February 25, 2022

St. Pete's historic Orvis House is now for sale in the 'Pink Streets' neighborhood

The Orvis House - Photo via Preserve The Burg
Photo via Preserve The Burg
The Orvis House

A historic home once owned by an organizer with St. Pete’s Purity League, a group that pushed for bathing suit inspectors at local beaches, is now for sale in the Pink Streets neighborhood of Pinellas Point.

Located at 1135 Serpentine Dr. S, property records show that the home was built in 1928 for Miss Sarah Whitin Orvis, a wealthy socialite from Vermont, at a cost of $7,000.

According to the Preserve The Burg (PTB), the Mediterranean-style home was built by prominent architect C.W. Fulwoof Jr. “He designed a number of homes in St Pete in the Pinellas Point area, but is probably best known for the Snell Isle Garden Apartments on Snell Isle Blvd,” said PTB board member Emily Elwyn to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Miss Orvis was a frequent visitor of St. Petersburg with her mother and sister, and after her father died in 1919, the women stayed at various homes along Beach Drive and Central Ave during the winters before moving into their home on Serpentine Dr., reports local historian Howard Knapp.

Active in local politics and arts clubs, Miss Orvis served as a member of the St. Pete “Business and Women’s Professional Club,” and was also the secretary of the St. Petersburg Purity League, which among other things was against immodest attire on city beaches.

Miss Orvis’ mother, Mary L. W. Orvis was also active in civic discourse, and would often send letters to the editors of the St. Petersburg Times. In one particular letter sent in August 1928, Mary complained to the paper’s editorial board for calling then-candidate Herbert Hoover a “political associate of the greatest crooks ever known in our public life.”

A few years later, in Sept. of 1931, the Times published a story about how Mary mailed a homemade jigsaw puzzle to Hoover, who loved puzzles, and entertained “a group of tired political men.”

(Read the newspaper clips at end of slideshow)

After Mary died in 1934, Miss Orvis moved to Washington D.C and the home was later sold in 1937, says Knapp, adding that Miss Orvis passed away in 1955 at the age of 66 in Arlington, Virginia.

The home has had quite a few owners since the Orvis women, and unfortunately over the years it fell into disrepair.

“It was a trainwreck,” said listing agent Charles Shoenig of Homesmart to CL. The current owner, John Gaskil, purchased the home in 2020, and did a complete restoration of the home, said Shoenig, with a huge effort to preserve as much of the original feel as possible.

“Obviously you have to do modern updates,” said Shoenig, “but he preserved as much as he could and the things he couldn’t save, he basically recreated. The arched doors, for example, were made by hand, and we had to set up a little mill shop to get all the doors to fit correctly.”

“It’s not a flip,” added Schoenig, “it really is a labor of love.”

The 2,700-square-foot home now comes with a total of three bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as, a new granite fireplace, cypress beams, a pool, and a guest suite where the former the four-car garage was once located.

The current asking price is $1,175,000.

Creative Loafing Tampa Bay is always looking for unique, historic homes to highlight, so please send us tips! Note: These stories go through our editorial department and are not advertisements, but if you'd like to run an ad elsewhere on our publication you can contact our advertising department here.
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St. Pete's historic Orvis House is now for sale in the 'Pink Streets' district
Photo by Tyto Media
St. Pete's historic Orvis House is now for sale in the 'Pink Streets' district
Photo by Tyto Media
St. Pete's historic Orvis House is now for sale in the 'Pink Streets' district
Photo by Tyto Media
St. Pete's historic Orvis House is now for sale in the 'Pink Streets' district
Photo by Tyto Media
St. Pete's historic Orvis House is now for sale in the 'Pink Streets' district
Photo by Tyto Media

Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future.