Old Northeast Cressy House Gets Historic Designation

The Cressy House was built in 1922 and designed by St. Pete’s first professional architect, Edgar Ferdon

When Sandra and Michael Taradash moved to St. Petersburg from Palos Verdes Estates, California they knew they wanted to live in the Old Northeast. They began touring homes, and after viewing the “Cressy House,” they made an offer within 24 hours. They had found their new home.  

The Cressy House, situated at 625 20th Avenue NE, was built in 1922 by Hennessy and Taylor and designed by architect Edgar Ferdon. Ferdon was the city’s first professional architect and is credited with designing the Crislip Arcade as well as the First Congregational Church downtown. The Cressy House was built in the classic craftsman style and has features customary of the “airplane” bungalow, which include a large first floor with a smaller second floor centered above with one or two rooms, said to resemble the cockpit of an airplane. The second story has many windows that allow cross ventilation and cool breezes; the houses wide eaves provide ample shade and resemble an airplane’s wings. Other prominent features include the shingle siding; decorative beams that run the full length of the home; a large, covered, wrap-around porch; and the unpainted clinker brick columns and chimney with yellow brick and accent caps.

Blanche Dayne Cressy and Will Cressy during the first world war.

Sandra and Michael knew they had found something special and began to investigate the history behind their new home. The Cressy House was built for Blanche Dayne Cressy and Will Cressy in 1922 during the height of the Florida land boom. The Cressys were popular vaudeville actors in the late 19th and early 20th century who traveled the world and even entertained troops during World War I. During this time Will Cressy was exposed to a gas that caused significant health complications and resulted in their decision to move to St. Petersburg. They spent summers in New Hampshire where Will was born and lived in the Cressy House during the winters. In St. Pete, Will gave speeches, wrote pamphlets and essays, and appeared in plays. Blanche also stayed active, serving as president of the Florida West Coast branch of the Women’s Overseas Service League for women who served overseas during World War I.

Porch column detail shows off the clinker brick.

With information on their new home’s history, Sandra and Michael decided to apply for a local historic designation. “The house represents St. Petersburg’s cultural heritage through its design, construction, and because of its popular original owners, the entertainers, Blanche Dayne and Will Cressy,” says Sandra. 

This year, the application was approved and the Cressy House was awarded designation on February 15. It joins other landmarks in the Old Northeast, including its sister home on 18th Avenue, the Sargent House, another of Edgar Ferdon’s bungalows that mirrored the Cressy House, built a year later in 1923. The owners of the Sargent House, Sharon Winters and Kendall Reid, recently held a porch party at their home with Preserve the ‘Burg. Sharon spoke to the attendees saying, “We take a lot of joy in the character that is retained in this house even though 15 families have lived here. It is amazing that nothing big has been ripped out!” She went on to speak of the Cressy House and its impending designation saying, “It is the stories behind these houses that lend a lot of the character to it.”

The Sargent House on 18th Avenue NE is the sister of Cressy House and was designed by Edgar Ferdon in 1923.

The Old Northeast is home to more than 10 local landmarks and was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. In 1988, Granada Terrace was designated a Local Historic District within the Old Northeast, and the neighborhood is now home to three, one-block areas designated as historic districts in recent years. These include the 200 block of 10th Avenue NE, the 700 block of 18th Avenue NE, and the 100 block of 19th Avenue NE, also known as Mediterranean Row. 

Why does the neighborhood find the designation of these homes and districts important? According to the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association website, “These districts and individual properties can be significant to the history of St. Petersburg in several ways: they are reminders of the cultural heritage of the city, are identified with people who contributed significantly to our city, were designed by noted architects, and are examples of a particular architectural style, or feature particular construction materials.” 

Will Cressy’s 1923 publication, At the End of the Road, includes a drawing of Cressy House.

Sandra and Michael Taradash are most certainly continuing the tradition of preservation in the Old Northeast. When asked why she felt it was important to have the Cressy House designated as a historic landmark, Sandra said, “We want to contribute to city founders’, Snell’s and Stroud’s vision, and the exemplary efforts of HONNA, Preserve the ‘Burg, and the St. Petersburg Division of Urban Planning, Design, and Historic Preservation. As Will Cressy wrote in his 1923 publication, At the End of the Road, ‘On the shores of the Coffee Pot Bayou, you will find the 7th and last Cressy home… and this address is PERMANENT.’”