Historical house full of love
The charming living room with a wood fireplace in this home on Indian River Drive south of Fort Pierce dates back to 1903 and the age of pineapples. Beautiful woodwork is found throughout the house.
Owners ready to part with special property after 43 years
BY GREG GARDNER | PHOTOS BY ROB DOWNEY
Ankona Acres is 5 acres of old Florida with a horse farm and riverfront lifestyle not found anywhere else on the Treasure Coast.
Originally built in 1903 on Indian River Drive, south of Fort Pierce, as the main home for a pineapple plantation, the home has been expanded several times from the original cross-ventilation design that captured sea breezes in pre-air conditioned days. The 4,000-square-foot main house has survived a raging brush fire and a banyan tree that crashed through the roof during one of the 2004 hurricanes.
The property was purchased by the Ankeny family, who grew pineapples from 1873 to 1943. That is where the community’s name, Ankona, comes from. The Hardwick family bought the property for $2,000 in 1943 and the addition of brick pathways included in the botanical garden are still in use today.
THE PIOWATY FAMILY PERIOD
The third owners, Deborah and Jim Piowaty, purchased the home in 1972 and began remodeling. Jim, a citrus grower, began adding to the existing botanical garden. The porch to the south was enclosed and today serves as the main dining room. The Piowatys first rewired the house and then remodeled the master bedroom and guest room on the north side two-story, Tudor-styled addition.
Built of Dade County pine, the main house has a unique double staircase as you come in the front door. Upstairs is the original master bedroom, a second bedroom and one bathroom. When the home was built, there was no plumbing and people used chamber pots. The home has been completely rewired and there is central AC throughout coming from three zone units.
When the home was built, the trend of the day was to slightly detach the kitchen from the main house. In the event of a fire, the kitchen cookhouse could be dragged away and save the home from burning. The Piowaty kitchen has been expanded out with all new appliances and connects to a cute sewing/laundry room with custom cabinets. With a six-burner stove, three people can cook at the same time.
The home features handcrafted 1920s-era built-in shelves throughout while three attics provide additional storage. A guest house is behind the lush gardens. The remaining three-plus acres next to the Savannas Preserve State Park is devoted to equestrian activities, with a two-stall barn, paddocks, stable, 90-foot-round pen and irrigated pasture.
From the front door, it takes 30 seconds to walk down to the dock with covered boathouse. In the 1980s, Deborah Piowaty designed the beautiful “sexy amoeba”-shaped pool with diving board. In one corner are two grooves where a piece of Plexiglas slides in to create a hot tub.
THE PARTY PLACE
“There have been some parties around this pool,” says Piowatys’ daughter, Kathleen Fredrick, the youngest of four children. “For one Fourth of July party, [we] actually hired a lifeguard and borrowed the lifeguard stand from Archie’s so the children would be safe while the parents enjoyed themselves.”
Ankona Acres has been host to “countless” charity events and parties. More than 250 people attended Kathleen and Greg Fredrick’s wedding reception on the property. The botanical gardens have brick pathways that wind through the tree canopy. Tropical fruit trees on the property produce oranges, passion fruit, mangos, avocados, star fruit, ackee, figs, bananas and kumquats.
Fredrick, executive director of the A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery in Fort Pierce, has many fond memories of growing up in the home. “We fished to entertain ourselves and we fully used the (Indian) River,” she says. When they were first married, the Fredricks lived on a 46-foot boat tied up at the dock.
Ankona Acres was the best place ever to play hide-and-seek, with all of its attics and storage closets under stairs, Fredrick says. During one game, she found a suitcase stuffed in the deep, dark depths of a crawl space. “We were sure it was buried treasure and we couldn’t wait to open it,” she says. “It was a traveling salesman’s display case with pens and glasses. It was incredibly cool.”
In the early 1990s, a brush fire that started in the Savannas spread to the property and was threatening both the guesthouse and the main house. With permission, firefighters cut the screen and used pool water to fight the fire. “The guesthouse was my father’s office and there was fire on three sides,” says Fredrick. “All of a sudden there was this knight in shining armor on a yellow bulldozer. He said in this John Wayne voice, ‘You need a little help, little lady?’ He went to work and saved the guesthouse and our house.” Today, all of the tall trees have grown back and there are no signs of the fire.
As a child, Fredrick had always wanted a horse; when her daughter Corinne was born, it was only a matter of time. In 2004, the back acreage was cleared and fenced, the barn restored and irrigation installed for the pasture. At age 25, Corinne has won hundreds of horse competitions.
“When I was born, the dream came true for both of us,” says Corinne Fredrick. “I have been riding since I was 5 years old and competing since I was 9. This is a nice place to train a horse and it was built to meet any equestrian’s needs. I was fortunate to have my own facility to practice what I learned from some fabulous trainers. We improved the soil to give the horses better footing. We have lights so you can ride at night in the summertime when it is cooler.
“It taught me accountability and responsibility. Taking care of the horses always comes before my needs. That includes maintaining the fences and cleaning the watering troughs.”
RIGHT HOUSE, RIGHT TIME
Matriarch Deborah Piowaty enjoyed 43 years raising her children with the Indian River out front and the Savannas in the back. “This is a family house that is full of love,” she says. “It expands and contracts depending on the number of family members. We have had 16 people eating together in the dining room. It has a great kitchen and a great pool.”
Piowaty remembers when her son came home from college with friends and they set out for the Savannas to bring back a Christmas tree. “We tried not to laugh,” she says. “We had to clear out a whole room. It looked like a giant teapot.”
The upstairs “angel’s room” was the favorite for grandchildren, since they always felt safe going to sleep surrounded by angels. Throughout the house are antiques, including the hanging lamp in the kitchen. Nicely complementing the wood throughout the home are antique furniture and furnishings, including a table made from a butter churn, supporting a lamp made from a different butter churn.
When Greg Fredrick died suddenly almost two years ago, his wife of 27 years, Kathleen, realized she could not take care of her parents and the house by herself. Karen Cashen and Hoyt C. “Pat” Murphy, of Coldwell Banker Paradise Real Estate, have listed Ankona Acres for sale at $685,000.
“This house is a unique slice of Florida coastal history built when people went to town by boat,” says Fredrick. “It is too much house for one person. It is crying out for a family.”