Historic house auctioned for $1,000

A view of the Key House. Photo available for purchase

A view of the Key House.

David Adlerstein
Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 10:02 AM.

At a foreclosure sale on the Franklin County courthouse steps last week, a Port St. Joe man may have scooped up one of Apalachicola’s most famous historic homes for a song.

A very sweet song, indeed, sung to the tune of $1,000 for a three-story late Victorian gem adjacent to Lafayette Park valued in the neighborhood of $1 million.

No sooner was the May 16 foreclosure sale complete, and David T. Ethridge the apparently successful buyer, that attorneys for TIB Bank moved to vacate the sale on the grounds Ethridge’s $1,000 bid on a property appraised at close to $900,000 was “clearly an ‘unconscionably inadequate’ price caused solely by the mistake” of the bank’s agent, JMT Management.

Naples attorney Kelly A. Johnson, who represents the plaintiff Capital Bank, National Association, the successor by merger to TIB Bank, wrote in her objection that her client, located in Collier County “approximately 480 miles away, or 8 hours by automobile, from the Franklin County Courthouse,” retained the services of JMT Management Corporation, a foreclosure sales attendance firm, to bid on the property on the bank’s behalf.

Johnson said JMT had bid at judicial sales around the state on the bank’s behalf, and that “without exception, in all other cases, JMT Management successfully performed and completed its services.”

In this case, however, something went wrong, at least as far as the bank was concerned, with one of the city’s most famous residences and one worth considerably more than was paid by the bidder.

Built in 1894 out of heart pine and black cypress by August Mohr, superintendent of the Cypress Lumber company, the Queen Anne Style home was the work of George and John Marshall. In the late 1930's, it became the home of Margaret and Alexander Key, a well-known author and illustrator whose novels include “Island Light,” “The Wrath and the Wind,” and “Night on Witch Mountain,” later made into a Disney movie.

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