Contractor’s job becomes a walk down memory lane and touch of ‘divine intervention’

When local contractor David Windham received a phone call about a remodeling job in Village of the Arts, the address on 12th Street West sounded familiar.

“I drove up and about fell out of my truck,” Windham said.

The house he pulled up to at 1003 12th St. W — unbeknownst to even the new owner — had belonged to Windham’s grandparents. It was where his mother and three aunts grew up as children. The family left the home in the late 1960s.

This was Windham’s first time back to the 1924 Craftsman bungalow, soon to be a health center — the village’s newest business, owned by the husband-and-wife team of Steve Rhodes and Laura Martin. Rhodes is an acupuncturist and Martin is a certified registered nurse anesthetist. The house will become Rhodes’ place of practice and will include classes on meditation, healthy eating and healthy living.

“It’s been a really long project to get off the ground, but we are really excited,” Martin said.

The house now has a new future in store for it, but its long history to the Windham family will forever tie past and present together.

“My grandfather bought this house in the 1940s and paid $10,000,” Windham said. “He lost a lot of money in the Great Depression, and those coming out of it didn’t want any debt. So he refused to buy anything unless he could pay cash.”

The realization that Windham was about to work on his old family home drove him deep into the family photos, where he found a picture of his father, Pat, in his Air Force uniform standing next to the house.

The 1952 photo shows Pat Windham in front of the house while he was home on leave from the Korean War to visit his then-girlfriend and future wife, Patsy Brown. It cost Pat Windham $200 to fly in from France to see his young love — a lot of money back then to spend, especially for a weekend trip home.

“Fortunately, the flight back to France was delayed, so we had a few extra days together,” Pat Windham recalled, while giving Patsy a knowing glance.

Sixty-five years later, there is now a new photo of Pat standing in the same spot. David Windham used the original photo of his father to rebuild the home’s outside column, which had long been lost to time and weather.

“The best Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, cookouts I have ever had all happened right here in this house,” David Windham said. “My grandfather used to teach me woodworking in that same garage, and those skills carried on to who I am today. Getting a chance to work on the family home is a pretty exciting and unusual thing. Being able to remodel it is such a treasure. It’s something that I am really putting my heart into.”

The Brown family can be traced back to the 1880s in Manatee County. Lillie B. McDuffie, with the “B” standing for Brown, wrote the first history book about the area in 1933, called “The Lure of Manatee,” a book that many area history books refer to as a source. But it’s the history inside that 1924 bungalow that is driving Windham to create something special.

The old brick fireplace is intact, and the dark brown wooden floors are original. The double doors leading out to the garage are the same ones where Windham’s grandfather held an infant David in another family photo 61 years ago. An old concrete pad between the house and the garage contains the names of each of the four sisters etched into the corners, and it’s a pad that Windham will keep preserved.

Especially because one of the names is “Connie,” his sister who has passed away.

“She was very dear to this family. This is more than a job to me, it’s divine intervention,” Windham said. “There’s a reason why I am doing this job.”

That notion was sealed very early in the remodeling process when Windham was in the attic taking out some insulation. As he began to tear out the corner of the insulation, he found a book.

“I opened the cover and there was some writing on it that said, ‘To Connie Brown,’ from her best friend in the fourth grade,” Windham said. “That book had been there for more than 65 years. It was like she wanted me find it. I was meant to do this job.”