Hidden midcentury gem comes to market ...


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Unless you're a longtime Sarasota resident who knew T.T. Watson and his wife, Ede, and got invited to their parties, or unless you're a very longtime Field Club member, you are probably not aware of nearly 4 acres of bayfront property on Roland Street, and a "Sarasota school of architecture" home that sits on it.

It's private by nature of its setting, but also because it has been owned by the same family since the Watsons built their modern Sarasota dream home in 1952.

RRolandhouse12Now, the Watsons' only child, Linda-Lee Watson Myers, a physician in Carmel, Calif., is reluctantly selling the homestead because she has come to terms with the reality that she's not moving back to Sarasota and will never live in the house where she grew up. Myers inherited the property from her 92-year-old mother, who now lives in a retirement facility. Her father died in 2005.

The house, which backs up to both Cedar Cove and Little Sarasota Bay, is being offered for $3.3 million by agent Lee Ann Gladding of L.M. Gladding Co.

Gladding is a neighbor who lives just across the cove and is aware of how special the property is.

"Well, there is simply nothing else like it," she emphasized. "The amount of land, including four non-conforming lots that have been grandfathered in, a conservation easement and a mangrove island, are all extraordinary."

The modernist house still retains many "Sarasota School of Architecture" features. These include terrazzo floors, raised-hearth floating fireplace, Ocala block for the fireplace walls, clerestory windows, beam ceiling, a redwood semi-enclosed lanai, and even jalousie windows in the kitchen area.

The shell road approach to the house is long and winding full of old oaks. You can't see the house from Roland Street.

Theodore T. Watson (always called T.T.) was a contractor and built his family's home. The architect was William Thompson. Over the years, the Watsons did two additions, the last one in the 1970s. They added central air early, a dock and swimming pool later. The original house was about 1,800 square feet, but today it is a two-story home of 6,400-square feet with two master bedroom suites. In all, the house has four bedrooms with a den that could be a fifth, and four and a half baths.

"We came to Sarasota in 1951 from Ohio, rented a house and dad got his contractor's license and started building small bungalows near the area of what's now Phillippi School," recalled his daughter. "He worked with Ralph Zimmerman, among others, and with developer Harry Sudakoff he built Sands Point and the Regency House and Three Crowns. Dad also did major renovations to the courthouse and built several banks in town.

"He started building our house in 1952, and we finally moved in 1954, when I was 6. I remember the day because it was my birthday and there was a brand new bike waiting for me in my bedroom."

But it was boating that shaped Linda-Lee's life and led to her earning degrees in marine biology and medicine, which took her to Hawaii and California.

"I was fascinated by plants and creatures in the bay and all around our property," she remembered. "I pestered my parents so much about going out on our Boston Whaler that my father finally said that if I passed the Coast Guard test and got certified, I could take the boat out alone. I passed all the tests. I was 8. And off on that boat I went.

"Growing up on that land and on the water made me the scientist and the person I am today. I dragged so many living and dead specimens home I don't know how my mother put up with me. That house and the bay are part of my soul."

She has owned the house for several years and rented it out, "because I wasn't sure I could part with it. But, I know I'm not coming back to Sarasota. That land should go to another young family and another generation of children should discover the magic of growing up in this part of Florida."

The house, with its walls of sliding-glass doors and orientation to the bay, achieves the "Sarasota school" ideal of a seamless merging of indoor and outdoor Florida living.

T.T. Watson was well-known in the community and liked to use his home for big and frequent parties. Ede was known for her hostessing skills and for her talent with needlepoint and knitting. In the early days of his construction business, part of the house was T.T.'s office, where he worked with Ron Royal and and a small staff. Additionally, Watson was chairman of the board of trustees of FCCI for its first 19 years. FCCI began as a workers' compensation self-insurance fund in 1959.

Watson was also president of the city's hospital board and he was a guiding member of the Field Club. The Watson family name is part of Sarasota's history, and now the modernist house he built is being prepared for another family to imprint their own history on a hidden gem of Sarasota waterside property.


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: May 15, 2013
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