What seems like a lifetime ago, with a great amount of help from my friends in the 3 areas that make up the bungalow neighborhood of Seminole Heights, in Tampa, Florida, I produced an American Bungalow Magazine event. I had coaxed, cajoled, pleaded with the editor to have genius photographer, Alex Vertikoff come to Central Florida to shoot our houses. I coordinated with 4 other neighborhoods in Tampa, St. Petersburg & Lakeland to make it worth their while to drive all the way across the country. Publisher John Brinkmann came to speak to us at a wonderful event in our historic church.
I had been a devotee of American Bungalow for a number of years. They had attended our first home tour in Eagle Rock & published a beautiful article on the Hanson Puthuff house, displayed on the poster to the left.
In my Tampa neighborhood, I enjoyed the privilege of being the magazine distributor. Every quarter the magazines would arrive in a big box, & I would peddle them around the neighborhood at events & meetings & deliver to people’s homes when requested. It was a great way to meet folks, educate Tampa on historic houses & support the valuable work of the magazine.
The neighborhoods pitched in, volunteering their bungalows for the project. I recruited writers for all the articles & each author (or group of authors) gathered material & researched their areas.
My neighborhood, Seminole Heights produced some beautiful houses & the authors encouraged a woman who had lived in the neighborhood in the early years to tell her story- A Place to Grow Up. Her sweet childhood voice & photos brought those times to life. I am lucky enough to have another story from her to tell you here, Childhood Pets in My Bungalow Neighborhood.
The article tells the story of how the neighborhood association began- a response to the threatened destruction of many bungalows along one of our central corridors. By the time I arrived 25 years later, it was a powerful force for preservation & revitalization. When I say, “Do something about it,” I have seen firsthand what can be done by a group of committed citizens.
The neatest part about the in article occurred when the editor sent me a proof & there was my front porch in a 2-page color spread opening a piece in my favorite magazine, American Bungalow! There were a couple shots of my living room too, but they were pretty small. Finally, at the age of 60 my dream of being a centerfold was realized! And it was one that I could show my mother!
AMERICAN BUNGALOW MAGAZINE VISITS A HISTORIC FARMHOUSE IN YBOR CITY
In the center of Tampa is a farm with a bungalow farmhouse, built by Sicilian immigrants, Salvatore & Vittoria Giunta, who arrived in Tampa in 1907. Peasant farmers, they hoped for a better life for themselves & their children in American. Work was plentiful in Ybor City in the cigar factories & farms & they worked at a variety of jobs, saving money until they could buy land. Self-sufficient, they raised heirloom vegetables & herbs with which they fed their family & sold the surplus to supplement their income. At one time, this area, now residential was dubbed “the breadbasket of Ybor,” providing food for up to 10,000 cigar factory workers. After time they purchased more land & in 1924, the house was built just in time for the family to enjoy their Christmas together. The farm up to this day, almost 100 years later, is still being worked by the two granddaughters, who live in the old farmhouse.
Though the farm is a prime piece of property in a very desirable location the sisters stand firm against offers from developers & in 2020, City Council agreed with their request to designate the farm a historic landmark offering some protection against future development. Please watch this beautiful video to learn more about the history of the family & the farm & best of all, to meet the sisters.
Make no mistake about it. This is a farmhouse. The floors are not glossy quartersawn oak but are covered with linoleum & the usual Stickley pieces that you see pictured in American Bungalow are not in evidence. I spent 2 days helping the sisters stage the house for the shoot (No, Alex didn’t know about know this!) I pulled all the family antiques- a charming deco armoire, an old tricycle, a child’s chair, from the bedrooms & arranged them in the family gathering room off the kitchen. A century ago. their father had made a wooden boat to sail down the flooded Tampa streets, & I pulled it from a closet & had a shelf built for it to be mounted over a quilt-covered chair in the corner.
In the kitchen sits a “Nana cabinet,” a traditional Sicilian piece in which were displayed the china, glassware & collectables of the grandmother of the house. This one was built by her son of recycled materials—wood slats from apple crates, curved glass sides from a discarded retail display case & the best part- it is topped with a decorative crown from an old circus wagon offered by a friend who just didn’t think that the cabinet looked complete.
The pieces were just stacked in the cabinet, with no attempt to display them. We spent several hours removing the items, carefully placing them on the kitchen table. I returned them one by one, showing each one to full advantage. These pieces hold the memories of family dinners of 3 generations & deserved to be elegantly celebrated.
The sisters are not artists. They are revered teachers, beloved daughters, dutiful sisters & aunts & hard-working farmers. They were astonished at how I managed to honor their family by displaying their heirlooms & photographs artfully.
It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.
The morning after John’s event in my neighborhood of Seminole Heights, he & I went for breakfast at the farm. John toured the house & admired the fields, lush with produce whose seeds were brought from Sicily 100 years before. He played fetch with the farm dog & chatted with the chickens. He was honored to have met the Giunta sisters & honored them in return with this beautiful article.
THE AMERICAN BUNGALOW MAGAZINE PHILOSOPHY
“…it’s not about how big you live, it’s about how genuine you live. That’s what the magazine stands for.” – John Brinkmann, American Bungalow Magazine
I was thrilled to be able to provide him with the opportunity to visit a family that had lived so genuinely in their farmhouse bungalow for 3 generations.
The plaque installed by the City reads:
In 1907, Salvatore and Vittoria Giunta arrived at Ellis Island from Santo Stefano, Qisquina, Sicily. Like many other Sicilian immigrants, they left behind peasant farming for a better future in Ybor City where work was plentiful. They brought little but their strong work ethic and the seeds of the crops that had always sustained their family. Sicilian families settled on the east side of Ybor beyond the cigar factories and worker housing. They held a variety of jobs, even as laborers on the local celery farms.
After years of work, Salvatore and Vittoria saved enough to buy land at the corner of 11th Avenue and 24th Street, where they farmed their heirloom produce and herbs to supplement their income. They gradually bought more land, and in 1924, built a home for their growing family. Like many of their Sicilian neighbors, the Giuntas grew their own food, raised chickens, baked bread in an outdoor oven, and were largely self-sufficient. The homestead of nearly an entire block contained the house, auxiliary buildings, farm fields and a orchard. For over a century the Giunta family has carried on their farming tradition in Ybor City. The Giunta homestead and farm tells the story of many Sicilian immigrants’ live in Ybor City.
TIP: READ MORE ABOUT MY WILD PRESERVATION LIFE HERE.
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