She Fell in Love With Lakeland, Renovated a House and Won an Award

Karen Francis
Karen Francis

Karen Francis said she fell in love with Lakeland and a bungalow near Lake Morton when she visited from Miami a few years ago. She ended up buying the house at 801 Success Ave., and her efforts to renovate it were honored Monday night with a preservation award from Historic Lakeland Inc.

The organization‘s annual awards ceremony at the Polk Theatre honored nine homeowners and six owners of commercial property for their preservation work, mostly around downtown Lakeland, the Lake Morton district and Dixieland.

When Francis accepted her award, she said she first came to Lakeland to attend to attend a ceremony at Florida Polytechnic University at the invitation of her friend, Ava Parker, the university’s first chief executive.

After buying the 96-year-old house on Success, she thought fixing it up would be a snap. Those initial repairs, which included a rear addition and a front porch restoration, took a year and a half.

“The house is named Blessing and she has been a blessing,” Francis told the audience of about 50.

Other winners Monday night included:


Richard DeAngelis won a preservation award for the front porch addition at the Red Door Wine Market, 733 E. Palmetto St. The building across Palmetto from the Lakeland Public Library, was built as a residence in 1925 and is known as the R.N. Skipper House.

David and Heidi Campbell won a preservation award for rehab and restoration of the Boswell/Peacock Building at 230 N. Kentucky Ave. The first floor is home to Heidi Campbell’s business, The Stationery Loft. The couple created a living space for themselves on the third floor and a rooftop patio.

Robert K. Beswick Family Trust won outstanding Aachievement for work renovating the facade of the Dixieland Post Office, 1057 S. Florida Ave., built in 1948.

Chef James Lazaros and Velsan Inc. won outstanding achievement for rehab of the historic sign and compatible renovation of the 60-year-old building that currently houses La Imperial Bakery and formerly held JereCo Hardware at 830 E. Main St.

Lakeland Board of Realtors and Furr and Wegman Architects won outstanding achievement for compatible infill and new office construction for the new Realtors headquarters at 619 E. Orange St. across from Hollis Gardens.

Mark Hulbert and Jenn Neiberline of Hulbert Homes Inc. won outstanding achievement for compatible infill for the triplex the company built at 134 E. Park Ave. in Dixieland.


Tom Tankersley won a preservation award for porch restoration at the 1925 C.W. Spear House at 115 W. Highland St. “I’m thrilled to live in Lakeland and thrilled to live in Dixieland,” he said, adding that the work resulted from his wife’s vision and she is eager to display the historic preservation flag that accompanies the award.

Carolina and Jennifer Spence won a preservation award for window restoration at the 1926 Hardin House at 813 Pennsylvania Ave.

Florida Presbyterian Homes and Joe Diaz and John Hehn won a preservation award for relocating the 1925 O.W. McAllister House from 947 Lakeside Ave. to 939 S. New York Ave. and doing major renovations.

Gregory Fancelli and Albert Moore Construction won outstanding achievement for using salvaged materials and duplicating the style of the termite-ridden house torn down at 928-930 Cumberland Street when replacing it with a new duplex. “We hope to replicate it in a larger scale in the future,” Fancelli said.

Mahalo Management, Inc., W. Garvie Hall and VinCo Construction won outstanding achievement for compatible infill with their rehab of the 1949 Edwards-Rolli Duplex at 618-620 McRorie St.

Mahalo Management, Inc., W. Garvie Hall and Sam Sheets, architect won outstanding achievement for compatible infill for a new single-family attached building at 310-312 E. Park St.

Tamela Edwards and Green Construction won honorable mention for extensive repairs following Hurricane Irma to the 1920 W.P. Whitmore House at 625 W. Patterson St.

Larry and Mike Yoder won honorable mention for repainting and rehab work, including windows, at the 1926 Ethyl Payne House at 1508 Boone Place.


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