Viva Tramonta Rosa! An historic Snell Isle mansion stirs the imagination
If you’ve ever driven around Snell Isle, you know the house at 307 Brightwaters Boulevard NE. Or rather, you know its gazebo. Before being purchased from the City of St. Petersburg in 2017 by the home’s present owners, Mary and Kevin Semcken, the gazebo was a favorite public gathering spot — the first structure built on the island by developer C. Perry Snell in 1911. He went on to sell more than $7 million worth of lots to builders like S.V. Schooley, whose Italianate villas help give Snell Isle its distinctive aura.
The house at 307 Brightwaters is a Schooley creation, c. 1928, and it’s kind of magical. Less imposing (but arguably more appealing) than the iconic Snell-Bishop House a few doors down, the six-bedroom estate is known as “Villa Tramonta Rosa,” meaning “The Mansion with the Rose Sunset.” The house is perched directly across from the Coffee Pot Bayou bird preserve, affording an ever-changing vista of avian life.
“The roseate spoonbills are roosting right now!” enthused Realtor Melody Stang during my visit to the home in late March.
It’s the kind of house that stirs the imagination. The balcony — perfect spot for a proposal (or for watching rose sunsets over the St. Pete skyline). The many-windowed Florida room with a view of the bay — you could sit and read there for hours. The Mediterranean-inflected touches — tile roof, arched windows, marble fireplace — conjure an authentic period charm you can’t find in a new house.
The Semckens, who also have homes in Chicago and Colorado, looked for a place in Florida for five years before landing in St. Pete. In Tramonta Rosa, Mary found a home with the vintage pedigree she loved and something else she’d always wanted: its own dock.
Since purchasing the mansion six years ago, the owners have restored it to its original beauty, repainting the exterior a gleaming white. They also completed an $850,000 expansion in 2017 that includes a two-car garage with separate space for a golf cart, a nicely appointed guest apartment and an outdoor kitchen.
Inside the main house, the plumbing has all been redone and the double-paned windows restored, and while some restoration has yet to be completed, plans and materials are ready to go.
So why leave such a beautiful place?
“We have four sons in their 20s, and when they come here they want to go over to the beaches,” says Mary. “So we’re going to the beaches just to save on Uber.”
Plus, as co-owner of a company that distributes luxury consumer goods, she travels a lot, and maintaining a house like this one requires an owner who’s on site more often than she can always be.
“It’s a big commitment to own a feature home like this,” she says. “I really want the next owner to be somebody who loves it like I do.”
The home at 307 Brightwaters Blvd NE is being listed at $3,335,000. To view the house in person, call Melody Stang at 727-742-9299. The owners have made sure it’s safe to visit, having removed “anything that can’t be cleaned with alcohol,” says Mary Stemcken. “The house is just completely clean.”