Modern amid the bungalows in Gillespie Park, Sarasota


When Gillespie Park — named in honor of city father John Hamilton Gillespie — was developing in the 1920s, the young city of Sarasota was in the middle of a real estate boom. It gripped the entire state, and so captivated northerners who wanted to get rich quick that Florida became the tail that wagged the national dog.


Gillespie Park subdivision, clustered around a green space that had been part of an experimental farm, was platted in 1917 on the north side of what was Third Street — now the rush-hour thrill ride known as Fruitville Road. It was an easy stroll to downtown. Bungalows in the vernacular style were built next to “Spanish-style” stucco houses that whispered “old money” to newcomers in their black Model Ts.

The home of Kimiko and Matt Ogg in Sarasota's Gillespie Park. Nutter Custom Construction built the house, which adds a taste of modernism to a 90-year-old neighborhood. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 8-5-2014.

The home of Kimiko and Matt Ogg in Sarasota's Gillespie Park. Nutter Custom Construction built the house, which adds a taste of modernism to a 90-year-old neighborhood. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 8-5-2014.

The modern movement that was taking root in Europe at the time would not come to Sarasota in earnest for more than two decades. But in 1926, the “old money” proved to be all too new, and the boom went bust. Gillespie Park gradually went into decline as Sarasota’s growing population moved south and east after World War II.

Even as Gillespie Park has been slowly redeveloped in recent years, historically inspired Mediterranean and vernacular house designs remain the order of the day for builders and architects.

Then came contractor T.J. Nutter and clients Matthew and Kimiko Ogg, who moved to Sarasota in 2005 from Boston.

“Kim and I have always loved modern architecture,” said Matt Ogg, “and were inspired by trips to Miami, and the Delano Hotel. But we always loved Sarasota and Gillespie Park, and we were very pleased to see that within Sarasota, there are modern homes scattered throughout. Sarasota has a rich history of modern architecture.”

On Seventh Street, facing the park, they teamed up last year to build a modernist, two-story house that would fit right alongside the better-known houses of Lido Shores — although a good bit smaller.

Working from a plan the Oggs developed with Herscoe-Hajjar Architects of Naples, the house is tucked into its 50-foot lot by two privacy walls about 130 feet long. A river-gravel rock garden welcomes visitors, with limestone stepping stones behind three stately royal palms that face the park across Seventh Street.

“I run an architectural stone business in town, Afamia Stone Imports, and 90 percent of our work is in Naples,” said Matt Ogg. “These architects have done several of the homes I have provided stone for.”

The house’s second story cantilevers over the first, which is punctuated by a lime-green door. The deep roof plane steps up to a second plane midway back. Beneath, square windows provide afternoon light to the second floor.

Inside, polished porcelain floors — 12-by-24 inches with a zero grout joint — reflect the modern kitchen, which has Brazilian marble on the counters and island. Cabinets are from Ikea.

“We did this house on a budget,” said Matt Ogg.

Upstairs, the master suite has 50-inch-square, white porcelain tiles, topped with a glass veneer to boost the shine.

“My crew from Afamia Stone did almost the entire installation,” said Matt Ogg, “interior tile, staircase, outdoor limestone pavers that I sell, driveway pavers.”

“They are extremely talented,” said Kim Ogg, a real estate agent with Allison James Estates and Homes, who works out of her home office. “The foreman was Margarito Rosas — he is incredible. So much care goes into every single tile. It took four guys to pick each one up.”

The house has four bedrooms and three baths in 2,852 square feet on a 7,500-square-foot lot. The county property appraiser set the market value of the house at $493,000 on Jan. 1.

The Oggs also bought the 3,500-square-foot lot immediately to the west earlier this year.

In 2005, a previous owner paid $350,000 for the property on which their new house sits, during the recent real estate bubble.

The Oggs share the house with their Chihuahua, Bean. Matt and Kim met in Boston, where he sold copier machines and she worked in a law office. When he made a sale in her office, “It was the best deal I ever closed,” he said.

They moved to Sarasota in 2005 and rented a “tiny” apartment in Gillespie Park before buying a house in Park East, as they could not afford to buy in the Park at that time.

What drew them to Gillespie Park, said Kim Ogg, was “the proximity, walking distance, to the downtown area. We have always loved this neighborhood from the moment we arrived. It is extremely eclectic. Each home is different, and the neighborhood is safer. We feel it is one of the most beautiful places in Sarasota.

“To have Gillespie Park itself across the street is a real treasure.”

When they were under construction, residents invited them to the neighborhood holiday party. In 2013, they returned the favor and hosted the party at their new house.

“The neighbors have been most gracious,” said Kim. “They were warm and welcoming, so we hosted it this year and had 84 people in the house, including the chief of police. It was a great success, and we are very fond of the neighbors.”

Nutter said there were no major challenges to the project beyond the narrow width of the lot.

“There are challenges in every project,” he said. “That one, it was the lot size — it is pretty narrow. But it was straightforward, the plans were nicely done and the homeowners were helpful and communicated well with us.”

The head-turning house has inspired several people to call Nutter about building a house for him, he said.

“I had built several modern homes,” said Nutter, “but nothing in that area. I was very excited about the opportunity. It is a great neighborhood that is poised for redevelopment.

“People are very excited about the potential that neighborhood has,” he added. “As we continue in that recovery, I think you are going to see that neighborhood heat up. And the lots are affordable.”

No flood insurance is required, either, he said.

Nutter currently is finishing a house in Harbor Acres and has one under construction on Morningside Drive in Lido Shores. He also is building on a two-acre bayfront site on Sarasota’s Old Oak Street that has an Indian midden running through it.

“It is one of the prettiest lots I have ever built on,” he said. “The county archaeologist and Clifford Smith (the city’s senior planner) have been involved. That has been a fun one.”

Nutter also builds in The Lake Club in Lakewood Ranch. Several of the established builders there have expanded their businesses into the West of the Trail section of Sarasota.

“I would say I am probably more of a West-of-Trail builder that has trended eastward,” said Nutter.

“The market is good; everybody is busy. There is a lot of activity.”

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: August 12, 2014
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