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Paradise Found-Jewfish Key

Updated on March 15, 2009
Mangroves and Australian Pines
Mangroves and Australian Pines
A view of the house from the water.  That's right...well hidden.
A view of the house from the water. That's right...well hidden.
During construction 1989
During construction 1989

Chapter Two-The House

If you didn't read chapter One, then click this link and start there

Our long weekend in paradise came to an end and going back to the frigid north and back to work took a lot of effort on our parts. Florida was left behind but certainly not forgotten. The next year my wife started making plans for a Christmas vacation getaway and when she asked "do you remember that place?", I cut her off mid sentence and said "I sure do....Lets go back there". We both knew where "there" was.

We Spent the next couple of Christmas vacations there on Anna Maria Island at the Sand Pebble Motel. It was nothing fancy but we loved the area and even invited friends to join us there for New Years. Eventually our conversations gravitated to how much we liked this area and how maybe someday we'd buy a house and retire here. What a dreamer I am.

At the end of our vacation in 2001 we started to look around at the available real estate on Anna Maria Island and neighboring Longboat Key. Boy they were really impressed with their real estate, meaning wow..look at these prices. After a day of finding nothing in my price range, we sat down with the realtor on January 1, 2002 at her office and while she was going out to look something up in her files I asked if she minded if I looked on her computer. I got the go ahead and typed in "Land". Up popped a bunch of lots and such and at the very top of the list was listed "1 Acre on Island" with an accompanying picture. When the realtor came back in I informed her that I was interested in seeing the acre on the island. "You're kidding" she replied. "It's New Years Day and you'll need a boat to get there". Sounded right up my alley!! No boats were available that day so we headed back to North Carolina with visions of islands in our heads.

We returned to Raleigh and back to work but I couldn't get that island out of my head. In March we flew down to Florida and rented a boat just to go see for ourselves what this mysterious island was all about. I must admit I wasn't very impressed upon first inspection. The lot was overgrown with mangrove trees and Australian Pine that had been introduced to the area by John Ringling of circus fame. Sarasota, Florida just down the Sarasota Bay a few miles was the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. John Ringling was something of a land developer and had brought the trees to the area because they consumed lots of water from the swamps and created land mass. Downside is they have shallow root systems and blow over easily in storms.

The lot on the island, Jewfish Key is the name, although some want to call it the more politically correct Goliath Grouper Key, was for sale by a couple who had owned it for 10 years and had had it on the market for 2 of those years. They were only asking a few thousand more for it than they had paid, and I just couldn't pass it up. Jewfish Key became my Paradise Found....or as we refer to it, Paradise with Bugs.

The next year was spent dreaming and arguing about what type of house to build on this lot. We visited one of the other homes on the island, a rustic home built by its owner who was also the developer of the island. There are only 4 homes on this 26 acre island. It was divided into 13 1 acre lots with the back 13 acres set aside as a nature preserve. I liked the rustic home but my wife had something altogether different in her mind. By Christmas vacation we had arranged to meet with a noted builder in the area to discuss construction of a home on the lot. The builder informed us that if we could ever agree on what type of home we wanted it would take a year and a half to build it since there is no bridge to the island and he would have to ferry materials and labor to the island.

We left this meeting a bit discouraged but set out the next day to do some clearing and maintenance on the lot. While there I mentioned to my wife that the house on the next lot to the south was for sale and maybe we could call a realtor and visit it for ideas. The call was placed and we met the realtor at the appointed time. We had never been on the lot much less into the house. Getting in would have been difficult as there was a locked iron gate at the entrance to the spiral staircase leading upstairs to the house. This house was built by an architect named Bill Piper as his winter residence, and sits about 15 feet off the ground on pilings that are 16 -18 inches in diameter. It is built as three separate buildings connected by a covered walkway.

As my wife and I walked into the house my jaw dropped and we looked at each other. It was my dream house that I had never dreamed of and we had found a home that we could both finally agree on. Miracles never cease! I won't continue to bore you with details of this awesome house. You can see many of the details at . We rent our home for vacation rental when we're not there. It has 4 bedrooms and accomodates 15 - 20 people. Its perfect for family reunions, groups, weddings, and pure relaxation.

Now I'm sure Bill Piper would love to still be living in his creation, but he had passed away 2 years earlier. Too bad, I'd have liked to have met him. His wife lives on a little farm in Michigan and never cared for Florida or Bill Pipers winter home. It was only a liability to her with constant maintenance and landscaping expenses and she had kept it on the market for the past two years. We learned that a German couple had signed a contract on the house at about the 1 year point only to back out of the sale the day before closing. Seemed the wife didn't want to live on an island. After a bit of research we discovered the selling price that had been agreed upon. I got this crazy idea of making the woman a much lower offer, and she took it. Oh Boy! I mean oh boy now I have a home in Raleigh, North Carolina, a lot and a home on an island in Florida....what am I going to do. We placed the lot and the home in North Carolina on the market and both sold in about three months.

The next chapter is Life on an island, burried treasure, and living the Robinson Crusoe lifestyle.



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    • profile image

      T. Kennedy 

      6 years ago

      I saw your house for the first time in Feb. of this year while taking a boat trip for a couple of hours while on Anna Maria Island....I LOVE IT!!!! How lucky are you! What do you rent if for in late Sept, Oct, or Nov.????

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hi, i read ur story and i have a good friend of mine that lives right across from u, there a crazy story that always stuck in my head about that house that i heard numorus people talk about, in the 70s there was a big drug bust by the myaka gold family and i heard that they had marijuana plants all around the hous and they set it on fire and the whole bradenton was high 4 3 months, well theres more to the store but i only know a few detail ,take care and enjoy y dream home,,lol. bradenton is my favorite place on earth

    • Florida Keys profile imageAUTHOR

      Florida Keys 

      9 years ago from Jewfish Key Florida

      Thanks Dolores...this Key is just below Tampa on the West coast of Florida...My paradise.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      i'm enjoying your real estate stories...the keys are such a beautiful place, tho i haven't been down there in years


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