So after 2 weeks of sleeping on an AERO bed, Joe decided we needed to start looking for a house that we could operate a ligament Bed and Breakfast out of. At this point we still naïvely assumed we would continue working our jobs and somehow work the guests into the mix. I was a real estate paralegal and Joe was working for an engineering company.
There was a historic house that had been for sale for at least 3 years and it was still in our downtown historic neighborhood. We made an appointment with a realtor to see the property. At that time Orlando had restrictions on how many square feet you could operate as a business in your home. We figured we would be able to get 3 guest rooms with what the codes allowed but felt sure that at some point the restrictions would relax and we could add at least 2 more rooms. We made an offer and waited by the phone as the realtor presented our contract. She called us at 6:30PM and told us that 30 minutes earlier someone else had made an offer and it was accepted. Now remember this house had been on the market for 3 years. This happened to us at least 4 other times on our search. We would make an offer and for one reason or another someone always beat us to the finish line. It became laughable.
Every weekend we drove around looking for suitable houses. Our search kept getting farther from our desired neighborhood but we still held on to the hope of being able to continue working. I think we still believed the Bed and Breakfast was more of a hobby than a vocation. Make sure you write your dreams in pencil…
We found a house in Claremont and it really was perfect. It was completely original with a large piece of land surrounding the house, basically a blank slate. As we were walking through the house I was envisioning beautiful weddings with the bride coming down the grand staircase and the house lit with candles and soft music playing. Then we walked into the kitchen/dining area and something happened. Joe and I looked at each other and could not get out of the house fast enough. The kitchen was outdated but other than that, there was nothing that should have made us skedaddle. When we got outside, the realtor asked us what was wrong and we both had no explanation. Side Note: In October 1991, 3 months after we had finished restoring the Magnolia Plantation and probably 2 years after we had our unexplained experience at the Claremont house, we were watching a TV show on haunted houses and Joe paused the TV long enough for me to really look at the house they were talking about. It was the house we had looked at in Claremont. It seems John Harden was living in the house with his second wife and their newborn. He woke up and smelled smoke. He went through the kitchen and saw his truck on fire. Someone shot and killed him and his murder has never been solved.
But back to the story of our search; it continued and one Sunday we found ourselves at Leonardo’s 706 in Gainesville. We picked up a paper and found a Victorian for sale in the Duck Pond neighborhood. After calling the phone number listed and leaving a message, we took a drive by the house and immediately fell in love. The owner called us back the next day and that next weekend we took another drive up to Gainesville.
Gainesville has always been important to us. Joe was just starting his senior year at The University of Florida when I moved from Cleveland to be with him. We got married in Gainesville and started our lives together so we knew the student area of town but had no idea Gainesville had so much history.
We got to the house and met with the owner. While the house still had much of its original woodwork, it had been cut up into mini apartments. I kind of liked the idea of leaving it alone so every guest would have a suite.
We met a young lady who was living at the house and she was very curious about what we were planning on doing if we bought the house. Later that night we called the owner and told him we wanted to make an offer. We were planning on offering him his asking price and the only contingency would be us selling our house in Orlando. That’s how bad we wanted this house. I worked up the contract and sent the owner his copy for his signature. Nothing…a week went by and still…nothing. Finally Joe called the owner and he apologized for not getting back to us but he decided not to accept our offer. Seems the young lady who asked us so many questions was the girlfriend of River Phoenix, the actor, and she did not want to move so he offered to buy the house from the owner. River never bought the house but the young lady got to finish out her education living in the house that she loved.
Despite suffering another loss, we had decided by then that we really wanted to be in Gainesville so Joe called the City of Gainesville, and told them of our dream. He got transferred to the Economic Development officer, Thad, who told him of a historic house that had been for sale for a few years but was no longer on the market. He told us he would do some checking to see if it could be bought or if there were any other houses that would fit our needs.
Joe got a call the next day from Thad telling us the house could be bought and a realtor would be happy to show it to us on the following Sunday, which just happened to be Easter Sunday.