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San Remo

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Mikki Hartig
Photo Credit: Historical & Architectural Research Services
Credit: Sarasota History Alive!

Sarasota History - San Remo photo

The vision for a Sarasota waterfront subdivision incorporating the name San Remo, took over thirty years to come to complete fruition. San Remo was first platted and planned as a Boom Time subdivision in the mid 1920s but ultimately was not developed and established as a neighborhood until the 1950s. 

In October 2, 1923, Hattie Campbell, Charlie Belle Collins Lanier, and W.C. Lanier sold a parcel of marshy undeveloped land aligning Sarasota Bay one and a half mile south of the Sarasota city limits. Campbell was the widow and heir of William J. Campbell.  W.C. Lanier was a Georgia Banker. Both Laniers, of West Point, Georgia, were additional heirs to William Campbell's estate. Campbell and the Laniers sold the acreage to Edith. W. Atkinson of Dade County, Florida and John J. Kerns of Duval County, Florida. On October 4, 1925, A.B. Edwards (1874-1969), a former Sarasota mayor and prominent Sarasota land owner, sold a contiguous parcel of bay front land to Atkinson and Kerns.  Those two parcels combined, totaling 20.47 acres, would become the nucleus of what would be a new Sarasota subdivision, “San Remo”. 

Edith Atkinson (1891-1983) was an early female Florida attorney graduating from Stetson University College of Law in 1922. She went on to sit as the first female judge in Dade County, Florida, the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, in the Juvenile and Domestic Court Division, from 1924 until 1932. She also initiated the charter and was the founder of the council of the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida in 1929. John Kerns was born in Illinois in 1883. He was a credit manager of Armour Fertilizer Works in Jacksonville, Florida during the 1920s and early 1930s and the proprietor of the Carling Hotel (Roosevelt Hotel beginning in 1936), one of Jacksonville's finest hotels, from 1933-1938.  The name was taken from that of an exclusive Italian resort. 

Atkinson and Kerns sold the property to Michael Schiavone on November 10, 1924. In early 1925, Michael Fortunato Schiavone as President, along with his wife, Sadie C. Schiavone (1894-1966), as Vice President, and Isador Becker (1901-1940), a Chicago attorney, as Secretary, formed the M. F Shiavone Corp., a Florida corporation with $100,000 in capital stock. All of the corporate officers were residents of Chicago. The corporation was formed to conduct a general brokerage agency to purchase and sell for others personal property, stocks, and bonds and to negotiate loans and develop any land acquired by the company. Michael Schiavone was born in Italy in 1888 and came to the United States in 1901. He was a Chicago banker and investor, a World War I veteran. president of the Lake Town Improvement Company and the North Town Builders and Finance Co., a director of the Atlas Exchange National Bank, and a director of the Fidelity Trust and Savings Bank. He was said to a major developer in Chicago and had been involved in real estate in Chicago as early as 1920. Schiavone planned to submit an application to enlarge his original San Remo landholding by filing an application with the War Department to acquire and fill abutting submerged land in Sarasota Bay. 

By late October of 1925, Schiavone had received approval by resolution for the project from both the City of Sarasota and Sarasota County. He had also formed the San Remo Improvement Corp., in which he served as Treasurer. The start of his development plans for San Remo was delayed pending approval of his application and permit from the United States War Department for the title to the additional contiguous acreage of submerged lands aligning Sarasota Bay. Amended from an original plan, the application to the War Department called for three fills to be retained by suitable bulkheads separated by channels in a southwesterly direction from the shore south of Siesta Beach Road, today's Siesta Drive for a total distance of approximately four thousand feet. The first stage of the fill operation was to be approximately 800 feet in length, the second 200 feet, and the third 1,200 feet with each fill to be 1,200 feet in width. The second and third fills would be separated by the existing navigational channel. Fill was to be taken from the adjoining Sarasota Bay. 

By 1925, adjoining Granada Subdivision, marketed as on the “Bay” was under development by Charles Tyson of Tennessee and new homes were being completed. In November of 1925, the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce ratified a resolution to support the development of  “San Remo.” On January 17, 1926, Schiavone made a formal announcement of his plans for the new subdivision. According to the next day's edition of the Sarasota Herald, work would include dredging and fill activities, the undertaking of improvements to establish both a business section and a residential section, and construction of a $1,000,000 apartment hotel within a total land area of 100 acres. D. H. Burham, a major prominent Chicago architect and land planner, and Milwaukee architect, Afred C. Clas, were in charge of designing the apartment building. Schiavione's announcement came after he had recently received his permit from the War Department to proceed with the project to enlarge his original land holdings with fill. Plans were made to award dredging contracts within a short time. The development was to be “one of the “show places of the state” with landscape architects overseeing the plan. The first San Remo plat entitled “San Remo” was filed on March 8, 1926 and recorded on March 9, 1926 by Michael Schiavone and his wife, Sadie. Although a January, 1926 article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune stated that the subdivision was to consist of 100 acres, the plat only indicated just over 52 acres, perhaps indicative of a scaling down of original plans or of an amended application to the War Department for the filling of less submerged land.  The plat denoted eight blocks lettered A-H with a total of 170 lots. Street names on the plat included Tangier Terrace, DeSoto Way, Seville Court, San Remo, Esplanade and Riviera.  It was anticipated that development costs would be a total of $5,000,000, however the January 13, 1925 edition of The Evening Independent put the total at $1,000,000 for dredging, fill, a bulkhead, development, and boulevards, etc and $350,000 for homes. 

Perhaps because of the bust of the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s, Schiavone did not move forward with his plan for San Remo because Chicago Tribune newspaper articles during the 1920s and 1930s contain articles about other investment and development activities of M.F. Schiavone in Chicago that were completed. On May 24, 1926 Shiavone sold all his San Remo land holdings to Mildred Bessel, an unmarried woman from Chicago. On April 29, 1929 Bessel sold the San Remo property to William T. Hoops & Co. of Chicago. Although the deed could not be located in the public records of Sarasota, sometime after 1931, when the Pine Holding Company, was formed, title to the property passed to that entity.

On July 31, 1937 Pine Holding Company (dissolved in 1939), sold the portion of un-submerged land that had been a part of the original plat of San Remo to Gill-Thomas, Inc., a Sarasota firm. Milton Thomas (1892-1968) was a native of Philadelphia. He was a Sarasota Realtor, cattleman and sportsman and former City of Sarasota councilman at the time. Gill (b.c.1885), a native of Tennessee, was a prominent Sarasota Realtor. He was a former President of Florida Power and Light, The First Trust Company, and the Bank of Sarasota, as well as a former practicing Sarasota attorney.  In total, the Gill-Thomas, Inc. purchase consisted of 1,300 feet of waterfront property. An August 1, 1937 article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune stated that Gill-Thomas, Inc. had no development plans and the tract was purchased for investment purposes only.

In late December of 1937, consideration of a re-platting of San Remo came before the Sarasota City Commission and was approved. A revised San Remo plat was filed by Gill-Thomas, Inc. and recorded on July 26, 1938 in the public records for Sarasota County.  The plat was executed by Milton Thomas as President, and Jo Gill, as Secretary and encompassed approximately 20.46 acres. However, Gill-Thomas, Inc. still did not undertake any development of the re-platted San Remo subdivision. No improvements would be made until the 1950s when development would finally take place.

On March 31, 1952 Gill-Thomas, Inc. transferred San Remo, consisting of approximately 20.46 acres to the Roy Construction Co. Ultimately; Roy Construction Co. would fill in marshy areas of the 20.46 acres and acquire and fill another 30 acres of contiguous submerged land in Sarasota Bay, acquired from the State of Florida.

By  1953, the entire 50 acres that would become San Remo Estates was owned by Raymond J. Roy of the Roy Construction Co. Roy was a contractor who came to Sarasota from Massachusetts. In October of 1952, R.J. Roy, under the auspices of the Roy Construction Co., incorporated March 14, 1952, requested city annexation of small area of his San Remo land holdings, encompassing a total of 150 feet deep and several hundred feet wide. Approval was at first withheld until the developer raised the land area to the minimum grade level. In January, 1953 a revised plat for a portion of the previously larger plat of San Remo, was approved, and identified as San Remo Estates, Unit 1. The plat included a small area set aside for a park on Siesta Drive and 24 building lots. It was recorded on January 13, 1953. This would be the first of three plats, Units 1, 2 & 3, for San Remo Estates and development would essentially take place in three phases after each plat was filed. All three plats were filed by the Roy Construction Co. and deed restrictions, to remain in place for the next 30 years to protect property owners and the quality of life in San Remo Estates, were also put in place and recorded, although the deed restrictions from each plat somewhat differed from each other.

The Roy Construction Co. served as the developer, sales promoter, and builder for the subdivision. Lot prices started at $3,500. Roy allowed other builders to build in the subdivision in order to have a “variation in styling.” All of the homes were essentially modern Ranch Style homes of concrete block construction with garages. Completed homes at that time were priced from $30,000 to $65,000.

Roy Construction Co. received permission from the United States Corp of Engineers to build a yacht basin with the provision that at completion ownership of the basin would revert to the State so that all boats could enter but only San Remo Terrace property owners could tie up.

In February of 1953, discussions finally began to introduce a bill to extend the Sarasota city limits to some outlying areas including San Remo Estates.  The inclusion of San Remo Estates was at the request of the subdivision developer, The Roy Construction Co.[2]  On May 28, 1953, the bill for legislature to include Granada, Red Rock, San Remo and Bay Island, was introduced to the House of Representatives.[3] The effort was unopposed by residents of nearby Granada and Red Rock but met with great opposition from residents of Bay Island and San Remo.[4]  The annexation did take place in 1953.  

Certain lots in San Remo Estates, Units 1 & 2, were upgraded in zoning from an RD zoning classification in July of 1953. Lots 1-14 were rezoned to RB requiring a minimum of 10,000 square feet and homes to be a minimum of 1,200 sq. feet. Lots 15-24 were rezoned to RA requiring the lots to have 15,000 square feet and the houses built upon the lots to be at least 1,600 square feet.

On October 27, 1953, the plat for Unit 2 of San Remo Estates was approved by the Sarasota City Commission. It encompassed 20 lots and was recorded on November 30, 1953. Soon, the yacht basin and and dredging and filling of the 30 acres of submerged lands began. By mid 1954, that work was completed as building lots on the yacht basin were being promoted for sale. By 1954, a number of more homes were under construction.  One architect who is known to have designed at least one residence in San Remo home is Victor Lundy, considered one of the architects associated with the Sarasota School of Architecture.

By early March of 1956, all but 33 lots had been sold. On March 26, 1956, the final plat for San Remo Estates, Unit 3, was filed and all lots were rezoned to RA zoning. The plat encompassed 24 building lots. The 1926 San Remo plat had encompassed 170 lots, whereas, ultimately the entire San Remo Terrace subdivision consisted of only 67 residential lots, counting the small water access non-residential lot on Tangier Way which is platted, less than half of what was originally planned, but all of the 68 lots, 55 waterfront and 14 inside lots, were larger than those plotted out on the original plat. Roy set aside ownership of Lot “A” on Tangier Way to the East Tangier Terrace Yacht Basin Association to allow for water access for those 14 lot owners, each with a one fourteenth ownership interest. This allowed him to market all the lots in all three units as having water access.

The names of two of the six street names shown on the original “San Remo” plat, Tangier Terrace and San Remo, were retained.  Streets were paved with gutters and curbs, the subdivision had street lights and city water and sewer. Waterfront lots had seawalls.

In June of 1961, A.B. Edwards made plans to dredge the largest of the islands he owned, Edwards Island, and the inland waterway south of the Siesta Bridge which would create a peninsular extending to San Remo Estates. It would involve extending the bulkhead line in order to use the spill from the Intracoastal Waterway to build up an island near the subdivision. Edwards and his attorney, John Fite Robertson, appeared before the Sarasota County Commission with the plan and were initially met with favor. However, by September of that year, there was much opposition to the bulkhead and fill proposal and it was predicted by residents in San Remo Estates and the nearby neighborhoods of Red Rock and Granada that doing so would create what was referred to as a “giant cesspool” jeopardizing drainage and sanitary operations in San Remo Estates. The project never took place.

In 1963, Sarasota County entered into negotiations with A.B. Edwards to purchase other offshore Sarasota islands that Edwards owned for recreational purposes. The islands were known as the Lopaframa Islands, consisting of a total of 39 acres. A unanimous resolution from the San Remo Association was submitted at a commission meeting in March of 1963 opposing the purchase.

When the Island Park and marina project was actually formally proposed for the bay front and an application to the Internal Improvement fund for submerged land was pending, a representative of San Remo Estates joined a group of representatives from other neighborhoods in calling for a public referendum on the project. Approval initially failed.  The park and marina were, however, completed in 1966. By that time, San Remo Estates had been nearly built out with the exception of only two or three lots.

The first San Remo homeowners' group was informal and not incorporated. On December 12, 1989, members of homeowners association filed for incorporation as the San Remo Association, Inc. Rod Warner, served as the group's first elected President. In May of 1996, the association's corporate name was changed to San Remo Estates Homeowners Association, Inc. to accurately reflect the correct full name of the subdivision.

Over the years, the original deed restrictions that varied from each platted Unit in the subdivision had been problematic and all had expired by 1986, thirty years after the last restrictions were filed in 1956 with Unit 3.  Property owners concluded that it would be best to address the problem by incorporating and, subsequently in 1991, adopting restated and conforming deed restrictions for the entire subdivision.

Between about 1980 and 2011, approximately a dozen original homes in the subdivision were demolished and replaced with larger more modern structures. However, as of 2011, many of the original Ranch Style homes have survived although many have been enlarged, or substantially altered or modernized, to meet contemporary trends and needs. Only one lot, Lot 22, remains vacant in the subdivision. San Remo Park, at Siesta Drive, remains vacant but bears no lot number.

The San Remo Estates Association, representing 67 homes, has made a concerted effort to improve the neighborhood's public areas. In 2008 a committee of San Remo volunteers, after a detailed planning effort, received a matching grant totaling $12,000 from the Neighborhood Grant Program. The grant permitted the group to replace the three neighborhood entrance signs and to install attractive enhanced landscaping. The project also included a long term plan to improve the appearance of the city park on the corner of Siesta Drive and Tangier Terrace. The three signs and the first stage of the city park enhancements were installed implemented in September 2008 with more than 25 neighbors volunteering in support of this project.

San Remo Estates Homeowners' Association obtained design and installation assistance from Jeff Hibbs Landscaping. The three subdivision signs were manufactured locally by the Robson Company.

In 2009 the association completed its landscaping plan for the city park. The project created five groupings of pigmy date palms surrounded by flax lilies. Also an original Italian statue, brought back to St. Armands by John Ringling, was “rescued” from storage when original statuary on St Armands was replaced with modern copies. The statue was placed in the park along with a decorative concrete bench. Brewer's Landscaping Services, Inc. assisted in design and installation. In addition to making the park more attractive, the plan has also resulted in creating a visual barrier to Tangier Terrace to discourage heavy and speeding beach traffic from seeking a short cut. San Remo residents and the homeowners' association continue to maintain the city park plantings and the three entranceway signs. Brewer's Landscaping was retained to provide ongoing landscaping maintenance service.

San Remo Estates was established as and remains one of Sarasota's most exclusive neighborhoods. It represents all the various development periods and factors that have taken place in the Sarasota real estate market over the last 80 years. With its desirable location, manicured lawns and sheltered water basin, most of the 68 homes in San Remo Estates have been and are presently owned and occupied by the same families for many years. A friendly cooperative atmosphere exists between neighbors. The San Remo Estates Homeowners Association, Inc. is continually active and attentive in matters pertaining not only to protecting and enhancing San Remo Estates but in issues regarding Sarasota Bay, as well as the entire Sarasota community.