had intended to restore the home, but he said engineers found the foundation was compromised, and there was "loads" of asbestos, lead paint and termite damage. 

Instead, they plan to build a new 4,200-square-foot single-story home. The builder, Windstar Homes, says it will have "Old Florida Cracker design elements and retain the historic name The Mullet Farm.”

The original home was dubbed that by George Gandy Jr., son of the man who built the Gandy Bridge. He said he could "hear the mullet jumping at night."

The fight over preserving the old house has divided the Driftwood neighborhood. Some suggested The Mullet Farm and much of the neighborhood should get an official historical designation. 

Neighbor Peter Pav said he'll miss the original Mullet Farm, but historical designation would infringe on his property rights. 

"That would lock you in," he said.  "You could not demolish it or change it. In my case, it would have cost me $500,000 or $60,000.”

The new owner says the new Mullet Farm will be better, but for some here, it can never replace the old Mullet Farm. 

"Something new will pop up," offered Morey. "But they don't build them like they used to.”

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