PUNTA GORDA — The childhood home of notable local historian U.S. Cleveland could be on the move from its almost century-long location at 509 Gill St. in Punta Gorda.

Ulysses S. Cleveland, who died in 2005 at the age of 85, was a long-time historian in Charlotte County and a lifelong resident of the Punta Gorda area, minus 4½ years serving in World War II.

Cleveland archived thousands of documents over the years but most were destroyed in 2004 when Hurricane Charley devastated the county.

His childhood home, which still stands today but with heavy wear and tear structurally and aesthetically, was built in 1925 in what is now the city’s Historic District.

During the city’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board meeting Thursday, board members approved potentially relocating the house as opposed to demolishing it — the other option filed by the current owner of the house and property.

Notable local historian's home likely on the move in Punta Gorda

Wear and tear on the almost century-old home of local historian U.S. Cleveland is easy to find. Current home owner, Garrett Kizer, of Charlotte Harbor Construction, points out exposed wires in the ceiling.

“We never wanted to tear (the house) down,” said Garrett Kizer, of Charlotte Harbor Construction, who is engaged to the owner Gian Gunderson. “We never said we were going to tear it down.”

Representing Gunderson and Kizer, Roger Miller, of the Farr Law Firm, said they only filed the demolition documents with the city as a matter of practicality if relocation became “infeasible.”

Originally, the couple bought the house and property on Gill Street hoping to restore the historic home and add a guest house in the back.

Notable local historian's home likely on the move in Punta Gorda

Wear and tear on the almost century-old childhood home of local historian U.S. Cleveland can be seen through the house at 509 Gill St., Punta Gorda.

Due to city code restrictions, they were unable to add the new wing.

Now, the couple is reaching out to the city and the community for help to save the historic home.

“Our goal is to save it, get it relocated and make it something the community is proud of,” Kizer said.

Part of the problem for relocating the house, however, will be the cost, which could not be determined.

Kizer did say the estimated cost for the demolition was $8,800. Those funds can now be put toward moving the house.

“We’d be more than happy to donate that money towards relocation funding and we also have a downtown resident who has offered $2,000 in addition,” Kizer said.

The city has helped with the relocation of historic structures in the past.

In 2002, the city provided funding to move the historic Blanchard House (now the Blanchard House Museum) from its original location to its current spot at 406 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Punta Gorda, according to Martha Bireda, museum executive director and representative of the Bernice A. Russell Community Development Corporation, owners of the museum property.

“They (the city) did pay for that move,” Bireda said. “$25,000 they paid without repay and they did it because of the historical significance for the city and I think the same way that the Blanchard House was moved … the same process can be used for this.”

Bireda, on behalf of the Bernice A. Russell CDC, has offered part of their property at 415 E. Virginia Ave. as a destination for the Cleveland house.

Notable local historian's home likely on the move in Punta Gorda

Part of the appeal for Garrett Kizer and his fiancée when they bought the property and childhood home of local historian U.S. Cleveland at 509 Gill St. was the landscaping.

“This is for the public good,” Bireda said. “This is to enhance the history of Punta Gorda. The (Cleveland’s) historic home will be preserved and safe (there) and it will remain in the Historic District.”

“The renovation of the home will also provide us with an opportunity to create an addition to the Blanchard House Museum,” she continued, “focusing on the historic Cochran Street business district, which was a vital aspect of the Punta Gorda economy until the 1960s.”

At a future meeting, the City Council will have to decide if they want to front the money needed to help with the move, as well as if the funds should be repaid.

If the Bernice A. Russell CDC becomes the recipient of the house, Bireda said repayment shouldn’t be a problem.

“There are several grants for institutions for what we want to do with that property (and the house),” Bireda said. “We will have no problem to be able to get that funding and be able to provide some of it back to the city … or whatever the city has provided.”

“I would think the city would be interested, especially with the decisions that they’ve made in enhancing the history and historical integrity of Punta Gorda,” Bireda continued. “This is about our history and making sure our history is told.”


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