Keeping a piece of Dade City history alive

When Jo and Bob Larkin bought the R.D. Sistrunk House at the corner of 14th Street and Church Avenue, they knew they were buying a property with a rich history — that required a lot of work.

Jo Larkin enjoys talking about the transformation of the home at 14th Street and Church Avenue, known historically as The Sistrunk House. It is featured as this year’s Dade City Garden Club ornament. (B.C. Manion)

“We renovated the house completely,” said Jo Larkin, who has a title company and previously owned an antiques shop.

Her husband, Bob, who is a builder, said it was the most extensive renovation project he’s ever tackled.

“It had plaster walls inside, and so we gutted all of the walls and ceilings.

“The only thing that was left from before we started remodeling was the frame walls, the siding and the flooring.

“We took out all of the electrical and all of the plumbing, anything in there except, for the structure,” Bob said.

The couple purchased the Sistrunk House in 2004 from Earl McKinney, a man they’d known all of their lives.

This sunny reading room is an enclosed porch that used to be a gazebo.

“Earl was not well,” Jo said. “One of the reasons that we got the house, truly, is because Earl had been over to see me, when I had the bed and breakfast (The Lark Inn, next door), and he couldn’t believe what Bob and I had done.

“He said, ‘I never had the money to do to this house, what I wanted to do.”

He asked Jo: ‘Do you think you and Bob would take this on?’

When Bob gutted the Sistrunk House, he found out where a lot of the original stuff had been located, Jo said. “He put it back originally, the way it was.”

There’s original glass in a window looking onto Church Avenue, and in the beveled glass front door. Much of the lighting is original, too.

This clock, on the mantel of the TV room, is one of many antique clocks in the house, and each of them works.

There’s only been four owners since the house was built in the early 1890s. First, there was Laura Inglis, of Iowa; then Dr. Sistrunk, a beloved Dade City physician, and his family. Earl McKinney bought it in the early ’70s, and then the Larkins.

During the restoration, a library was created by enclosing a porch; a reading room was made by enclosing a gazebo; and a carport was converted into a kitchen.

Upstairs, Bob created new spaces, too.

“You have to understand, there were no bathrooms or closets when we got this. So, what Bob did, was — he bumped out the walls, and he added a closet and he added a bathroom,” Jo said.

The list of work done during the renovation goes on and on.

This is a stained glass piece Bob had made for the 14th Street door transom to match the original stained glass in the front window on Church Avenue.

After giving the home new life, the couple loaded it up with interesting items.

“This is the fun part of doing houses,” Jo said. “You can tell I had an antique store.”

The dining room table was built using the legs from a square grand piano.

There’s a piece of furniture known as a “Larkin Side by Side,’ which was available from the Larkin Soap Company. The soap company gave out stamps with soap purchases, which customers saved to buy items from a catalog.

There are conversation pieces throughout the 4,000-square-foot home, which has 13 rooms, including three bedrooms and three baths.

Jo is thrilled that her home was selected to be featured as the Dade City Garden Club’s annual ornament.

This is what the home, owned by Bob and Jo Larkin, looks like now.

She buys the ornament every year. “In fact, all of my sisters, who have moved away, I buy for them and ship it to them because they all want it. Bob’s sister, too. It’s a great gift. It just reminds you of home, so many great things.

“I think it’s such a shame that Earl died and could not see what has happened with the home. That kind of thing would have just made his day.

“If anybody was in love with his home, it was Earl. He really was obsessed with it.

“He was a real character.

“He was interesting to talk to, but you never knew what Earl was going to say, and you never knew what was embellishment and what was the truth.”

The couple has the house on the market now, as they plan the next phase of their lives.

“It’ll take the right person. It’ll take someone who wants to be part of Dade City,” she said.

Dade City Garden Club annual ornament
The Dade City Garden Club’s annual ornament this year features The R.D. Sistrunk House, which is located at the corner of 14th Street and Church Avenue.

The two-story wood-frame house, at 37441 Church Ave., was the home of one of Dade City’s prominent pioneer doctors, Dr. Robert Don Sistrunk. Originally, it was a plain two-story square box, finished by Laura Inglis, from Iowa, in the early 1890s.

Doctor Sistrunk and his bride, Frances Bedgood, moved to the Church Street home in 1906. They remodeled it extensively in 1910, enlarging it, and adding porches and arts and crafts-style columns. They lived in the house the rest of their lives.

Earl McKinney bought the house in the early 1970s. He added porches, gazebos, and replaced the arts and crafts columns.

When McKinney’s health was deteriorating, he approached Bob and Jo Larkin about buying the house and restoring it. The Larkins bought the house in 2003 and began renovations in 2005.

The ornament commemorating the Sistrunk House is available for $22, by check only, from the Greater Dade City Chamber.

Published October 31, 2018

Speak Your Mind


%d bloggers like this: