Historic Homes tour, 2014


The tour is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 2, in the Washington Park section of Sarasota's Laurel Park neighborhood, on Oak Street and Madison Court, west of Washington Blvd.

Parking and ticket information: Free parking will be available at the Crissy Galleries, 640 S. Washington Blvd., and at the Friendship Center at 1899 Brother Geenen Way, Sarasota. Tickets may be purchased for a donation of $20, on the webpage historicsarasota.org , onsite the day of the tour, or in advance at the following locations:

  • Historic Spanish Point - 337 N. Tamiami Trail, Osprey
  • Davidson Drugs -1281 S. Tamiami Trail, 5124 Ocean Blvd., and 6595 Midnight Pass Road
  • Sarasota Architectural Salvage - 1093 Central Ave.
  • Sarasota County Visitor Information Center - 701 N. Tamiami Trail
  • Main Street Traders - 1468 Main St.
  • Gateway Bank - 1100 S. Tamiami Trail
  • Sarasota County Historical Society - 1260 12th St.



Ninety years ago, Florida’s real estate market was really starting to percolate. The prosperity that followed World War I dovetailed nicely with the popularization of the motorcar, the development of a highway system and the refinement of advertising and marketing to create a perfect storm of investment.




Northerners flush with cash and dreaming of a place in the sun saw Florida as the perfect place to become rich by transacting real estate. Many did, buying land with a small “binder” and turning handsome profits upon quick resale, but few had the sense to quit while they were ahead. In 1926, as the market crashed, their Model-T Fords formed a long black ribbon on U.S. 1 heading north from Miami.

historyoneBut the Great Florida Land Boom created more than paper wealth and real destitution. It also created a modern state with thousands of new buildings and houses. It is said that Florida built decades’ worth of housing stock in just three or four years of boom.

One collection of such houses was built in the Owen Burns-developed Washington Park section of Laurel Park, on the south side of downtown Sarasota. It is there that the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation will hold its 24th Historic Homes Tour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 2. Tickets are $20. The tour will feature nine houses, one of them just two years old, and a 1960 single-story office building on Orange Avenue. It is being refurbished by the Center for Architecture Sarasota for use by the University of Florida’s architecture school and its CityLab-Sarasota master’s degree program.

The cornerstone of the tour is the Kennedy House, at 1876 Oak St., designed by noted New York society architect Dwight James Baum. Across the street is a house designed, and briefly lived in, by Thomas Reed Martin, the city’s other prominent architect of the day.

But while Baum did fewer than 20 buildings and houses, including the county courthouse, in Sarasota, Martin worked here from 1910 until his death in the late 1940s and designed about 500 structures.

historytwoLaurel Park was something of the Lakewood Ranch of its day — a highly desired subdivision that even then was considered close to downtown.

While Madison and other side streets had more modest houses, Oak Street was the prestigious road. “It was marketed toward attorneys and judges, and many of the early owners were lawyers,” said tour co-chairman Ron McCarty, curator and keeper of Cá d’Zan, the John and Mable Ringling mansion, which also was designed by Baum after John Ringling put aside early plans by Martin.

“Live close to the courthouse,” the advertisements read.

The Kennedy House is named for an optometrist who owned it from 1936-46. Its first resident was Henry R. Williford, John Ringling’s attorney from 1925-36, and later a district attorney. Judge Paul Albritton rented the house from 1933-36.

The house is known as Casa del Palo Grande, or “House of the Big Stick,” perhaps because the state’s second-oldest Cuban laurel tree, a gift from Thomas Edison, dominates the backyard.

The House of the Big Stick is now owned by Kelly Franklin and Ron Kashden, who bought it in December 2011. They have lived in it for a year.

The house had been renovated over the years, but Franklin and Kashden redid the kitchen and the bathrooms before they moved in.

“I felt like Murphy Brown after awhile,” said Kelly Franklin, referring to the TV sitcom character whose philosophy-spouting house painter was almost a member of the family. “For three months, there was always someone here, and the last guy was here forever.”

Kelly Franklin was attracted to the house because of its architecture and its walled landscape, which is something of a botanical wonderland.

“It was beautiful, and we saw potential in it,” she said. “We planned to have it as a winter home, as my husband’s business is still up north. But when I came down, my dad was sick and living on the property, and we had to relocate. Now we live here year-round, and it is not so bad.

“I grew up in Bradenton, but we didn’t get to Sarasota much, so I didn’t know how fabulous the location was,” Franklin said. “I run over the bridge every morning. I go down and play tennis at Payne Park. We walk to Main Street. I can get rid of my car. I feel like I’m in New York again, except a beautiful New York.”

Walking is what tour-goers will be able to do. Homes on the tour, which are within a neighborhood that is on the National Register of Historic Places, are a few doors from each other; the CityLab property is within driving distance.

“Last year was a walkable tour,” said tour co-chairman Joyce Hart, “and this one will be, too.” More than 1,200 people attended the 2013 history tour.

“For them to want to come to a neighborhood, they want to have some aspect of history,” said McCarty. “Cá d’Zan had 400,000 visitors last year, so people are interested in history.”

McCarty went so far as to say that the Ringling family history draws more interest than the art collection in the John and Mable Ringling museum.

“It is the story that they want, and it is the same with a neighborhood like this,” he said. “There are interesting historic neighborhoods, and people want to know about them.”

Franklin does not mind the prospect of hundreds of people wearing blue paper booties, sneaking peeks inside her closets.

“I am going to be out of town that day,” said Franklin. “It would be weird to see people walking through my house. I live here. It is a privilege, but I live here. That part feels a little odd.

“But a lot of artistry has gone into this house, from the architecture to the garden design. And art shouldn’t be enjoyed only by one.”


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: February 25, 2014
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