1920s Sarasota















I’M JUST BACK from Florida’s Gulf Coast, where I attended Sarasota Mod, a conference aimed at educating the public (and hopefully saving) the city’s stock of innovative post-WWII housing and public buildings. But before I delve into all that — and delve I will, on this blog and in a piece for Architectural Record — I couldn’t resist a post about another, earlier love: 1920s Mediterranean Revival-style cottages. Sarasota developers built them to meet the needs of people beginning to discover the charms of what had been wilderness a few decades before.

Top, not a cottage — that’s Ca’ D’Zan, an over-the-top Venetian-style palazzo built for circus impresario John Ringling and his wife Mable in 1926, now restored and re-furnished down to the original china and silver. We were treated to dinner on the terrace there, below, sunset included.


One lunch hour, I strolled the back streets of Sarasota’s business district and found, in the shadows of condos and parking garages, a few 1920s buildings that have survived the relentless march of commerce. Can you spot one in the photo below?

IMG_0384IMG_0326 IMG_0330IMG_0354

What fun it was to come across Burns Court, below, a rare, intact street of stucco cottages, each painted and decorated with Florida flair. Built in 1926 by developer Owen Burns (who also built Ca’ D’Zan), Burns Court is on the National Register of Historic Places.


Just east of Orange Avenue, in the streets around Laurel Park, there’s a whole neighborhood of wood-frame 1920s bungalowsBelow, a small apartment complex in that red-tile-roof, arched-windows ersatz Spanish style so beloved in the Twenties. Most, though not all, of the homes in the Laurel Park area are well-maintained, with landscaping that is beyond lush, sometimes obscuring the houses from the street.



IMG_0379      IMG_0357 IMG_0366  IMG_0361    IMG_0367  IMG_0371 IMG_0369IMG_0375IMG_0363 IMG_0360IMG_0383

Must add this guy to my mailbox archive:



Coming Up: Sarasota MOD Weekend


Hiss Studio, Tim Seibert

CERTAIN PLACES ON THE PLANET — often unexpected places, like Columbus, Indiana, and Tel Aviv, Israel — have been blessed with impressive inventories of important 20th century architecture. One such place is Sarasota, Florida, on the Gulf Coast. I was there once many years ago, so many that all I remember is collecting seashells on Sanibel Island (they’re also blessed with an impressive inventory of seashells).

Umbrella House, designed by architect Paul Rudolph, 1953, photo by Bill Miller Photography, New York Umbrella House, designed by architect Paul Rudolph, 1953, photo by Greg Wilson

Umbrella House, Paul Rudolph, 1953 

Now I’m getting another chance. The weekend of October 9-12, I’ll be in Sarasota for Sarasota MOD Weekend, a celebration of the area’s 1940s through ’60s architectural heritage, when architects like Paul Rudolph, Ralph Twitchell, Victor Lundy, Tim Seibert, Gene Leedy, Carl Abbott and others produced a stock of residential and commercial buildings responding to local climate and culture with great modernist style.

b5cd2bc7b58d1b564d56364321713949  aa50d072067d422c4e23c321d4f0d355

Photos: Ezra Stoller

This group, which became known as the Sarasota School of Architecturefound its initial inspiration in the philosophies of the Bauhaus, but soon incorporated regional Southern features, “using patios, verandas, modular construction and raised floors to open up buildings for greater ventilation in pre-air conditioning days,” as the website of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation puts it. “They added a play of light and shadow, and the color and texture of indigenous low maintenance materials softened the cold machine aesthetic of the Bauhaus. This approach… allowed Sarasota School buildings to respect and blend well into their sites. The result was a regional modernism which blurred the distinction between the indoors and outdoors and accommodated the lifestyle and climate of southern Florida.”

Healy Guest House, aka Cocoon House, designed by architects Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph, 1950, photo by Greg Wilson

Healy Guest House, Ralph Twitchell/Paul Rudolph, 1950

In other words, cool modern beach houses with architectural pedigree. Some are even on the market. What could be better? Perhaps a weekend full of lectures, tours (walking, trolley, boat) and parties celebrating same?


Jet Blue flies direct from NYC to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. I’ll be on one of those flights. You in?

Modernist Gem in Sarasota 375K


LUCKY LU ANDREWS. She was the secretary for the architecture firm of Ralph Twitchell, which in its 1940s-’60s heyday helped make Sarasota, Florida, an epicenter of important modern architecture. Over the years, Lu Andrews’ employers designed three houses for her. This, the third of them, built in 1959, is a 909-square-foot, 2 BR, 2 bath jewel, with brilliantly pared-down lines and compact design.






In my view, this is a highly covetable winter/retirement or year-round home, its small size mitigated by sliding glass walls that visually extend the house out into its lush tropical setting and insure abundant light throughout the day.





I was in Sarasota once many years ago and don’t know it well. The location is said to be prime though — “west of trail” and close to downtown, the bay, parks, marina, restaurants, galleries, beaches, St. Armands Circle (a high-end shopping/dining district), and the Ringling College of Art and Design.




The house is listed by Martie Lieberman of Premier Sotheby’s International, who specializes in modern properties and cares enormously about their preservation. As she says about this one, “I’d like to see it get into safe hands.”


The official listing, with more photos, slideshow and video tour, is here.

To read more about the Sarasota School of Architecture, go here and here.


Photos: Glenn SRQ360.com  courtesy Martie Lieberman

’60s House in Sarasota 299K

MY IDEA OF A GREAT WINTER GETAWAY would be an architecture-themed vacation in and around Sarasota, Florida. The area has an extraordinary concentration of modernist houses, including some by Paul Rudolph, who later became dean of Yale’s architecture school, and many by his associates and protegés.


Even better would be to rent, or own, a distinguished modern house there. This one is on the market right now for $299K, which sounds incredibly cheap from my Long Island vantage point.

It’s the 1965 Padgett House, designed by architect James Padgett for his own family and recently restored by HGTV designers Jason Champion and Jim Del Rio. It’s 2 miles from Siesta Key and its Gulf beaches, with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, terrazzo floors, clerestory windows, skylights, stacked block walls, and a two-story living room with catwalk and office.

There’s an open house this Sunday, September 13, from 10 to 2. For more information and driving directions, or to RSVP, contact Martie Lieberman, a real estate agent specializing in modernist properties in the Sarasota area (martie.lieberman@gmail.com or 941/724 1118).


SO MANY INTRIGUING THINGS cross my desk (or inbox) that I’d like to share, but I already have 50-plus drafts for blog posts and it’s getting out of hand.

So I’m going to try something new on the weekends: a round-up of short items of interest (usually Saturday, but this week Sunday, because I had a pre-move stoop sale yesterday that kept me away from the computer).

Let me know what you think.



This is what you can get in Roxbury, N.Y. (2-1/2 hours from the GWB) for $599K: 13 acres in a serene valley with non-stop views in all directions, plus rolling pastures, stone walls, deeded rights to 3-acre pond, and a 19th century dairy barn.


Don’t want to renovate? You don’t have to. The 4BR, 2 bath farmhouse is fully restored with all new mechanicals, high-end kitchen (Wolf range, etc.), original cabinetry, hardware and floors.

The whole set-up (including the barn) is “triple mint.”

Go here for details and lots more pics.




South Beach not your style? Stay at Magic City Farm in Miami’s Little Haiti section, where a cluster of 1918 cottages and a boathouse along the Little River is available for rentals, as it has been for decades.

A onetime citrus farm, now owned by former New Yorker Tamara Hendershot, it’s also an animal rescue farm, quirky sculpture garden, popular spot for photo shoots, and celebrity draw (David Byrne and photographer Cindy Sherman have spent the day).

For more info, click here.



The Beatrix Farrand Garden Association sponsors a series of garden lectures at the home of FDR in Hyde Park, N.Y., made more delightful by wine and hors d’oeuvres, or tea and cake, served in the garden afterwards. Upcoming this spring:

Tulipomania: Banking with Bulbs During the Golden Age of Dutch Culture, April 26 at 2pm

Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement, June 7 at 2pm

For complete info, go here.