Of all the famous homes that made up the Sarasota School of Architecture, the Farley house is one of the most mysterious. Few people have been there and even the experts are a little confused as to exactly where it is, or even if it still exists. The main reason: It has never changed hands. It’s still owned by the Farley family, which built it back in 1953.
Visiting the home today offers a unique experience. You step back in time into a Sarasota School home that has never been altered. All the details are original, and the signature motifs—the Ocala block construction, clerestory windows, mahogany louvers to let in the breeze—are all there. When the windows are open, as they always were in those days, you hear the gentle waves. You can see what an exhilarating surprise these homes must have been when new.
The home is in Venice, on the beach just south of downtown. The architects were Ralph Twitchell and Jack West. Twitchell founded the School and West was one of his most accomplished pupils. He also designed Sarasota City Hall and the Hilton Leech Art Studio.
Just as remarkable are the Farleys themselves. Patriarch Walter Farley wrote the famous Black Stallion books, beloved by generations of children, in his studio just off the main house. There are more than 20 in the series, and they were made into several successful motion pictures and TV series. The New York Times called the Black Stallion the most famous horse in fiction.
Farley died in 1989 and his wife Rosemary in 2013. The Farley children have now put the home on the market for $2.4 million. It’s in what is called “estate condition”—shabby but original in all details. The size is good—four bedrooms, four baths. It’s possible to build another home on the 1.85-acre property and keep the Farley home as a guest house. For someone interested in restoring a Sarasota School home, this may be the ultimate prize.