Siesta Key couple leaving home they turned into a park showplace


Behind the privacy wall of an elegant and serene waterfront house on 1.11 acres of Siesta Key echoes a reminder of the real estate depression. The home of Franklyn and Rodger Skidmore, which they expanded from a 900-square-foot wooden cottage to a 3,700-square-foot retreat, tastefully decorated without an ounce of pretension, is on the market at $1,995,000. Premier Sotheby’s Realtor Barbara Mei, a friend of the Skidmores, has a deadline to meet in her efforts to sell the property: Nov. 17.




If she can’t sell it, the property, five lots wide, will be auctioned to satisfy a foreclosure judgment.

skid2Even more unusual is that title to the five lots, assembled between 1969 and 1972 for $36,000 by author Joy Williams, has deed restrictions: The lots can’t be sold off individually, and the southern portion of the property, dominated by banyans and ferns, is a conservation easement.

In 1999, Rodger and Franklyn Skidmore happily accepted these terms when they purchased the land, which includes a tiny and quaint guest cottage that would make an ideal writer’s retreat, for $425,000.

“It took eight months to find the right buyer,” Williams wrote in an essay about her personal paradise, titled “One Acre: On devaluing real estate to keep land priceless,” in the February 2001 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Realtors told Williams that she was leaving up to $200,000 on the table by insisting on a preservation clause in the sale contract.

But she was undeterred. “The ideal new owners eventually appeared,” she wrote, “and they had no problem with the contract between themselves and the land. I had changed no hearts or minds by my attitude or actions; I had simply found —or my baffled but determined Realtors had — people of my persuasion, people who had a land ethic, too. . . . And here was this enchanted acre.”

A third stipulation was that the new owners not build a mansion on the property. Instead, Rodger Skidmore, a retired engineer, designed an addition that “encapsulates” the original cottage, with plenty of input from his wife, a former professional opera singer who loves to play her beautiful, Hamburg-made, 1921 Steinway Model O piano in the living room.

One way or the other, the Skidmores intend to move to the mainland to be near their daughter and grandchild, who will soon be moving to the Sarasota region.

“She needs babysitters she can trust,” said Rodger Skidmore, who added that he said he ran into trouble when a real estate investment went bad.
“I loaned some money to someone who was building a house,” said Rodger. “He was running out of money and made it more attractive that perhaps he should have. He completed the house, but then the bottom dropped out of the market and he couldn’t sell it for what he wanted; he got enough money to pay off the bank, but not me.

“I was out $375,000. I borrowed money and tried to recoup, and everything fell apart. It was bad timing. I can’t blame anybody.”

It is obvious the Skidmores will miss their home, which expanded to its current size in a project that was completed in 2004.

“We lived in it as it was for awhile as we figured out what we wanted to do,” said Rodger. “It took a while to draw up the plans and decide how we wanted to live.”

The home has plenty of touches often seen in houses designed by architects. Windows are strategically placed to capitalize on views of Heron Lagoon and the lush landscape. From several north-facing windows, the couple can see tall bamboo that noisily sway together in the steady breeze from the bayou.

“The first night we were here,” recalled Franklyn, in a gentle North Carolina accent, “we couldn’t figure out what that noise was.”

To avoid wasted space, Rodger tucked storage pantries beneath the staircase. Next to the bannister, a void was filled with drawers for Franklyn’s sheet music; the drawers double as seats.

He applied the same idea on the rooftop sun deck, where conduits for air-conditioning ductwork do double duty as benches.

“We’ve had 75 people up here for parties,” said Rodger, who possesses a unique sense of humor. In giving a tour, he repeatedly ribbed himself for being too detail-oriented in the house’s design.
The sun deck has a view of Heron Lagoon, a waterway that is all but private for those who live on it, both on Midnight Pass Road and the beachfront Sanderling Club across the way. There is no boat access from the Gulf or bay. Culverts that drain to Little Sarasota Bay keep the lagoon refreshed.

While most of the main rooms in the house have a view of the lagoon, the Skidmores prefer to enjoy the breezes and view from their dock, from which they launch their kayaks.

“People say, ‘If I lived here, I would never want to leave,’ ” said Franklyn. “I must say, when I come in the gate, it is so much cooler, so fresh and beautiful.”

The Skidmores have resisted their lender’s efforts to take the house. “The value has been increasing over the past couple of years,” said Rodger. “We would rather get that increase than give it to the bank. We believe it has reached the amount where we can pay what we owe in full and have enough money left over to get a more modest place.

“Plus, with the market continuing to improve, it is a winning situation for us, the bank and the future owner.”

The listing is marketed at

The Skidmores have a philosophical view of leaving what many people would consider a dream home.

“We have lived in New York, in a rent-controlled apartment on West 79th with a view of Central Park and the World Trade Center under construction,” said Rodger. “We never wanted to leave that. We moved over to Montclair, N.J., in a Victorian house that was built in 1888. Then we moved to Brussels (Belgium), then we moved to Atlanta in a Tara-type house with columns, then we built a house across the street. Then we moved here.

“They were all beautiful places you would never want to leave. When we go to a new place, we make it our own. Wherever we go, it is going to be beautiful and we won’t want to leave.”

They are dedicated to Sarasota.

“I wouldn’t move anywhere else. I wish I had known about Sarasota 40 years ago,” said Rodger, “because it is paradise. We are living in a jungle, yet in Sarasota proper, there is so much to do — the theater, the opera, the food, Burns Court, Season of Sculpture.”

“The sunsets. Myakka State Park,” added Franklyn.

Just like her backyard.


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: July 5, 2014
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