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Boat & Lighthouse

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Location: 433 N. Osprey Avenue, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Boat & Lighthouse photo

The two structures located at 425 and 433 N. Osprey Avenue are a novelty and curiosity for citizens and visitors of Sarasota.

The construction of buildings that resemble boats and lighthouses is not a new idea as there are several others elsewhere in the United States. As such, it may be said that Sarasota's belong to a very exclusive "club" of landmark buildings.

The Boat and Lighthouse were reportedly built in 1933 for Captain Arthur C. Rowe by shipbuilder Oliver Blackburn.

Arthur Rowe came to Sarasota in the early teens as a marine engineer and captain for John Ringling. Later, Rowe worked for William Selby in the same capacity. According to Arthur Rowe, Jr., Captain Rowe purchased the property in 1921. The captain and shipbuilder constructed the buildings as a reminder of the sea, which was central to their lives. Oliver Blackburn was a well-known shipbuilder of the era and a brother to George Blackburn, a pioneer Sarasota merchant and politician.

Arthur Rowe, Jr., recalls in a newspaper article that his father ran away to sea as a teenager and in 1910, while at a port in Tampa, made the connection leading to his employment with Ringling piloting a 95 ft. yacht down from New York.

Rowe brought his family to Sarasota and lived in a house near the boat dock. In 1921 Captain Rowe left Ringling and went to work for oil magnate William Selby until after WWII. At that time, he retired to live in the Boat and Lighthouse on Osprey Avenue. The Sarasota City Directory indicates that Rowe began to live there in 1949. Rowe Junior moved there in 1959 to care for his ailing father and remained until 1984.

While the structure is not a typical one for the area, it represents the relationship between man and the sea that is a prominent condition in Florida's development. That the building is a novelty or an oddity is an indication of the "anything goes" attitude of Florida settlers. The buildings are also an early development in the Gillespie Park neighborhood and are today one of the area's notable assets.

The Boat & Lighthouse was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1984.