Historic Kenwood’s brick roads were bustling on November 5, when the bastion of art and architecture opened its doors to the residents of St. Pete and beyond during the 18th Annual BungalowFest. Showcasing the classical styles for which Kenwood is known, more than a dozen homes were put on display, ranging from a more contemporary 2014 craftsman bungalow to a beautifully preserved, missionstyle apartment building dating back to 1925.
Alongside the breathtaking collection of antique residences was art of a different variety. The neighborhood is an Artist Enclave, where in-home studios may host yoga classes, create jewelry or sell paintings. Many homeowners along the tour proudly displayed their craft, and two exhibits were created for displaying Kenwood’s creations. Above any historical, cultural or artistic significance, BungalowFest allowed the heart of the community to shine. Ask any resident, and they’ll tell you how warm, accommodating and friendly Kenwood is. David Boettcher, the proud owner of a 1932 bungalow, put it best: “Kenwood really is a welcoming, front porch, close-knit sort of neighborhood.”
Seminole Park, which served as the hub of Bungalow Fest, is a town square of sorts. The block-wide park is the starting point of the festival, where attendees are provided with a pamphlet introducing them to Historic Kenwood, giving a brief synopsis of each home on display, and providing a map for the tour. From here, the 1.5-mile route could be walked, or city trolleys were available. Before embarking, those seeking a challenge were invited to participate in the BungalowFest Scavenger Hunt, where common items emblazoned with the Kenwood logo had to be spotted within the homes in order to win a basket of rum, gift certificates to explore Grand Central, or an original piece of clay art by a local artist.
Once on the tour, the homes were ordered purposefully, starting sightseers with a series of stunningly maintained bungalows, all of which predate 1933. Diversity then took center stage, with a Georgian colonialstyle 1946 home, a breathtaking example of Spanish mission architecture from 1924, and even a 1920s mission-style apartment complex, which had been saved from demolition. Such variety of building design is indicative of Kenwood’s rich history. The Kearneys, who took the time to fully redesign a 1928 bungalow, recalled, “It’s come a long way. Kenwood used to be a block-by-block deal, nothing like what it is now, but even then we fell in love with it.”
A few homes along the tour contained studios and artistic workshops, which were completely open to the public, and two separate stops were solely dedicated to showcasing the art of Kenwood. These exhibits contained the work of 22 artists, both local and nationally recognized, whose specialties varied from sculpture, to stained glass, to photography and mosaics. The media found here was for more than admiring, as most items were offered for sale to support the thriving local art scene. Sightseeing, however, wasn’t confined to just the specified homes and exhibits. Beauty pervades the entirety of Kenwood, and the astute were rewarded with a deeper look into its culture and past. Every street held its own unique mix of architectural styles, ornate lawn and garden arrangements, or nugget of history waiting to be discovered.
A neighborhood so diverse, artistic and friendly wouldn’t be complete without the Grand Central District, Kenwood’s very own shopping and dining community. One of 40 Florida Main Street communities, the District was designated in 2001 for the purpose of economic revitalization, and has since grown to be the home of breweries, art galleries, antique shops and restaurants. Patrons of BungalowFest were provided with an assortment of dining options within a stone’s throw of the tour, such as Urban Brew and BBQ, Casita Taqueria or Old Key West Bar & Grill. The galleries and shops along the Grand Central District also share the same flavor as their neighboring community, as many of them are locally owned and operated.
Historic Kenwood’s 18th Annual BungalowFest was truly a celebration of a community’s civic pride. Brenda Gordon and Julie Longstreth, the chairs of the festival, and their neighbors wish to share the unique beauty of their neighborhood with the greater St. Pete community. Of this one-of-a-kind event, Ms. Gordon said, “The eclectic art scene, opportunity to open home studios, and the innovation behind working around preservation and unique challenges is what BungalowFest is about. We have a tremendous amount of pride in this neighborhood, and want nothing more than to share it with others.”