I’ve been showing you many Sarasota homes lately that are part of the city’s history, but this week we have one that leaves all the others in the dust. It’s the Hillview Avenue home and studio of sculptor, ceramicist and mentor to many, Frank Colson, who passed away recently. It’s where he gave classes and led his very lively life with wife Diana. And if that isn’t enough, it was the original home and studio of Hilton Leech, who was sort of the godfather of all the swirling artistic activity that gave the town such acclaim as an artists’ colony after World War II.
You may well have driven by it—it’s only half a block west of Morton’s Market. From the street it looks very cool—an old cypress structure set back from the street, surrounded by tropical plants and groves of bamboo. Inside it’s like being transported back to the Sarasota of 50 or 60 years ago. The wood paneling, the tile floors, the screened porches looking out on the back yard. You can just picture what life was like here in the old days.
Leach built it back in 1940 and the dramatic yet cozy two story studio with its big north facing window is where he painted. It’s adjacent to a living room with fireplace and vaulted ceiling. There are also four bedrooms, a nicely up-to-date kitchen and various porches and work spaces. The interior is completely paneled in wood, with all sort of intriguing niches and storage spaces.
Adjacent is Frank’s studio, where he taught ceramics. It’s an old Army barracks from the war that was moved here from the Venice Airport, where it housed British and American flyers who were being trained for combat in Europe. Every once in a while you still come across one of these great old repurposed barracks—old timers will remember that Brants Bookstore was housed in one.
The entire property is on the National Historic Register, which means the buildings—there’s also a sort of garage-- can’t be torn down and if remodeled have to maintain their footprint and façade as seen from the street. Wandering through recently, I could see the place becoming a unique place to live—the home is charming and the studio/barracks is 21’x 42’, offering a lot of possibilities. It’s priced at $1,197,000.
The Colsons’ son, Sean, is organizing his father’s art work and many of the pieces are for sale. I found this out because there was sign out in front. The address is 1666 Hillview. If you see the sign definitely pull in and check it out. The art is lovely—whimsical, with a very Sarasota-like midcentury vibe. For more information you can call Sean at (941) 228-0001. If you’re at all interested in Sarasota history and what life was like here in the old days, you’ve got to see this house.