BRADENTON BEACH – As cottages and bungalows continue to be bulldozed to make room for large-scale vacation rentals, a Welsh couple has preserved a piece of old Anna Maria Island.
The 1927 Sea Grape Cottage, at 601 Gulf Drive S., wasn’t put up on stilts, didn’t have a third floor added to it, and wasn’t torn down like the house across the street.
Instead, original interior ceiling beams were saved, and new paint, new flooring and a new metal roof were installed.
The ground-level white cottage with the wraparound porch looks much like it has for the past 95 years, only newer.
Vacation rentals, with bedrooms in the double digits and often called party houses, require people to climb stairs or use elevators and “dwarf the houses” elsewhere in the neighborhood and on the Island in general, said Helen Morris, who restored the cottage with her husband, David Morris. The couple does similar home restorations in Swansea, Wales, in the U.K. for university students to share.
“We feel the Island’s charm is being spoiled,” she said, adding that visitors who come to AMI for that charm are disappointed. “We haven’t spoiled the charm.”
The two-bedroom house was enlarged by connecting the former guest house on the property, which added two more bedrooms. The galley kitchen was refreshed with new countertops, and a dining table that came with the house was saved. Some of the knick-knacks that were in the house when the couple bought it are displayed in original built-in shelves going to the second floor.
“You can still have a beautiful house by renovating,” she said.
The couple learned about Anna Maria Island from a friend in Orlando, who recommended they come to try the seafood. They liked it, and bought a vacation rental, later deciding they wanted to restore an “old Florida” house with a porch as their next vacation rental.
When it was done, “Someone came by and said, ‘thank you,’ ” David Morris said.