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Looking for a Bohemian idyll à la Jackson Pollock and friends, mere meters from the water? Check out my craigslist ad here or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more pics and info. Available by the month only.
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?
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 bungalows. Below, 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.
Must add this guy to my mailbox archive:
THIS LISTING FOR A 1950s BUNGALOW in the Maidstone Park section of Springs (East Hampton), N.Y., surprised me. I thought I knew every house in the area, not just because of my real estate interests, but from my frequent walks down to the bay.
This one had completely escaped my notice. And yet it’s a house that, were I now in the market for a starter home in the area, I might give serious consideration. It’s the kind of fixer upper that gets my juices flowing. It’s small and manageable, it’s got an interesting shape, it’s one of a kind, and it’s set back on a bit of a rise, off a quiet street.
Couple of red flags: possible mold and/or mildew issues. I walked in (the back door was open) and it had the dank feel of a house that had been closed up for a while. Also, while the neighbors on either side and across the street seemed OK, the house on the other side of the back fence seemed to have a bit of a hillbilly vibe, with junk in the yard. But that’s how it goes in the “real” Hamptons.
As an asking price in this neighborhood, a short walk to Gardiner’s Bay and to a lovely marina, 356K is not a terrible place to start. The listing, with a dozen photos, is here.
Am I nuts, or does anyone else see potential here?
TWO WEEKS AFTER SANDY, my friend M., who has invested huge sums of money and energy fixing up a 1930s bungalow, above, in the far reaches of Queens, New York, has just had her first experience with FEMA. A few blocks of vintage bungalows in the beachside community of Far Rockaway, survivors among a onetime colony of thousands, took a beating in the recent storm.
Most of the time, the beachfront location is a plus. M. thoroughly enjoyed her first summer in her bright, colorfully renovated bungalow, whose interior is shown here. She had even been considering living there full-time, as many of her neighbors do. After Sandy’s havoc, she’s probably not so sure.
Power has not yet been restored. The water went as high as 3’3″ in M’s basement (fortunately she has one), ruining her brand new boiler and hot water heater. FEMA came last Friday to assess the damage. M. says the assessor seemed generous on his visit, noting damage she had missed and putting it all in his report. Twenty four hours later, with efficiency I never imagined the Federal government capable of, she had an email from FEMA. The decision: M was to be given a grant of $499.99 (why not a round $500?) and offered a Federal loan of 50K. “So much for that!” she says.
M.’s report from the front today: “The situation out there is getting desperate, not so much in the bungalow colony, especially with the weather warming up a bit, but elsewhere. Utter devastation and too many poor people, too much public housing. Lines for food and supplies everywhere. Nothing much open business-wise and I wonder how many of them will reopen. Looks like a Third World country.” Transportation is still disrupted; the commute to Manhattan, normally under an hour, can take four.
Rockaway’s unique bungalow community will survive and who knows? In years to come, the whole area may see a turnaround. But it could take decades. Right now, focus is all on clean-up. “It’s exhausting,” M. says. “And I was one of the least hard hit.”
To read the back story of M’s search for a Rockaway bungalow and see photos before and during renovation, go here.
Among the perennially popular posts on this blog are two that constitute a bungalow-by-bungalow tour of the colony as it looked in February 2012. Rainy Day Rockaway, Part I is here For Rainy Day Rockaway, Part II, go here.
WHAT’S A DESIGN PEDIGREE WORTH? Quite a bit, in the case of this 500-square-foot bungalow just sent to market by fashion designer Cynthia Rowley (who bought another mid-century Montauk house recently for 820K and probably doesn’t need two of them).
The pedigree is not Rowley’s, A-list celeb though she is. It’s that the house was designed in the late 1930s by architect Donald Deskey, best known for his elegant Art Deco contributions to Radio City Music Hall, for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. He called it the “Sportshack,” declaring his intention to “overcome the public’s aversion to factory-built homes by using open spaces, new materials, and practical decor.”
Kitchen cabinets look original
In 1940, a Sportshack was exhibited as part of an industrial design show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, kitted out as a hunting cabin with rifles and duck decoys. This particular one was erected in the Ditch Plains area of Montauk in the ’40s. As it stands, the house has just one bedroom and one bath, but it sits on a lot of nearly an acre and could be expanded.
For the official listing and many more pictures, click here.