A bit of country

Bruce Pitzer and his wife, Lidis Cuenca de Pitzer, at their home on 47th Street near Bay Shore Road in Sarasota. The secluded property, nearly an acre in size, has two cottages, one from the 1930s, and is for sale. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 3-7-2014.

Bruce Pitzer and his wife, Lidis Cuenca de Pitzer, at their home on 47th Street near Bay Shore Road in Sarasota. The secluded property, nearly an acre in size, has two cottages, one from the 1930s, and is for sale. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 3-7-2014.

Sprinkled around north Sarasota, in the shadows of the mansions on Sarasota Bay, are a number of large lots with vintage homes.

Heavily treed, these estate-sized lots in the Indian Beach subdivision lend the flavor of country living to one of the oldest parts of the city.


One such parcel, 0.85 acres in size, has a 1933 cottage and a second cottage designed as a home office in 1992 by architect George Merlin for the owner, retired aviation attorney Bruce Pitzer and his wife, Venezuelan-born lawyer Lidis Cuenca Gonzales de Pitzer.

Pitzer has owned the property for 26 years.

“It’s like Arcadia, but just two blocks south of the Ringling Museum,” he says.

Pitzer should know. He once wanted to live in Arcadia, but his wife at the time talked him out of it. He settled on Venice, where he learned to fly several classifications of aircraft.

Disenchanted with American politics, Pitzer, who once ran for the Sarasota County Commission on a controlled-growth platform (he supported a proposed two-year building moratorium that was defeated), wants to live full-time at his hillside home at 7,200 feet near Medellin, Colombia.

“I am a liberal, and I always have been,” said Pitzer, who is upset by the Tea Party, Florida’s political leaders and laws like “stand your ground.”

So he has put his modest but roomy 47th Street property on the market at $698,000 through Jeff Weller of Michael Saunders & Co.

“I am ready for a change,” said Pitzer. “I am here to get a visa and a new lawnmower.”

“It is an extraordinary property,” said Weller. “You rarely see them come on the market.

“Lot values are coming up. We have had some interest, but older properties take a while to sell, and it takes a special buyer.

“A lot of Realtors don’t understand the museum district,” he said, adding that they are wary of noise from the nearby airport. “But it is typically older money, artists, people from the universities, interesting people. It is a real neighborhood, with people who grew up here coming back. It is a less-expensive alternative to being by the hospital.”

Weller said the market has recovered to the point where “we are starting to see some spec homes up here. We will see more redevelopment as land values rise and developers move out of their comfort zone.”

In fact, a two-lot property next door just sold for $659,000, and the new owner will build a large home on it, said Weller.

Preferring preservation

Pitzer does not want to see his property redeveloped, though. He is hoping to sell it to someone who appreciates it for what it is — a modest oasis.

Pitzer does not mind getting his hands dirty taking care of the native landscaping, including mangoes and oaks.

“If I hadn’t been a lawyer,” he said, “I would have been happy as a common laborer. I love physical labor. I have always been conservation-oriented. When I saw this place — the trees! And there was lots of privacy.

“This place requires someone who wants to work outside and not be a couch potato.”

At first, he lived in a small cottage on the property and later tore it down and replaced it with the new cottage in 1993. At the time, he had brought his mother down from up north to live in the 1933 main house. She died in 1995.

“The cottage is of cedar, inside and out,” he said. “I have never centrally air-conditioned the main house because it stays cool with so many trees, and close to the bay. There is no radon or other problem with the way both houses are built off the ground.”

Pitzer is somewhat heat-adverse, so he likes to sit on his deep porch, out of sight of his neighbors.

“I am big fan of porches, and both houses have them.”

But he likes the consistently cool temperatures at altitude in Colombia, and the demographics, even better.

“I would rather grow old among young people,” he said, “where the temps are the same year-round — 72 degrees days and 55-60 degrees at night.”

He will miss the Florida fauna found on the property, including owls and foxes.

“I have seen black and king snakes, but never a rattlesnake,” said Pitzer. “At dusk you will start to hear the Florida screech owls cooing. During late fall a great horned owl spends several days and can be heard at night.

“Raccoons can be a problem, though. They will kill opossums that occasion the property. Bald eagles used to fight with ospreys over the best perch in a great Australian pine that straddled my back lot and was cut down by the neighbor as a danger, though it had lasted through every storm the past 50 years. They still circle the property and can he heard ‘keening.’

“Squirrels are all over the place. Lots of various birds. The place is a magnet to flora and fauna.”

Pitzer bought the property in 1988 for $85,000 from Robert Benedetti, a former provost at New College. “I have been told that some years before, some hippies lived there.”

They decorated the main house with wallpaper that was adorned with images of bare-breasted women.

It has since been removed.


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: March 30, 2014
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