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Daisy Williams House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: Sarasota History Alive
Location: 741 S. Orange Avenue, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Daisy Williams House photo

The general architectural style of "The Daisy Williams House" is suggestive of a Craftsman Style Bungalow, but is representative of a transitional period of style. The simplicity in design of the house represents the economic climate after the dissolution of the Florida Land Boom, the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression years.

Very little new construction took place in Sarasota until after WWII. The few structures that were constructed during the mid to late 1930s were simple in design and for the most part devoid of ornamentation. This simplicity in design reflected the hard economic times in Sarasota and throughout the country during the post depression and New Deal Era. The structure has had virtually no exterior modifications, except for the resurfacing of the roof, and minimal interior changes since construction. The house remains an excellent example of the typical housing stock of the 1930s constructed to satisfy the need for inexpensive housing.

HISTORICAL INFORMATION

During the 1920's, residential subdivisions were platted throughout an expanded Sarasota city limits. Cheap land prices and the promise of quick profits swept the city into a spiral of development. This decade brought unparalleled growth to Florida. Sarasota downtown development was coupled with expanding suburban residential areas. Sarasota was fast replacing the fishing village image that it had with that of a developing resort community. Construction following the First World War produced what would become a modern city.

In 1925, nationally renowned land planner, John Nolen, established a comprehensive plan for Sarasota. His plan was intended to guide development and provide for adequate traffic circulation, utilities, and schools, yet rapid development drastically altered Nolen's original plan. During 1925 and 1926 over five hundred structures were built, half of them residences.

By late 1927, the Florida Land Boom had ended and many subdivisions remained incomplete. Little new construction, other than Work Project Administration (WPA) sponsored projects such as the Lido Casino and the Sarasota Exhibition Hall, took place until after WWII.

In May, 1936, the subject residential structure was built as the personal residence of Daisy Williams, a widow. Although the architect and builder are unknown, historic photos document the building as virtually unaltered since its construction. The house was designed with space for a home office for the owner's use and convenience.

Daisy Erma Powers Williams was born into a wealthy family in Norfolk, Virginia and came to Sarasota in 1923 as the wife of Edwin S. Williams, one of the pioneer real estate men of Sarasota. He was Vice-President of the LeRoy Davis Company of Norfolk, a tobacco concern, for more than 22 years before coming south. Mr. Williams came to Sarasota in 1915 and became established in business.

During the 1920s boom years, Williams was Vice President of Longmire and Williams, Inc., a prominent and successful real estate concern in Sarasota. In 1924, he and Daisy resided in the Longmire Apartments on Palm Avenue. His marriage to Daisy was his second marriage and there were no children. Mr. Williams died in 1933 leaving Daisy, a widow at 67.

Prior to her husband's death, Daisy Williams worked in real estate as a registered real estate broker with her husband at his last firm, Williams and Miller. As a widow, Mrs. Williams maintained her independence as a career woman by continuing to work in real estate sales. From 1933 until 1935, Mrs. Williams worked for Keith Realty Company.

In 1935, she entered the real estate business with Miss Ethel Wood. Wood was a pioneer resident, having come to Sarasota in 1895. She was the daughter of Luke Wood who came to Sarasota when Hamm Whittaker had a livery stable on Main Street! Although Miss Wood maintained a summer residence in Onset, Massachusetts, she too had previously worked as a registered broker for Mr. Williams' firm, Williams and Miller. Together, the two women entered a partnership to open and operate Williams and Wood, a real estate firm on Main Street, which later moved to South Pineapple.

During the time they operated the real estate business, they served as property managers for several clients and could often be seen together, two elderly ladies, collecting rents on foot throughout Sarasota, often in Newtown." "Miss Daisy", as Mrs. Williams was often referred to was also referred to as "a Lady from Virginia"."

Longtime local resident, Frank Conrad, recalls an incident that involved the moving of a house. Assumingly, engineered under the direction of Mrs. Williams, a house was being relocated by barge on Sarasota Bay. Mr. Conrad remembers looking out over the water and seeing "Miss Daisy" sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the house as it floated across the water in transit to some unknown new location. Public records of Sarasota County indicate that Miss Daisy personally held title to substantial property throughout Sarasota.

Daisy Williams owned and occupied the subject property until 1967 when ill health necessitated her move to a nursing home where she died in July, 1968 at the age of 93.

In 1967, the property was purchased by Walter E. Anderson and his wife, Marguerite. Mr. Anderson was born in Chicago, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois in 1929 when he began his career in advertising and public relations. He and his wife came to Sarasota in 1953 and opened their own advertising and public relations firm and became involved in civic affairs.

Mr. Anderson served on the college committee of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in the 1950s. The brochure he prepared for the Chamber played an important part in the establishment of New College in Sarasota. He was also one of the college's original incorporators and was on the board of the Sarasota Art Association and a member of the Sanderling Club. The Anderson's resided in another house at the rear of the property and operated Walter E. Anderson, Inc., Mr. Anderson's public relations and real estate firm, from the Williams House. Mrs. Anderson continued to operate the business for one more year after Mr. Anderson's death in 1973.

In 1976, the property was purchased by local architect Mark Raemaker. Mr. Raemaker undertook the updating and rehabilitation of the structure for office use.

The Daisy Williams House was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1994.

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