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Siesta Key Architecture a Natural

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Lorrie Muldowny
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center
Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - Siesta Key Architecture a Natural photo

(Editor's note: When you click through to read the entire article by Lorrie Muldowney, quotes from the 1937 Whispering Sands Inn pamphlet are presented for your enjoyment – what a place!)

A theme woven through the development history of Siesta Key is a strong connection with nature. And today, Siesta Key has some of the whitest sand in the country and sunsets that are spectacular. Not surprisingly, many of the early accommodations on the Key also highlighted the natural beauty of the island in their designs and promotions. Waterfront locations, the extensive use of native materials, such as Coquina stone and cypress wood, and even the names, Gulf View Inn, Crescent View Cottages, and Whispering Sands Inn, relayed to the visitor a deep connection to the outdoors.

A location on Siesta Key still tied to its natural setting is the neighborhood of Sandy Hook. Once part of a larger parcel, the vision for its development came from a remarkable woman name Mary Rockwell Hook, Mary Hook attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and was only the second woman to complete this prestigious architectural program. Her lasting legacy to Sarasota, however, is the development she planned that emphasized innovative architectural design in keeping with the natural setting.

Hook's first project in Sarasota was the Whispering Sands Inn. Completed in 1937, it was planned as a haven for painters, writers, and other creative people. In her autobiography “This and That,” she wrote that “Whispering Sands tried hard to be a little tropical paradise. Its wide beach of fine white sand was a joy to walk or drive on. The entrance road followed the bayou through the palm trees. One entered through a citrus garden and the front door opened into a tropical courtyard.” (pictured above)

In 1945 Hook sold the acreage on Siesta Key that included the property occupied by Whispering Sands Inn, and turned her attention to the development of Sandy Hook immediately to the south. Hook wrote in her autobiography that, “There was nothing but sand and a hook.” Sandy Hook is a place where exciting, modern, architectural design was realized by her and others. The first two homes were designed by Hook in the early 1950s and the third by a young architect named Paul Rudolph, whose career later brought him international acclaim.

As with many of the earlier accommodations on the Key, the post WWII homes at Sandy Hook were designed to fit in with their surroundings; yet with a distinctly modern feel. Many of the architects that have been recognized for the important contributions they made to the modern architectural movement through the Sarasota School of Architecture are represented at Sandy Hook. Among these are Paul Rulolph, Ralph Twitchell, Victor Lundy, Tim Seibert, Jim Holliday, Mark Hampton, Bill Rupp, and Frank Folsom Smith.

Hook planned for Sandy Hook a small architectural school that was never realized. Her dream, however, of creating a place where the original work of young architects would find expression, was. Sandy Hook remains today a special place where innovative architectural design complements the magnificent natural setting.



Whispering Sands Inn – 1937 Pamphlet


Whispering Sands… One of the most interesting and unique Inns in Florida…is located on Sarasota Beach, Siesta Key, facing the Gulf of Mexico six miles south of Sarasota.

Whispering Sands is situated on a 45-acre estate with a 1,000 foot privately owned beach and bayou.

The Inn is personally managed by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Langer, who spent over 20 years meeting the needs of the people.

Upon arrival, one enters a yellow door and steps straight into a spacious patio shaded by tall palms and papaya trees, and decked with purple and flaming bougainvilleas like frescoes in the sun. To the left is the ample living room; to the right a fascinating mosaic of doors and steps and inter-joining rooms.

At the far end of the patio, under the open sky, almost touching the Inn is the blue water of the bayou, its shore and unspoiled wilderness of palm and pine. A solitary blue or white heron stands, one-legged, on a nearby stump. There are circling ducks and long-beaked pelicans. Beyond is a white expanse of feathery sand, studded with beautiful shells, that hardly has its equal in the world. And then the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf and the bayou with their contrasting color, changing constantly, every blue, every green, every grey, form a living picture of which one never has enough.

Turning from the view to look at the buildings which form the court, one realizes the art that has used such simple forms to achieve harmony and variety. All are built of the same silvery grey cypress wood. You guess from the window spacing that all the rooms are different- individual - each with its nook or sun-catching roof. The estate, 45 acres, imaginative, colorful, generous, breathes a gracious hospitality.

From the patio, from the covered walk, from the kitchen one enters the square dining room. Here again one meets with delight the quiet harmony of silvery wood. Around the walls runs a low wooden gallery and balustrade, recalling the musician's gallery of an English baronial hall. The dining tables, trestled and smooth, and the square chairs are of the same silver-grey tone. The floor is flagged and waxed. In the center on a stone platform, is the four-cornered fireplace with wrought iron hood and tall chimney – a log fire that welcomes all-comers from its strategic position in the heart of the room.



Relaxing in the sunshine, swimming and surf bathing in the delightful waters of the Gulf, and the informality of the Inn – the hustle and bustle of large cities is quickly forgotten, fine friendships established and one immediately feels the warmth and hospitality of Whispering Sands.

For those desiring more active recreation there is boating, canoeing, badminton, ping-pong and shuffle board nearby; golf, deep sea fishing and horseback riding.



The Inn is famous for its outstanding service, fine food, attractive appointments and restricted clientele.  The Chef, who is famous for his wonderful food, has been connected with the owners for over 10 years.

The beauty of the courtyard is enhanced in color with bowls of oranges, grapefruit and bunches of bananas, so that if the stimulating sea-air gives one additional reason to snack, you have only to reach for a banana, or take some oranges or grapefruit into the attractive fruit bar and squeeze some fresh orange or grapefruit juice.

Some of the features are breakfast in bed and buffet luncheons on the beach; everything to give one a leisurely vacation in Florida.


Location and Transportation

To find the Inn from Sarasota, drive south about six miles; take Osprey Avenue, cross the bridge to Siesta Key. Continue on Beach Road to sign on right.  Sarasota is 56 miles south of Tampa, on the Tamiami Trail, State Highway No. 5. It is served by both the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Air Line railways, also by airlines from all parts of the country.

Guests arriving by either railroad or plane should advise time of arrival to assure being met at station or field. Telegrams, mail, express and baggage should be addressed, “Care, Whispering Sands Inn, Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida.”

The Inn accommodates thirty-two people. Nearly every room has its outside approach to a porch, garden or sun deck. Each room is furnished with a built-in heater which provides ample heat for cool days.

A motor car is not a necessity as transportation is available by means of the Hotel station wagons, and taxis.



There are double rooms from $130 to $150 weekly for two. There are single rooms with private bath at $75. There are suites of two rooms, with bath, for $50, $60, and $65, each person, per week, all American Plan.

Pre-season rates from November 1st to January 1st are offered at a 20% discount. Early reservations are recommended.