Century-old Sarasota home, now a preschool, is on the market


The little yellow house on School Avenue at Bay Street goes back a few years. Its one-time price tells us that.

“My dad probably didn’t pay more than 50 for it,” said Betty Jo Craig, who was born in the house in 1938.

“That’s 50 dollars,” said Robin Schmidt, the current owner.

School Avenue Child Care at 823 S. School Avenue in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

School Avenue Child Care at 823 S. School Avenue in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

Schmidt and her husband, Paul, have run a preschool, School Avenue Child Care, in the house for 10 years. But they would like to expand beyond the 15 children now in their care, so the petite yellow house is for sale at $489,000.

With a deep interest in history, Schmidt researched the “Franklin Redd House’s” lineage in a successful effort for local historical designation. In that effort, she discovered part-time Sarasotan Betty Craig, a Texas resident who was born Betty Jo Redd, the great-granddaughter of an important Settlement Era Sarasota family. Her grandfather, Frank Redd, was Sarasota’s first prosecutor, and his grandfather, Isaac Alderman Redd, fought in the Civil War and was a longtime local pastor.

“My grandfather (Frank) bought four homes,” said Craig, recently visiting the house for the first time since her family moved to Siesta Key around 1950. “The big one he lived in cost $45. The other three were $15, $20 and $25. They were all transported to the lots.”

The Redd family owned quite a bit of property in the Poms Park subdivision, including land that was sold to the Lindsay family in the 1950s at the corner of Wood Street and U.S. 41. A Publix stands there now, but Lindsay Newspapers built the Herald-Tribune headquarters on the site; it was used by the newspaper until it moved to its Main Street building in 2006.

Poms Park is better known as part of the Alta Vista neighborhood now.

Frank Redd and his wife, Betty, around 1908. COURTESY PHOTO

Frank Redd and his wife, Betty, around 1908. COURTESY PHOTO

Most of the houses were rentals, and Craig said she moved from house to house, “whichever one wasn’t being rented at the time. It was out the back door and into the next one. We moved back and forth.”

She was born in a small upstairs bedroom of the house at 823 S. School Ave. The space is now one large room used by the Schmidts as office and storage space.

“I did love it,” she recalled. “My cousin and grandmother lived right up the road. It looks a lot different now — the whole community. There was one house there; no houses over there.”

Downstairs are assorted spaces that are of perfect scale for 15 small customers of the preschool, ages 18 months to 4 years. Even the stair treads, with 5-inch risers instead of 7, are perfect for little feet, even though they do not go upstairs.

“We have a rather upscale clientele,” said Paul Schmidt. “They come from better families, and there is not a lot of turnover. But we don’t have much room to grow.”

So the house and its lot and a half are for sale. The business is not for sale, unless someone makes an acceptable offer for it. “It would not be a lot more money for the house and the business,” said Paul Schmidt. “We need a little bit more space. It has worked great for 10 years, but if we want to expand, now is the time.

“It’s suitable for anything in the office-professional-institutional range,” such as a lawyer’s office, he added. “I would hate to see this house torn down.”

Robin Schmidt believes the 1,080-square-foot house may have been built in 1905 in the Fruitville area before being moved to School Avenue around 1935.

Schmidt researched and wrote the historic designation nomination for the property. She calls it a “prairie-style foresquare, which was a style of wood-frame residence that was popular in the first two decades of the 20th century. The rooms are in each of the house’s four quadrants; there are no hallways.

Paul and Robin Schmidt read books with children at School Avenue Child Care.  STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

Paul and Robin Schmidt read books with children at School Avenue Child Care. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

Original woodwork is everywhere, although many upgrades have been made. Having become an eyesore in the 1990s, it was remodeled in the early 2000s before the Schmidts bought it for $320,000 in 2005.

The house has “simplistic beauty,” wrote Robin Schmidt in her historical documentation, as a two-story box with hip roof, a central front door and symmetrical windows. It has a side sunroom instead of a porch.

The Redd family was one of the Sarasota area’s most important during the Settlement Era. Franklin Redd, owner of the School Avenue house, was a real estate and insurance man, and was the son of Frank Redd, Sarasota’s first prosecuting attorney.

Frank was the grandson of the Rev. Isaac Alderman Redd, a pioneer of Bee Ridge, named for its swarms of bees, and later a resident of Fruitville. As a young man, his military career included three years of Civil War service in the Confederacy's 5th Florida Infantry. He also served as pastor of Baptist churches in Bee Ridge and Fruitville. Born in 1835 in Alabama, he died on Main Street in Sarasota in 1912.

I.A.'s son, T.W. Redd, was a witness in the trials of the Sara Sota Assassination Society in the mid-1880s, Schmidt reported. The group orchestrated the killing of Postmaster Charles Abbe on Dec. 27, 1884.

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: December 11, 2015
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