735 8th Ave So. 33701

Then and Now — 1936 & 2024 —  735 8th Ave So (Roser Park)

From 1947: “2 Bath, 4 bedrooms, steam heated. Huge living room 14 X 30 in fine bleach mahogany and tapestry, fireplace for cheer, nice floors and walls, fine den; Big Dining room in period mahogany; Kitchen-table top stove, Genuine Servel Gas refrigerator, extra big hot water heater; Breakfast room; Garage, Laundry, everything imaginable for your comfort, even linens, bedding and dishes, etc.”

This Roser Park home was built in 1920 and the first owners were John and Clara Mather.

John Hubbard Mather was born on January 15, 1847, in Savannah Georgia, the eldest of 4 children, his father was a planter and a school teacher. John was educated in Savannah, likely being one of his father’s pupils. John was 14 years old when the Civil War broke out and he and his father enlisted at the same time in Company A, Symons Georgia Reserves, they were in the artillery.

After the war, John, then 18 years old, moved to Auburn, New York where he took a position as a store clerk. During this time John began his interest in being a merchant and ultimately opened his own business in Chicago. John ran a jeweler and watchmaker supply company, but ultimately sold his business and went to work for Benjamin Allen & Co. Jewelry Suppliers in Chicago.

It was in Chicago where John met Ms. Clara May Hamilton and the couple were married on March 6, 1884. They set up housekeeping in Chicago and John continued his work in the Jewelry Supply business, moving up the ranks to manager. John and Clara had no children, so Clara kept busy with social activities in the city. Her family were Chicago pioneers coming there during the 1852 cholera outbreak. Their long-standing residence in that city afforded them a prominent place in the social structure, and Clara had many social activities to keep her occupied.

In 1909, John and Clara hired a 19 year old Swedish immigrant, Emma Pearson, as their housekeeper, she would stay with them for nearly two decades.

In 1919, John (age 72) retired and he and Clara (age 60), along with Emma (age 31), began spending their winters in St. Pete. Having seen the Roser Park subdivision and loving the surroundings, they decided to purchase this featured house in 1922. 

John and Clara enjoyed their time here in St. Pete and were active in all that the city had to offer. Unfortunately, Clara died at age 68, on April 28, 1926, and was buried in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. John survived Clara by a year and a half dying on December 17, 1927, he was 80.

What happened next caused a mild stir in St. Pete when it was discovered that John, having no heirs, left his entire estate, including this featured house, to his housekeeper, Emma. His estate in 1927 was worth $50,000, or in today’s dollars, $880,000. Emma stayed in the house for 17 years, she never married, but she did live in the house from 1935 – 1942 with Nihls Hallgren, a local Swedish immigrant who owned a flooring business. Hallgren served in WWII until his discharge in 1945. It was on July 8, 1945, that Emma Pearsson sold the house to Mrs. Jessica Wood and Mrs. Anna W. Hood.

Emma lived comfortably for the rest of her very long life, dying on May 12, 1994 at age 106.

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