Published: Aug 01, 2011 9:26 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 01, 2011 4:30 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.- A historic home goes up in flames. The Fort Myers house, belonging to a one-time mayoral candidate is now deemed a total loss.

The fire broke out last night at the home on the corner of Tarpon Street and Seminole Avenue.

Fire investigators are trying to determine the exact cause of the fire.

"It's one of the oldest houses in Fort Myers. The Langfords built the house," said neighbor Betty Hutto.

Derrell Gardner, the owner of the home, tells WINK News he had cut off all electricity to the home, except to the porch light and that's where fire investigators believe the blaze first started.

"It breaks my heart," Gardner said over the phone from Tennessee. "The only way to see a house with that much history. you'd have to go all the way to Saint Augustine."

Our WINK News skycam captured the smoke as it billowed into the Fort Myers evening sky Sunday night.

The county property appraiser lists the home as being built in 1920, but Gardner tells WINK News the wooden home actually built in 1854.

Gardner ran for mayor of Fort Myers in 2009.

Outside of the political arena, neighbors and friends say he loved working on the house.

     "when he got here the house was in shambles. he basically built that house."
     "he was proud of what he'd done. he's a carpenter. he's a good one. he can make furniture and stuff like that."

"When he got here the house was in shambles. He basically built that house," said family friend John Breem, who was checking on the property and locking up Monday morning.

"He was proud of what he'd done," explained neighbor Dot Smith. "He's a carpenter. He's a good one. He can make furniture and stuff like that."

Dot Smith's family has lived in a house just down the street from 1001 Tarpon St. since 1924. She's sad to see the familiar home ruined, but she's relieved the family who lives there was spared.


"Thank goodness they weren't here, because if they were here, I don't know what would have happened."



Mr. and Mrs. Gardner purchased the home about 9 years ago and Mr. Gardner has been making improvements to it ever since. The deputy battallion chief said they won't rule on a cause of the fire until they get more information from the homeonwer.

Gardner says he's had some issues with people jumping over his fence and stealing his property, but he doesn't know if that's related.

Neighbors in the area say they will remain vigilant.