Test of Time

The Midcentury Modern Walter Farley Residence in Venice is One of Florida’s 2020 ‘11 to Save’

Produced by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, the annual list showcases the most threatened historic structures in the state.

By Ilene Denton October 5, 2020

The Walter Farley Residence, built in 1953.

The midcentury modern Venice beachfront home of Black Stallion author Walter Farley, designed by Sarasota School of Architect founder Ralph Twitchell, has been named to the 2020 “11 to Save” list.

The list, produced annually by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, showcases the most threatened historic properties in the state. “The program is designed to increase the public’s awareness of the urgent need to save Florida’s historic resources, and to empower local preservationists and preservation groups in their efforts to preserve Florida’s rich history,” according to the Florida Trust.

The Farley residence sits on a nearly two-acre piece of Gulf-front just south of downtown Venice. It has been held by the Farley family since its construction in 1953. Walter Farley wrote his beloved Black Stallion series of novels in a studio just off the main house. The home is now on the market for the first time at $1,895,000, and historic preservation experts are concerned that the buyer will tear it down.

Last spring, the History and Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County, a loose affiliation of local museums, historical societies, archives and historic preservation groups, named the Farley residence to its inaugural Sarasota Six to Save initiative. Modeled after the statewide 11 to Save, its aim is to draw attention to our local treasure trove of historic properties in order to motivate citizens to help save them.

Another structure from our area is also on the state's 11 to Save list. It is the Patten House on the grounds of the Gamble Plantation Historic State Park in Ellenton. The humble two-story farmhouse was built in 1895 by Dudley Patten, the son of Gen. George Patten, owner of the Gamble Plantation after the Civil War. It has been under the stewardship of the local United Daughters of the Confederacy for 99 years, with the state of Florida being responsible for exterior maintenance. The house has been closed to the public since 2014 due to termite and other structural damage.  

The other 11 to Save buildings are:

The Black Bottom House of Prayer in Orlando, built in 1925;

The Community of Cosmo and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor in Jacksonville, established ca. 1870s;

The 56-block Downtown Jacksonville National Register Historic District, designated in 2016;

The Eatonville Historic District in Orange County, established in 1887;

Lee School in Leesburg, built in 1915;

The McFarlane Historic District in Coral Gables, established in 1925;

Pensacola Vocational School in Escambia County, built in 1942;

The S.H. Johnson X-Ray Clinic in Miami, built 1939;

And the St. Cloud Municipal Utilities Plant in Osceloa County, built in 1926.

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