Then and Now — 1938 & 2022 — 725 16th Ave No. (Crescent Lake)
From 1938: “Four bedroom home overlooking Crescent Lake. Has a nice living room, dining room and a sun room. It has a full bath and 2 half baths, oak floors throughout. 2 car garage. Nicely landscaped home on a wide street.”
This home was built in 1937 by Fred and Hattie Balch. Frederick Valores Balch was born February 1859 in Dryden Michigan. After attending local schools Fred began his adult life in farming. In 1886 Fred married Ms. Harriett “Hattie” Gillings and the couple had one daughter Harriett Fredericka born 1902.
Fred’s farm was a success and by 1910 they had enough money to start spending their winters in St. Pete.
Their daughter, who went by the name ‘Freddie’ started attending St. Pete High in 1910 and was in the graduating class of 1921. She was quite an accomplished violinist and played professionally here. By 1925 Fred and his family had retired from farming and moved permanently to St. Pete. Fred and his wife started speculating in land and real estate here and in 1937 purchased this lot in the Crescent Lake section and contracted for a bungalow to be built on the property. The construction was completed and house was put up for sale. The first purchasers of the new home were Mr. and Mrs. Truman E. Leeper. Truman was a local realtor who had just listed this new house, unbeknownst to his wife Marie. The times printed a short retelling of how the Leeper’s came to purchase the house. Here it is from 1938, “The value of illustrated advertising was brought directly home to Truman Leeper, local realtor, when Mrs. Leeper was attracted by the design of the home she saw illustrated in a recent issue of the Sunday Times. Without looking further than at the picture, she agreed that it exactly met her idea of an ideal home and passed the paper over to her husband for confirmation of her judgement. “But my dear”, Mr. Leeper insisted, “That’s the house I am advertising.” “I didn’t notice that” returned the wife, “but regardless of that , I still believe it’s an ideal house.” “Sure you are not kidding?” replied the surprised husband. When the realtor was convinced his wife really was in earnest, he arranged to show her the house, and later purchased it (from the Balch’s).”
Hattie Balch died a year after the sale of this house, on March 20, 1939 at the age of 77 and was buried in Royal Palm South Cemetery in St. Pete. Sadly, their daughter ‘Freddie’ died in 1941 at the age of 39 following a short illness. She was laid to rest next to her mother at Royal Palm Cemetery. Fred lived to be 91 years old and passed away on December 2, 1950. He joined his wife and daughter at Royal Palm Cemetery.
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