A historic Bradenton home.

After 151 years, the Fogarty house at 3101 Riverview Blvd. in Bradenton is being restored.

He’s got the skills you’d want from a doctor–he restores broken bones and steers sickness to health. 

Maybe that’s why retired veterinarian Dr. Harold Ott loves restoring historic homes, too. His latest labor of love, the Tole Fogarty House at 3101 Riverview Blvd. in Bradenton, is a prime example.

“For more than 50 years, I devoted my life to saving beloved pets," Ott says. "When I sold my practice in Ruskin and moved to Palmetto in 2015, my interest changed to saving homes that were marked for the wrecking ball.”

He didn't plan to buy the Tole Fogarty House, an 1871 relic. In fact, Ott had just restored another home a short time before. But a plea posted on Facebook by Peggy Donoho, a local historian whose great great grandparents settled in Bradenton, along with a Bradenton Times article about the home—which, at the time seemed slated for destruction—pushed him to step in. He bought the home, which was advertised as a tear-down, for $435,000 in April of last year. It sits on half an acre and, at 151 years old, is one of the oldest structures in Manatee County.

An old black and white photo of the Fogarty home shows a pulley moving trunks up to the second floor of the home.

An old photo from the late 1800s, shows a pulley moving trunks up to the second floor of the home.

Located in what used to be known as Fogartyville, in West Bradenton, the home was built by Captain Bartholomew "Tole" Fogarty, a mariner.

Tole’s brother, John Fogarty, fell in love with the Manatee River area after his ship was said to have been pushed to the area by a dangerous storm in 1865. He filed for a homestead in 1866 and Tole followed suit a few months later. A third brother, William “Bill” Fogarty, soon joined them. The state issued the brothers 135 acres.

The brothers were the first to settle the area. They built a house, a boat-building business and a mercantile store, married and had children. A church, school and wharf were established. By 1880, roughly 30 families were living in Fogartyville; in 1903, Bradentown, as it was called back then, incorporated and included Fogartyville.

But during the 1920s Florida real estate boom, the market shifted and descendants of the original settlers moved away. Fogartyville slowly assimilated and became known as West Bradenton.

But the brothers' legacy has lasted generations. The Fogarty Cemetery still stands in Bradenton and the home of one of the other brothers, on 29th Street, has been restored. The third Fogarty home has been demolished.

One historic tidbit claims that the Tole Fogarty House originally sat in what is now Lewis Park, and was part of a larger property owned by the Fogarty widows. The widows were behind on their taxes and a deal was struck. In the mid-1930s, they moved the home roughly 200 feet toward Manatee River. Mayor Horace Lewis took the land where it had been and turned it into a park named after him–Lewis Park.

The Tole Fogarty House

The Tole Fogarty House

Image: Kim Doleatto

Donoho, who originally posted about the home on Facebook, is relieved to see the home get new life, since she has a personal tie to the Fogartys. Her great-great-grandparents, Miguel Guerrero and Frederica Kramer, whose wedding was the second ever recorded in Manatee County, in 1856, fell ill and died. One of the three young children left behind was adopted by Mary and John Fogarty. “The house has a very special place in our family's lives,” she says. 

According to general contractor and builder David Windham, who is leading Ott's Fogarty project, the restoration will take roughly a year and cost about $750,000.

David Windham was able to rescue thousands of bees from the home's columns.

David Windham was able to rescue thousands of bees from the home's columns.

There's a lot to be done, but one essential task has already been squared away—relocating thousands of bees that were living in the home's columns. Luckily, Windham, who is also a local historian who specializes in restorations, is also a beekeeper.

He and his team also raised the home off the ground to build it a new concrete foundation. For the most part, though, the house is in solid condition. After all, “boat builders build things like their lives depends on it, because they do," Windham says. "If you go out in a boat, you have to make sure the joints fit perfectly.” And they do.

After more than 40 years in the business, he marvels at the Fogarty's craftsmanship. “Where the wooden joints intersect is so tight. You couldn't put a credit card between them,” he says. “That's amazing in a tropical environment.”

That's also thanks Southern yellow pine that, full of resin, turns so hard that termites won't dare take a bite. The beams, at 36 feet long, "are as straight as arrows," Windham says. "What especially stands out is that [back then], builders didn't have rounded nails as we know them. When beams would intersect, they would secure them together by driving in a dowel." 

And for as much as the home is steeped in history, Ott plans to bring it into the future, too.

It only had window air conditioning units, so it'll need a new central air system. To accommodate changing norms, the bedrooms, seven in all, will be fewer in number and larger in size, making room for walk-in closets and modern bathrooms. Ott promises to keep the outside facade as close to the original as possible; the solar panels he plans to add will be out of view from the street. 

For the moment, Ott's not sure what he'll do with the Fogarty home once it's restored. But, he says, "I may love it so much I can't bring myself to sell it."

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