Tough Sell

By Robert Plunket March 3, 2008

There’s lots to love in Gillespie Park. But the neighborhood is tough and the prices high.


By Robert Plunket


They had the nicest little historic homes tour in Gillespie Park on Sunday, and the best thing about it was that you actually got to go inside the boat and lighthouse on Osprey and Sixth. Like most of us I’ve driven by it a million times and always wondered what it could possibly be like.


Boat house exterior.

(All photographs by Ed Lederman.)


It’s very well done. The ground floor of the boat has a kitchen/living/dining area, a bath, and a room that could be a bedroom or an office. Upstairs, via a spiral staircase so tricky that you actually had to sign a waiver before they let you climb it, was a nice master with bath and dressing room and two open deck areas. The lighthouse has a kitchen/living area on the bottom level, a bedroom, dressing area, and bath on the second, and a study on the third.


The interior finishes and furniture are sort “Pottery Barn" in style and coloring. It’s not dark like you might think, and what you can’t see from the street is that on the port side, French doors open out onto a pretty garden. It is so unique and important to Sarasota house nuts that I feel I’ve accomplished one of my life goals by finally going inside it. I can now die easy.



The boat house's living room and second-floor deck.


Also on the tour: a group of those charming 1920s bungalows down at the west end of Seventh Street. They had all been beautifully remodeled, often retaining the original windows and doorknobs and claw-foot bath tubs. Best of all, they were not seriously added onto, so they all retained their original character. One — my favorite—was  shabby chic-ed to the max and made you realize that when that style is done with commitment by a strong-willed perfectionist, the result can be spectacular.


The realtors decided to have their own home tour that day, comprised of what’s for sale in the neighborhood, and here the results were a little unnerving. The houses were nice, ranging from old bungalows to brand-new construction, but they all seemed uniformly overpriced. I guess the theory is that Gillespie Park is so close to downtown that the land may someday be worth a fortune. In the meantime it struggles along, gentrifiers sprinkled among low-income renters, with the renters setting the tone of the neighborhood. In other words, it’s a tough neighborhood.


How tough? As I walked to the park to check out the Founder’s Day Festival (vendors, a car show, a band playing Eagles' songs) an attractive young woman fell in step with me. She was sipping something from a plastic cup, and had a nostril piercing. At first I couldn’t figure out what she wanted; then it became only too clear. I strung her along a little, just to make sure that what I thought was happening actually was. It was. But when she found out I only had two dollars she wandered off.


See—that’s the problem I have with Gillespie Park. I can’t afford the houses. And I can’t afford the hookers.


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