While it might look like just another Old Florida home from the outside, the house at 322 Center Street in Jupiter is anything but ordinary.
Built in 1924, today it stands as an important piece of South Florida history, a historical property once home to Eli and Essie Sims — daughter to Jupiter's first female postmaster Ethel Sims and South Florida pioneer Charlie Pierce.
And, just a few years ago, it could have met its end.
After purchasing the home in 2015, owner Ernie Fidanza was within his rights to tear down the aging property and rebuild. Instead, the New York native says he saw an opportunity to save a piece of South Florida history and turn it into something more.
"When I bought it, my goal was to make sure it didn't go into the wrong hands. I didn't want to lose a piece of Jupiter's history. I'm not just the owner. Now, I'm also the caretaker for this historical site," says Fidanza, who also owns the Art Deco-style property next door at 312 Center Street. "I didn't want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot."
Now, several yeas later, the Sims House will find its new life as a restaurant, venue, and historical landmark.
Over the past six years, Fidanza has painstakingly renovated the 2,200-square-foot 1924 property, finding it a place on the historical registry. Today, everything from the original hardwood floors and Dade County Pine wainscot paneling to the trowel-swept, birthday cake-style white stucco exterior has been lovingly restored.
Eager to share the historical legacy with others, he says he worked tirelessly with the town of Jupiter to create an ordinance for adaptive reuse of the land, allowing the home to operate as a business. Earlier this year, his efforts paid off with the passing and finalizing of an ordinance that now allows for
historical Jupiter properties like the Sims House to be zoned for mixed-use.
Beginning next month, the Center Street property — known simply as the Sims House — will open to the public as both a private venue and restaurant.
"I asked myself, 'What would be the best use for this property?' I decided on making it a venue that would allow people to take tours, enjoy the space, and celebrate special moments in their life," says Fidanza, who hopes to offer guests a chance at a unique dining experience.
Inside the former home, first-floor rooms have been transformed into intimate dining areas with space for over 200 (and 69 seated). Outside, a 10,000-square-foot outdoor patio presents additional seating options, as well as an outdoor bar where guests can mix and mingle.
The Sims House kitchen will be helmed by executive chef Francisco Landin, formerly of Tibica Grill. His tapas-themed menu will feature a mix of both signature and seasonally-inspired small plates paired with a selection of boutique wines curated by sommelier Sophie Crawford and specialty craft beer.
Dining at the Sims House will be available by reservation only. Reservations can be made by calling 561-431-4336, or emailing UniquelyJupiter@gmail.com
Moving forward, the Sims House will also be available for private gatherings and events, offering a quiet setting for guests to host everything from special occasion dinners and luncheons to corporate functions and weddings.
"It's a special place, and I truly can't wait to share this piece of history with the town of Jupiter," says Fidanza.
The Sims House. 322 Center St., Jupiter, 33458; 561-431-4336; facebook.com/simshouse1924. For reservation or event booking inquiries, call the restaurant or email UniquelyJupiter@gmail.com.