The graceful Mediterranean Revival Caples Estate at New College, built in 1921; the circa-1916 McClellan Park School; the midcentury modern Venice beachfront home of Black Stallion author Walter Farley, designed by Sarasota School of Architect founder Ralph Twitchell.
These are among the six properties chosen for the inaugural Sarasota Six to Save initiative created by the History and Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County, a loose affiliation of local museums, historical societies, archives and historic preservation groups. The three others are the 1926 Nickell Building in Venice, the Nona Spring Archaeological Complex in North Port, and the east Sarasota County community of Old Miakka. A seventh property, a Tudor Revival residence at 424 Albee Road in Nokomis, was given an honorable mention.
Modeled after the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 to Save program, the aim of Sarasota Six to Save is to draw attention to our treasure trove of historic properties in order to motivate citizens to help save them.
“We wanted a way to bring some attention to some gems we have in the county that we are worried about,” says Harry Klinkhamer, historical resources manager for the city of Venice, who is helping lead the charge. “The program is not binding in any way and those places that make the list aren’t required to do anything. But if we can bring awareness to the potential plight of some places, it may be a way to connect those places with people or groups that have the means to help them.”
It's important for a community to preserve its historic buildings, says Klinkhamer, because “historic buildings are a great defining character of a community. The fact they’ve been able to stand the test of time through longevity or architectural significance helps to tell a story why this community is here—and also how it’s changed by how the building has changed.”
He acknowledges that historic preservation can be an uphill battle, “especially in a state that is very much always about what is the latest new thing we can develop to bring people to Florida.”
Klinkhamer says all seven properties are at some level of risk. Two are on the market: the Walter Farley property, which Sarasota Magazine’s Real Estate Junkie wrote about last year; and 424 Albee Road, which has been approved for a condo project. “Both are dually listed as house for sale and vacant land,” he says, “and the Farley home agent has estimates for what it will cost to demolish the house.”
Old Miakka was chosen because of its “sense of place,” he says. “In historic preservation parlance, it’s a traditional cultural property. We see Old Miakka as a representation of rural country Sarasota County before development first took off; it’s the last remnant of that. They’re battling zoning changes that could potentially cause them to lose that. What makes Old Miakka Old Miakka could be lost."
What’s next for Sarasota Six to Save? “We’re hoping it will be something people can use as traction to help develop solutions,” says Klinkhamer. “Each site is unique, it has its own challenges, its own risks; there's no cookie-cutter solution. It’s got to be community driven and a solution that works for that community.”