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Bryson-Crane House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: City of Sarasota
Location: 5050 Brywill Circle, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Bryson-Crane House photo

The Bryson/Crane House, located at 5050 Brywill Circle, Sapphire Shores Subdivision, Sarasota, Florida, is a one and two-story Mediterranean Revival Style residence, completed in 1925 that is noteworthy for its well-preserved architectural details.

Although Sapphire Shores was originally platted for development in the 1920s, the majority of the housing stock consists of post World War II one-story ranch style homes but there are several Mediterranean Revival structures in the subdivision that date from the mid 1920s, most notably, the much larger Juliard, Thoms, and Binz Houses on Bayshore Road, directly west of the subject property. The Thoms and Binz Houses are both listed in the National Register. Two other Mediterranean Revival structures, associated with the early development of Sapphire Shores are on Brywill Circle to the north. Another 1920s Mediterranean Revival style home in Sapphire Shores, two blocks west on Sapphire Drive, "Nagirroc", The Corrigan House, is also listed in the National Register.


Architectural Context and Significance - The Mediterranean Revival Style


The unparalleled growth and development of the 1920s in Florida brought a new architectural identity to Sarasota. The Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean styles popular in other parts of the state began to appear in major Sarasota architecture.

The Mediterranean Revival style initially gained importance and popularity in California during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This style was popularized by the Pan-American Exhibition in San Diego in 1915 and the work of transplanted Eastern architect, Bertram Grovesnor Goodhue who earlier had written a detailed study of Spanish Colonial architecture. Goodhue wanted to go beyond the then prevalent Mission interpretations and stress the richness of Spanish precedents found throughout Latin America.

Hollywood stars of the period incorporated the Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles into the plans of their palatial homes. The styles became another choice in the stock of borrowed European classicism so popular with American architects at the time. What was known in the 1920s as the "Spanish boom" incorporated stylistic qualities of Spanish, Colonial, Byzantine, Moorish, Mission, and Italianate styles and is generally called Mediterranean Revival or Mediterranean Eclectic. In all, the design of the exterior of the Spanish house is featured by strongly marked characteristics and individuality.

For Florida, the Mediterranean Revival style proved a perfect marketing device for resort communities such as Sarasota, conveying the exotic beauty of the area, while also drawing upon a remote link to the Spanish Colonial heritage. The style had been introduced in Florida as early as the 1880s when the New York architectural firm of Carrere and Hastings began building hotels for Henry Flagler in St. Augustine.

The Mediterranean Revival style soon became as popular in Sarasota as it was in California and other developing areas of south and central Florida. In the mid 1920s, the most fantastic examples of the Mediterranean Revival Style appeared in Sarasota. The houses from the decade before were more classic, or urban, Italian Renaissance inspiration; the boom time architecture of the 20s was more romantic and imaginative. Its success may have been the result of its appeal to Sarasotan's sense of history and the association (though inaccurate) with what the early Spanish explorers and settlers must have built.

It is as likely that an analogy was made between the mild climate of the Mediterranean coasts and that of Sarasota, and that the architecture of the former was therefore determined to be appropriate for the latter. Regardless of rationale, the Mediterranean Revival style was soon the prevalent design idiom for most of the major and many of the minor buildings in Sarasota in the 1920's with several elements constituting the style in general. The desire for Mediterranean Revival Style houses grew and even small houses borrowed from the style.

The elevation of the Mediterranean Revival building was asymmetrical, either one or two stories. It usually contained at least one dominating feature with vertical emphasis. These structures were accentuated with a range of decorative elements depending on the cost of the structure. These included ornate glazed tile, wrought iron used on balconies, gates and window grills and as other ornamentation, pecky cypress doors and trim and munitioned casement windows, often with awnings.

The Mediterranean Revival style exemplified the excitement of Boom time development and was a style that suited the time and place. Its opulence complimented the 1920s prosperity and sense of well-being. Yet, this association soon came to a halt with the Land Crash in 1926 or 1927.


HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Prior to 1900, Sarasota's development was mostly limited to settlement by homesteaders and fishermen. In the 1880s an effort to create a Scottish immigrant community had failed and the next 20 years saw little growth mainly due to a lack of railroad access to the population and commercial centers to the north. Upon the arrival in 1903 of the Florida West Shore Railroad, Sarasota began to grow, real estate prices began to rise and Sarasota began to develop an identity as a winter tourist haven.

Most Sarasota homes near the commercial center had telephone service, electricity, water and sewers by 1913. Streets were paved and sidewalks and seawalls were built of concrete. Roads were shared by automobiles, wagons and carriages. Influential people arrived in Sarasota during the first decade of the century spurring the stage for significant development. John and Charles Ringling of Ringling Circus fame were two such citizens who brought other prominent people to the city after the brothers came to the area in the beginning of the 1920s. Sarasota County was formed from a part of Manatee County in 1921 and Sarasota became the country seat.

In the 1920s, a real estate land boom in Florida stimulated the platting of residential subdivisions throughout an expanded Sarasota city limits. The relatively low cost of land the promise of quick profits spurred the city into rapid development. Sarasota's downtown development was coupled with expanding suburban residential areas and a City was quickly replacing the fishing village image that it had with that of a developing resort community. Considerable construction after the First World War made Sarasota a modern city. Over five hundred structures were completed in 1925 and 1926, half of them residences.

As early as 1910, prominent Sarasota winter resident Ralph C. Caples began acquiring land in the northern section of Sarasota. On October 25, 1910, he purchased a large parcel of property from C.N. Thompson and his wife, Mary Louise Thompson, with the Thompson's holding mortgages on the property.

On March 21, 1924, Caples sold a portion of the property that he had acquired from Thompson to circus magnate John Ringling. John Ringling and Ralph Caples began a brief initial development of Sapphire Shores Subdivision, platted on a portion of land that was earlier platted by C.N. Thompson as part of Shell Beach. Two plats for Sapphire Shores were filed in the Public Records of Sarasota County, Florida, one on February 24, 1925 and the other in March of that same year.

John Ringling's participation in the project would be limited. His portion of land in the subdivision was sold to G.P. Petrousta and James Demos on October 17, 1924. Petrousta and Demos in turn shortly thereafter sold their interest to the Ellas Investment Company on January 30, 1925.
On February 10, 1925, the Ellas Investment Company deeded a section of property in Sapphire Shores to Brywill Realty Company. Brywill Realty was owned by Walter Bryson, of Jacksonville, who owned Bryson Paving Company in that city and J.Y. Wilson, also of Jacksonville. The name "Brywill" was a combination of Bryson and Wilson. Both Bryson and Wilson were pioneer Florida contractors. Bryson's paving company was responsible for paving a large stretch of Tamiami Trail in the northern part of the state and for large road building projects in Jacksonville. After purchasing the Sapphire Shores property, the company opened an office in Sarasota.

On March 17, 1925, Walter Bryson, acting for Brywill Realty Company, replatted the four blocks south of the Ringling Museum from Sarasota Bay to Brywill Circle to create the new subdivision of Sapphire Shores. Bryson sent his son, Walter Bryson, Jr., and son-in-law, Walter "Happy" Harvey to Sarasota to oversee and manage the Sapphire Shores development project. Bryson's paving company began the laying out and paving of a northern section of Tamiami Trail in the northern part of the county and the streets in Sapphire Shores Subdivision. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were said to be expended in development and beautification. It was said that $2,000 per day was being spent. By spring of 1925, streets were paved, sidewalks lay, and trees planted.

Following the purchase of Sapphire Shores by Brywill Realty, the North Shore Realty Company, with offices in the Mira Mar Building in downtown Sarasota, initially served as the sales agent for Brywill and Wilson for lots in the subdivision.

Within a short time, prominent Chicago Realtors, the C. Kindt Co. took over the exclusive sales of Sapphire Shores property for the Brywill Realty Co. The Kindt organization had been operating in Florida for the previous few years and was well known throughout the state. Mr. Kindt, himself, and his wife chose Sapphire Shores for their Sarasota home during the mid 1920s even though the Kindt's organization ventured into a construction program in another Sarasota Boom Time subdivision, Ballantine Manor.

Original Sapphire Shores deed restrictions required that all homes be Spanish, Italian, or Moorish. Building materials were required to be hollow tile, cement block, or similar construction. No horses, cattle, hogs or poultry could be kept or raised.

On June 1, 1925, Brywill Realty deeded Lot 1, Block G, Sapphires Shores to Walter Bryson, Jr. and his wife, Irene. According to Walter Bryson, III, Walter Bryson, Sr. gifted the site including the house and garage on the property which were being constructed. The particular site was well chosen being large and in a highly visible location not only running the entire depth of two parallel streets, today's Brywill Circle and Eastchester Drive, but also at the intersection of four streets and adjacent to two landscaped islands within that intersection. Walter Bryson, Sr. also gifted a nearby site and new home also under construction to his daughter, Katherine Bryson Harvey and her husband, William Harvey, just one month earlier. That property and house is at the northeast corner of Brywill Circle and Mecca Drive, just opposite Walter Jr.'s property.

Walter Bryson, Jr, was one of four children, three boys and a girl, born to Walter Bryson, Sr. and his wife Alice (nee Folkes). He was born in Live Oak, Florida in February of 1904. His family remained in Live Oak until moving to Jacksonville when Walter Jr. was in his teens. Upon moving to Jacksonville, the elder Bryson established a successful paving company. As his three sons grew, Walter, Sr. looked forward to when they could join him in his business which Walter, Jr. and youngest son, Earle, eventually did.

In about 1924, Walter, Jr. married Irene Colson, a native of Gainesville. When a lucrative paving contract was secured for paving part of North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota County, Bryson sent his son and son-in-law, William "Happy" Harvey, to oversee the project and the family soon after ventured in real estate development in platting and developing Sapphire Shores.

The 1926 Sarasota City Directory notes that Walter Bryson, Jr. was living near downtown Sarasota on Adams Court in the fall of 1925 when the information for the 1926 directory was being compiled. It is assumed he was awaiting the near completion of his new home in Sapphire Shores. An article in the October 20, 1925 edition of the Sarasota Herald noted that the subdivision had been recently sold out and was in the midst of a great deal of construction activity.

Although it is not precisely known when the house was completed, the Bryson's were occupying the house by late October, 1925 when the Walter Bryson, Jr. and his wife, Irene welcomed their first child, a daughter, Betty. Betty Bryson Thompson was told that her mother was taken to a hospital in Tampa for the delivery which took place on October 27, 1925.

On April 12, 1926, Walter Bryson, Jr. deeded his vacant adjoining lot, Lot 2, to Homer and Louella McCreery. By September of 1926, the family had settled in to the neighborhood. Mrs. Bryson joined a bridge club that included the wives of a number of prominent local residents. She served as hostess to her club in her new home in September of that year. According to family members, both Mrs. Bryson and her sister-in-law and neighbor, Katherine Bryson Harvey played bridge with Mrs. John Ringling.

The year 1927 brought an extremely hot summer coupled by a cold winter which exacerbated the ailing tourist economy. By that time, the Florida Land Boom was failing and construction in the Sapphire Shores and other boom time subdivisions throughout the state virtually stopped. Bryson and his family maintained their home in Sapphire Shores for about 3 years. The 1927-1928 R.L. Polk Sarasota City Directory does list the Bryson's as residents but they left Sarasota in late 1928 or early 1929. Bryson worked in the family road building business for the next six or seven years. The family first went to Nashville, then to Louisiana, before moving to Tallahassee in 1935 where Walter, Jr. continued to work for his father in a new business concern, the Bryson Construction and Excavation Company, primarily undertaking excavation work.

In 1943, the Walter Bryson, Jr. and Irene Bryson divorced and Walter moved to Jacksonville where he operated a demolition company until his retirement. In his last years, he returned to Tallahassee where his daughter lived. He died in that city in 1993. Irene Bryson remarried briefly and lived in London, England for a period of time. She died in Tallahassee in April of 1993.

In 1929, after the Bryson's had left Sarasota, Walter Bryson, Jr. sold Lot 1, on which the subject house and original garage stand, to Harley and Minnie Crane who would own the property for the next sixteen years and enlarge both the site and the house.

Harley Kinney Crane, the second owner of the property, was born in London, Ohio on August 18, 1872. He began his career as a young man as a leading notions salesman in the Ohio River Valley. Upon his father's death, he took over the Queen City Manufacturing Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, that was a leading maker of woman's wear. The company was incorporated on February 6, 1897 and remains an active corporation today.

Crane was also a business partner in the ownership of several large tracts of land in the Miami area with M. V. Cooper, former Governor of Ohio. Crane became interested in Sarasota when he stopped in the area on route to Palm Beach where he and his wife had been spending their winters. Among his friends were William J. Burns, principal of the Burns International Detective Agency, who maintained a winter home in Sarasota.

Additionally, he counted Samuel Gumpertz, well-known in circus circles, and the Ringling brothers as his good friends. Karl Bickel, former president of United Press, who maintained his home in Sarasota, as his close associate.

Minnie F. Crane was born in Canada. According to Mrs. Crane's obituary, she came to Sarasota in 1928, whereas, Harley Crane's obituary indicates that they came in 1930.

On May 21, 1930, the Cranes purchased Lot 1, Block A, adjoining the property, from Willis Gowdy. Shortly thereafter, the Cranes enlarged the house with a two-story addition, constructed on part of the lot purchased from Gowdy. On November 27, 1935, the Cranes further enlarged the property by purchasing the adjacent vacant lot, Lot 2, from Louella and Homer McCreery, which had been sold off by Walter Bryson to the McCreery's in 1927.

The Cranes continued to own the property until May 2, 1946, when the property was sold to Mary F. Tipton. Harley and Minnie Crane moved to an apartment near downtown Sarasota where they lived until their deaths. Harley Crane died in Sarasota on December 4, 1955. His wife survived him by eight years. She died in late February, 1963. The Cranes did not have any direct descendants.

The Bryson/Crane House was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 2002.