Then and Now — 1930 & 2021 — 435 17th Ave NE
From 1930: “Because the owner’s business (he is an interior decorating contractor from Michigan) demands his presence there now, he has decided to sell this house immediately for the ridiculously low price of $18,000. (This is positively the rock bottom figure and the owner reserves the right to advance the price if not sold quickly). Three bona fide cash offers of $25,000 were refused last winter because owner expected to return to Florida. This is a golden opportunity for a discriminating buyer.”
“The location is of the finest — a full sized lot beautifully landscaped. The house faces south and has an all-over glazed green tile roof; select in-laid oak floors throughout. Bedroom and bath downstairs; master bedroom and two others upstairs; unusually large cedar closet, and a full sized attic for storage and ventilation.”
“Two car garage is finished in replica of the house and contains added quarters consisting of two bedrooms, bath and kitchen, furnished. Sold by Harry A. Ford, Realtor.”
This was the onset of the great depression and house prices were beginning to plummet — as can be seen in this Ad.
This home was sold by Mr. & Mrs. C.C. Vosberg in 1930 (who took out this Ad in the paper) to Robert and Helen Roberts who had just moved to the area from Milwaukee Wisconsin. Robert had retired from a manufacturing business and was now planning on spending his winters in St. Pete.
Robert, who left a farm with only $20 when he was 21, later became the owner of a multi-million dollar business in Milwaukee. Robert’s interest in farm machinery led him to a job as a mechanic. From 1903 – 1919 he worked as a steel salesman and began buying stock in the Milwaukee Forge and Machine Company. When he quit his job as a salesman he owned 80% of the stock. As owner of the huge plant, he ignored the comfortable office chair and spent most of his time in the shop trying out new ideas for improving the products.
After retiring and purchasing this home, Robert and Helen settled into a life of leisure and civic activity. Robert was an avid fisherman and spent much of his time on the gulf and bay enjoying the ample fish that the area was known for. He was also well-known for renting the Goodyear Blimp out of Albert Whitted airfield to spot schools of fish before he went out in the the boat. Helen spent her time gardening and soon became active in the St. Pete Garden Club. She also became president of the St. Pete Women’s Club. Over the span of her 94 years Helen became known as one of the most philanthropic people in St. Pete and was extremely supportive of the arts and music. A book could be written about her and her loving support of music and the arts in St. Pete. In 1959 Helen was named “Woman of the Year” and was also named “Outstanding citizen” twice, once in 1962 and again in 1967. Helen was memorialized in the city when the “Robert’s Youth Center” was named after her, as was the “Roberts Music Center” at Eckerd College and the “Roberts Swimming Pool at Northeast High School. The gift shop at St. Anthony’s hospital was dedicated to her.
Robert and Helen lived in this house on 17th Ave NE until 1940 when they moved into their new home at 515 Brightwaters Dr.
Robert died on August 27, 1950 and Helen on September 3, 1974.
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