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You may have walked or driven by a house on Fourth Street numerous times and barely noticed it was there - half hidden behind low limerock walls that terrace the sloping yard and overgrown cabbage palms. Or, perhaps, you stopped to take a photo of the pair of adirondack chairs, swaths of ferns and pile of bleached out shells on each side of the stairs.
It is one of those houses that could go either way - photo op or you might pass right by and not look up. 750 Fourth Street - home of Luz Beckham Kraujalis and her husband, Walter.
Luz’s great-aunt Mabel and her husband, Henry Gibson, bought the house in 1921 - also the same year Mabel planted the magnolia tree in the back yard. At some point, the detached summer kitchen was moved from its spot in the back yard and attached to the house.
Rumor is that Senator David Levy Yulee built the home in 1886, for the foreman of his pencil factory that stood on G Street. Actually, it is a rumor that was substantiated by a title search that Luz and Walter had done after they bought the house from Mabel in the early 1990’s.
They rented the house out for several years, until Walter’s career allowed them to return to Cedar Key. At that point, they had the sheet rock removed that had been placed over the original bead board -- in a sad attempt to “modernize” the house. They also added central air and heat.
Luz found a piece of the original porch balusters (a fancy word for pickets) under the house and had new ones fabricated and installed on the front porch. She did indulge in some artistic license and designed brackets to go on each side of the porch posts, but in actuality, that might have been a detail seen on the house originally. The one original baluster hangs on the wall of the back porch, as a reminder of the transition that the house has undertaken for the past 125 years.
The back yard has been another place where nothing has remained static. Mabel may have had the foresight to plant the magnolia, but Luz has had the foresight to plant one or two more, knowing that one day, the original one will not be there.
What began as four little sprigs of ferns has exploded into thick borders of ferns that edge the different “outdoor rooms”. The napping area houses a tempting hammock, there is a dining area, as well as, a seating area around an outdoor fire pot.
While digging around in the back yard, they have unearthed “tons of torpedo bottles, a giant belt buckle, overall clips and a couple porcelain doll heads and arms”. Apparently, great-aunt Mabel tossed a lot of junk into the back yard - back in the day, there was no such thing as garbage pick-up service.
If it rains, the back ell-shaped porch is a place to survey the scenery and it holds the gas grill and several comfortable chairs and rockers. That ever-changing scenery…….an oak tree was recently planted and ever-moving whiskey barrels house a healthy array of vegetables and herbs. A privacy fence is going up and Luz is experimenting with outdoor curtains made of painter’s drop cloths to keep a cozy intimate feel.
The plan is to one day have a couple of little tin out-buildings that will house an office for Walter, a place for the golf cart, maybe a potting shed or guest bedroom. Until then, there is an above average chance that the plan will change at least a half dozen more times.