By Sarah Hough; Photos by Eric Marcus Studio
Northwest Florida’s prime residential real estate can be located quite easily by looking for the most beautiful spots on the water. Whether beach, bay, or other body of water, beautiful and unique real estate is often close by.
For many, proximity and access to the water opens up an entirely different outlook on life. It may be that exposure to the elements, wind, water, and sun, are part of the heightened sense of being and add intensity to life. A walk to the water prompts deep breaths, makes the eye wander to the horizon, and will affect the soul.
Beautiful waterfront homes are the stuff of which dreams are made. Several Bay County waterfront homeowners are sharing their views and insights on waterfront living on the following pages. With unique features, designs, locations, and history, each home also speaks volumes about the homeowners and their goals, dreams, and aspirations in life.
Appreciation of Panama City’s History & Beauty
Some of Panama City’s prime real estate is located on Beach Drive. With two lanes hugging the shoreline of St. Andrew Bay, Beach Drive connects Downtown Panama City to thriving Historic St. Andrews with a ten-minute drive past spacious residences, many with significant historical value, on elevated lots lining the north side of the road and the waters of St. Andrew Bay washing against the sandy beach to the south.
For many of the last sixty years the unique home at 1120 West Beach Drive has been a noted part of the community’s social fabric as a preferred location for charitable events and community functions. Its post war Florida architecture and stunning location overlooking St. Andrew Bay and the pass to the Gulf of Mexico have made the home a Panama City landmark. Seldom are homes of this quality, character, and distinction offered for sale. As this home has a price tag at the time this article is written, it remains to wonder what a price tag can fathom about the significance of the location, the history of the home as well as the owner’s attention to detail in improving the home and grounds.
During the housing boom at the end of World War World II, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Smith, owners of Panama Supply and Equipment, celebrated by building their dream home on Beach Drive. Fitting to their position in the building industry, they took pride in employing the finest materials and the best craftsmen in the construction of the home. Half a century later, Mr. and Mrs. William Spann, developers of Bay Point, Bay County’s largest planned community, purchased the property and performed extensive renovations and improvements to rejuvenate the home while respecting and enhancing its history.
The current owners name four deciding factors to buying the home in 2006. 1. Location and neighborhood. 2. Potential to make the house a great home. 3. Size of the lot and opportunity to create a garden environment. 4. Excitement created by the features of the home which make it a special retreat for family, visitors, and friends.
Approximately $600,000 was expended on physical improvements to the already remarkable residence. Plaster moldings in the formal rooms were lovingly restored. Hardwood floors were painstakingly returned to their original luster. Chandeliers original to the house were located, repaired, and reinstalled. A master bedroom suite was created from what had been two separate bedrooms. The kitchen was stripped bare and rebuilt with the finest appliances. The suite located above the carriage house was completely renovated for use as a spacious office. A wine cellar was added, as were a powder room, library, and new spaces for storage. The Florida room, with its wrap around views of the Bay and gardens, was rebuilt to create an inviting casual oasis.
No expense was spared in adding those features that give the home modern currency and value. Energy-efficient hurricane proof windows were installed. All wiring and electrical systems were replaced, as were heating and air-conditioning units, and water heaters. A natural gas generator was installed to serve in the rare event of a power outage. Insulation was upgraded and every surface refurbished, remodeled, or restored.
To the passersby, the biggest changes occurred to the nearly one acre site on which the home is located. A pergola overlooking the Bay was added. All electric wiring leading to the residence was buried. With the assistance of landscape architect Alan Holt, a $250,000 landscaping project was mounted. Walkways were raised and laid with tile, a vegetable garden and outdoor living areas were created. Area lighting and landscaped privacy barriers were added. The result is a lush quintessentially southern landscape and four-season environment that complements the house.
Different rooms are favored by the current owners on different times of the day… the pergola in the late afternoon, the Florida room in the morning, the elegance of the parlor when entertaining, and the welcome of the library at any time.
The home is decorated with stunning antiques, unique wallpaper and an effortless mix of modern and eclectic styles. The owners reflect, “Many of the pieces are from different phases of our lives and different periods in the history of the house. Interior decorators John Henry Sherman and Jeremy Bazata were instrumental in assuring the pieces we had collected over the years had a home at 1120 W. Beach Drive. We were very fortunate to locate some of the furniture, fixtures and china original to the home when the Smiths were the owners.”
The eclectic outdoor space offers a tranquil living areas, the vegetable garden is a chef’s dream, the formal garden a floral sanctuary, the upper garden a seaside wonder, the great lawn an inviting play area. The homeowners describe it best; each garden creates a special space. The quiet formal garden is dominated by color; the pergola garden creates a wonderful private space while providing views of the Bay and pass. The vegetable and herb gardens are for the inner soul… cabbages in the winter, tomatoes, peas, beans, squash, peppers, cucumber, eggplant, and cut flowers in the summer, carrots, beets, greens and lemons in the fall.
While the comforts of the outdoor areas are quite visible, guests at the residence will most likely get to enjoy some hidden gems. The owners reflect, “The wine cellar speaks to our world view and over the years has reflected our travels, experiences, and changing tastes. Wine cellars at their best are very personal. We have made an investment of time, thought, and personality in creating this cellar.
Our home has provided us with an opportunity to recall the pace, pride and comfort of an earlier time… while enjoying the convenience of the modern features we’ve added to an already very special house. The house, grounds, streetscape and Bay combine to make living here a unique experience, a true opportunity to enjoy time and place. Living on Beach Drive is having the Bay at your doorstep, being surrounded by fabulous neighbors, and knowing the name of your postman. It is a good and comforting place.”
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