Bradenton residents hope to save historic Covington House

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Efforts to restore a historic Bradenton home have been renewed. The Covington House was built in 1911 in what was a segregated African-American community. Today, it's one of the only properties from that community that's still standing.

"It is the oldest African-American-built structures in Manatee County," says Rodney Jones with the nonprofit organization Front Porch, an agency formed to help restore historic properties. "It was actually built by a gentleman name Charlie Covington. It was built by hand by him and his sons."

 

Charlie was a renowned carpenter, and in the early 1900s his skills were highly valued by those in both the white and black communities. And he cut no corners when building his own home -- the two-story, nine-bedroom home was the first of its kind to be built in a predominantly black area.

It addition to its historic significance, Cathy Slasser with the Manatee County Historical Resources Department says the home is also an architectural gem.

"All of the beautiful detailing that's on the house is very Victorian -- a lot of ginger bread work, all that intricate wood work that's on it, little pretty cutouts of wood,” Slasser says. “The porches had banisters and railings that were all detailed."

Slasser says the home's features go on, but over the years the structure has deteriorated

"It’s just been falling apart of time," she says.

But it’s not just the building that’s causing concern. The 100-plus-year-old grand oak in front of the home is now undermining the property’s foundation. It’s a problem that has resulted in a hefty restoration cost.

"With actually picking the house up and moving it to the back of the property to get away from the grand oak, it’s probably [going to] be close to a half a million dollars," Jones says.

Work to restore the property began in 2007, but money to support the project has been hard to come by.

"We actually wrote a grant to the Department of State, but didn't get the dollars because that was the beginning of the market crash and the Great Recession,” Jones says. “Historic preservation dollars became what they call non-essential, and so it was very difficult to get any dollars to advance the project."

Recently the city of Bradenton has said they will come through and help monetarily, but no set plan has been made.