The Etowah Hagan-Jackson House

Image: Gene Pollux

People drawn to historic homes tend to love them passionately. So the recent announcement that the Etowah Hagan-Jackson House at 4511 Bay Shore Road will not be torn down is a victory worth celebrating.

Instead, the classic two-story Mediterranean Revival residence, set back from the point where Bay Shore Road curves at Ainsley Place, is the 2019 Jewels on the Bay Designer Showhouse. Eighteen interior designers are transforming each room with the latest décor trends. The home is open to the public Jan. 20 through Feb. 17 and ticket sales benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County. 

The Etowah Hagan-Jackson House was built in either 1925 or 1927 depending on what documents you’re looking at, says interior designer Joyce Hart, who is co-chairing the 24th annual showhouse with her husband and fellow designer Jeff Hart. Named for the Etowah River in north Georgia (the original owner, Atlantan Lee Hagan, had it built as his winter residence), it has been in disrepair for many years.

The home is on the city’s list of locally historically designated properties, and when current owner John Cuneo went before the city historic preservation board last spring with a request to demolish the structure due to its deteriorated condition, his request was denied.

Joyce Hart, a former president of Sarasota’s Alliance for Historic Preservation and the city’s historic preservation board, is particularly pleased that Cuneo agreed to let the designers go to work. “We explained to him that we can do this—the Crosley Mansion [the 2011 showhouse] was in worse shape,” she says.

That’s not to say the Etowah House doesn’t present challenges. “We don’t have full electric or plumbing throughout the house; there are holes in the ceilings. But these are things that can be easily fixed,” says Hart. Soon after they signed the contract with Cuneo, for example, the air-conditioning conked out upstairs, she says. Contractor Montgomery Air came to the rescue with a substantial discount for repairs.

Despite its shortcomings, Joyce is enthusiastic about the home. “The main part has not been touched; it still has its original light sconces, wood floors, really pretty arch details,” she says. The entry has a vaulted ceiling, and the upstairs master bedroom has a fireplace and bay views. She describes the living room as “tropical Mediterranean”; it, too, has a fireplace. And there is a sunroom and good-sized dining room. The kitchen is large, too, but “a total disaster, last remodeled in 1968. It’s what I call Mediterranean Halloween, dark brown with heavy metal hardware, a vinyl brick floor and falling-apart appliances.” The new kitchen should be interesting. 

This is a cosmetic renovation, Hart explains, “so that it will look pretty, like staging it for resale.” 

She says the designers are all excited about working on the home: “You wouldn’t sign up for this project if you weren’t excited to save a Mediterranean.”

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