When Elizabeth Graham scouted locations for her hair salon and spa, the initial goal was to transform a former used car lot on Florida Avenue into a new business.
But a local historian -- the late Steve Gluckman – had a suggestion: relocate a vintage bungalow and renovate it. He knew such houses were available because the state was widening Hillsborough Avenue, and buildings had to be moved to accommodate the work.
Graham haggled with the lot’s owner for a reduced price and bought a 1908 bungalow and 1920s carriage house. She and her husband, Michael, set about the daunting job of moving and restoring the structures.
She opened Forever Beautiful Hair Salon and Day Spa at 5135 N. Florida in 2002. Next door, the former carriage house is now The Refinery restaurant.
“It’s empowering for women,” Graham said. “I worked really hard and diligently to get it. It was an enormous undertaking.”
On April 7, Graham’s hair salon and spa will be featured on the 15th Annual Seminole Heights Home Tour. It will be the first time the tour has highlighted the historical character of the neighborhood’s homes as well as two of its businesses.
The self-guided tour will have 11 stops including 10 homes and Graham’s relocated bungalow. Artist Susan Gott’s studio and her 100-year-old home also are part of the tour.
The tour begins at the restored Seminole Heights Garden Center on Central Avenue. People can drive, bicycle or hop on and off the Jolley Trolley to see the homes.
The event is sponsored by the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association. Part of the will be donated to the Francis House.
This year’s tour also ventures into historical Hampton Terrace and Southeast Seminole Heights.
The city’s Architectural Review Commission approved their plans. The commission is a volunteer board that oversees major changes to structures within the city’s historical districts.
The bungalow that became Elizabeth Graham’s salon was in poor condition. In the attic and behind the walls the couple found volumes of old newspapers -- apparently used as insulation. Plaster fell from the walls; termites had damaged the structure.
Plumbing and electrical had to be redone. The Grahams had telephone and electrical wiring placed underground even though it was expensive.
Still, the bones of the house were good. As much of the original structure as possible was kept; what had to be replaced was done with period replicas.
“I wanted to keep an antique look,” Elizabeth Graham said.
It was important to ensure the business contributes to the charm of Seminole Heights, Graham said. “I get incredible support from the neighborhood,” she said. “I’m really blessed.”