Siesta Key landmark home shows owner's love


A 1928 Siesta Key landmark house that has been tenderly curated and thoroughly documented is a testament to the power of love. Anthony Micale, of New Jersey and Philadelphia, bought the property on Norsota Way in 1996 when he was riding his bike up and down scenic streets on Siesta Key.

Anthony and Lydia Micale in the living room of their 1928 heritage home on Siesta Key. The couple furnished the house with antiques, some of them family pieces such as the Victorian-era sofa. It's been in Lydia's family for more than 100 years. (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)

“I sure didn't need another house; I had four already,” said the businessman, who owns a collection of McDonald's fast food eateries, among other things. “And at the time, the place looked to me like a teardown situation.

“But a friend encouraged me to buy it as an investment because of the highly desirable waterside location. So I bought it with the idea of putting a big five-bedroom house on the half acre lot. But before I got around to it, I got divorced and lost interest.”

Then love brought it back. Micale met and married Lydia in 2001. Their wedding took place at the Powel Crosley mansion, built for the industrialist and inventor by George Freeman, who also was the builder/architect of Micale's Siesta Key house at 707 Norsota Way. That 1,200-square-foot, one-story home was built in 1928 by Freeman as a winter residence for George and Mabel Case of Chicago. They were friends of the Ringlings; Case worked for Swift & Co.

In a letter written to his wife and daughter, Marion, in 1928, George Case tells them about the progress of their barrier-island home. “The house is just a little dream, people come from town to see it. The floors are beautiful, the decorating beautiful, everything is beautiful. I can fish from our own pier . . . the weather is ideal, I never wore anything but white duck pants and shirtwaist all the time. The wonderful early mornings just got my heart and each night is so lovely I hated to go to bed. . . . And Mr. Freeman told me he enjoyed this job more than the big Crosley job.”

The updated ranch house on Norsota Way that Anthony and Lydia Micale are selling. The couple reclaimed the Old Florida look inside while adding modern conveniences. (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)

Once Tony Michale and his bride, Lydia, learned the history of the house, they reversed their decision to demolish the structure, even though they knew it would take serious time and money to save it. “We were determined to rehabilitate the property and preserve the original part of the house while adding more space and bringing in modern conveniences, such as new plumbing, electricity and moving the laundry area from outside into a space of its own inside,” he said. “Lydia's brother surprised a raccoon when he opened the washing machine when it was in the garage.”

The couple modernized and enlarged the original tiny galley kitchen and dining room while trying to maintain a vintage look. The spacious kitchen, which has a view of the bay, has granite counter tops, three dishwashers, two stoves, a large pantry and oak floors. Lydia also included a banquette for informal meals.

Additionally, the couple added a dock, seawall, garage and new tropical landscaping. They brought the house up to 3,750 square feet, making it a vacation home with four en-suite bedrooms. Kevin O'Connor was the contractor and Lydia's friend Evelisse Berio guided the interior design scheme, using many of Lydia's family antiques, as well as Victorian-era furnishings they found at Sarasota Architectural Salvage and other local stores.

Lydia Micale sold her home on Siesta Key's Point Crisp to take on the renovation project at Norsota Way with her husband. She moved to Sarasota in the 1970s; her mother, the late Coleen Brickhouse, founded the Brickhouse Academy, a private school in Sarasota serving grades 2-12. Coleen Brickhouse died in 2010.

“I was motivated to reclaim the Norsota Way house by its Old Florida charm and character,” said Lydia Micale. “It was built with such obvious joy, and it was enjoyed for so many years by people who truly appreciated the Siesta Key lifestyle, that Tony and I just felt we had to save it.

“And I loved the fact that neighbors on the street told us how happy they were to see it being revived and used again. We've certainly entertained a lot at that house. It's the perfect place for parties and for hosting out of town guests.”

Although they've loved and used their home on the water and have respected its place in Sarasota architectural history, the Micales are now ready to let someone else curate the property and become part of its history. They have listed it at $2.9 million with Michael Saunders & Co.'s Karen Chandler.

“I'm 75 years old, and although I'm not ready to retire from my business, I do want to simplify my life and I want to travel,” said Anthony Micale. “Lydia and I are going to downsize. We have a townhouse across the street from Siesta Key public beach, and that's going to be our home. Then when we have to spend weeks at a time in New Jersey or Philadelphia, or if we want to travel abroad, we don't have to think about taking care of a big vintage house. We can just lock the door and leave.”

That's the Micales' future. But they are hoping that the house on Norsota Way has a future, too, and that it won't become a teardown on a beautiful piece of island.

Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: December 12, 2012
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