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Frank and Matilda Binz House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: City of Sarasota
Location: 5050 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Frank and Matilda Binz House photo

The Frank and Matilde Binz residence is highly representative of the type of home built to accommodate the upper class in the suburbs during the Florida Land Boom. It is significant because of its association with Frank Binz an important local businessman, and as an excellent example of a Mediterranean Revival Style estate, a common style employed for boom time construction in Sarasota. The Frank and Matilde Binz residence is also significant as both a structure built by the Binz and Lambert Construction Co., and one designed by architect Clarence C. Hosmer whose work has been acknowledged as historically significant by both the Local and National Registers of Historic Places.

HISTORIC CONTEXT

The Indian Beach area of Sarasota has been used by people for at least 5,000 years and has played an important role in the history of Sarasota and the central Gulf coast of Florida. First occupied by native Indians for hundreds of generations, it later became the home of Cuban and Spanish fishermen, a U.S. fort, and later the location of many early Sarasota residences. Today the Indian Beach area includes historic homes, numerous Indian middens and many other vestiges of by-gone eras. Named for its earliest residents, Indian Beach is one of Sarasota's most significant and valuable historic neighborhoods.

After the Spanish exploration period and the demise of the native Indian populations, Seminole Indians, who had begun migrating into the Florida peninsula, mingled with seasonal fishermen at the coastal ranchos. Many of these Indians worked at the ranchos, or fish camps, established by Spanish and Cuban fisherman between Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor during the late 1700's and early 1800's. Several ranchos were situated along the shores of Sarasota Bay, probably atop the now abandoned Tocobaga Indian villages which dotted the shoreline.

Hamlin Snell and William Whitaker settled on Sarasota Bay in 1842. Whitaker remained to fish and later to raise cattle and farm. It was not until after the Civil War that many American settlers started to make their homes along the shores of Sarasota Bay.

Following the Civil War, the Sarasota Bay area grew dramatically with the influx of settlers. At the time, cash crops and cattle-raising were very successful, and publicity in northern newspapers began to lure more and more newcomers to the area. At first most of the settlement occurred in the area south of Hudson Bayou and was called "Sara Sota", an area was populated largely by farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. At this time boats were the most practical form of transportation linking Sarasota with the outside world. During the 1880s the Town of Sarasota was formed north of Hudson Bayou around present-day Main Street. While this area experienced major growth and investment during the mid 1880's, growth came to other parts of Sarasota more slowly. By the turn of the century, Sarasota was a small town on what could almost be termed Florida's "frontier".

In 1885 Dr. F.H. Williams of Bristol, Connecticut came "...to study the archaeology of Tampa ...." On May 13, 1891 he and his wife Janet bought U.S. Government Lot 3 as well as Lots 1 and 2, a total of 267.64 acres, from the John J. Dunnes for $3,345.50. Dr. Williams stated in a letter to the editor of the Sarasota Sun, that "when ... it was given to me to name the north shore of Sarasota, recognizing the nature of the shell heaps, I named it Indian Beach."

Dr. William's lots and additional land were platted and on October 1, 1891 a map of Indian Beach was filed in the Manatee County Court House. The Sarasota Times wrote that, "a syndicate of twenty New Englanders was formed to buy a desirable tract." Williams was one of these. Syndicate members bought "choice waterfront lots: in the newly platted subdivision and a number of Connecticut people built homes, establishing a winter colony along the Bay".

The gradual arrival of these residents spurred further interest in the Sarasota area and contributed to its development. Coastal boats stopped at the Indian Beach docks. In 1906 a post office, which was open less than two years, was established. The application papers noted that the office would serve a population of 25 in summer, 60 to 100 in winter."

The development of Indian Beach was probably aided by the construction of the Palms Hotel (later to be known as the Palms Villa) a short distance south. Run by the former lessors of the De Soto Hotel in downtown Sarasota, it served meals and was patronized by wealthy sportsmen and visitors. Also in that area too, were the homes of the growing Whitaker family and winter residents. By close association this section so platted development, as far as Whitaker Bayou, was also referred to as "Indian Beach." In the Sarasota Times, the activities of residents and arrival of visitors were regularly noted in a regular column bearing that heading.

According to Karl Grismer in The Story of Sarasota, the popularity of Indian Beach led to the creation of Shell Beach, in the winter of 1894 by circus man Charles N. Thompson who visited a winter resident of Indian Beach. Thompson was very impressed with the area and purchased land just north of it and subdivided it into Shell Beach. Thompson was able to attract circus men and rail road men to purchase lots in the subdivision. These people included Ralph Caples and Charles and John Ringling, men who would have a tremendous impact on Sarasota which is still felt today.

During the first three decades of the 20th century, Sarasota underwent a tremendous growth in population. In 1900, Manatee County, which then included Sarasota, had approximately 4,700 people living within its boundaries; by 1920 the population had grown to 19,000. Besides the favorable publicity the area received in the north, a major force contributing to its growth and development was the railroad.

In 1902, the same year that Sarasota incorporated as a town, the United States and West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company built the first bridge across the Manatee River and the line extended its track to Sarasota. The first hard surface road between the two towns was completed in 1912. With this new transportation system, the entire southwest coast of Florida was able to expand and develop. Not only could agricultural products be shipped to northern markets, but the promotional ventures brought trains filled with people to the area, some from as far away as Minnesota, so they could purchase land and invest in Florida's future.

In 1916, the small town of Sarasota reincorporated itself as a city and began eyeing expansion both to the north and to the south, in the established area originally known as Sara Sota. This area north of Tenth Street had become a popular residential area; its annexation was seen as a way to increase the city's tax base. In an effort to fend off the unwanted annexation into the City of Sarasota, the residents north of the City formed their own government and incorporated as the Town of Indian Beach. This area was largely made up of homes and subdivisions close to the Sarasota Bay and dairy farms extending further east towards Osprey Avenue.

The Town of Indian Beach experienced steady growth until the beginning of the Florida Land Boom in 1923. During this period Indian Beach experienced tremendous changes, new and improved roads were built, along with homes and subdivisions along the bay. These subdivisions included the Bay Haven Subdivision and the Sapphire Shores Subdivision. Further stimulating growth in area was the construction of the new North Side Elementary School (now Bay Haven) to provide for the educational needs of the new and future residents of the area.

On November 22, 1925, at the height of Florida's real estate boom, Sarasotan's voted to expand their city limits and Indian Beach was annexed by its growing neighbor. A resolution of the Sarasota City Commission on May 16, 1928 noted that the Town of Indian Beach had no officers and declared unpaid taxes in the "defunct Town" were null and void.

Today, one can find many homes in the area built during the 1920's surrounded by homes that could best be described as 1950's and 1960's in-fill.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE

The Binz home was built in 1926 during the Florida Land Boom and is located in the Sapphire Shores Subdivision. This was a re-subdivision of a portion of the Shell Beach Subdivision in 1925. The Sapphire Shores Subdivision was one of many subdivisions which experienced tremendous growth and speculation during the Florida Land Boom and as such it represents a broad trend in the development of the state.

The Sapphire Shores subdivision was platted in 1925 and was developed by the Brywill Realty Company. The firm of Brywill was made up of two local businessmen, James Y. Wilson, Pres. and Walter J. Bryson, Vice Pres. A large section of C. N. Thompson's Shell Beach Subdivision was purchased by James Wilson in October, 1924 and transferred into the company name the following year. Sapphire Shores was a highly restricted subdivision with covenants ranging from requirements that buildings be designed in the "Spanish, Moorish or Italian types of architecture" to the minimum cost of construction and to a restriction against selling to anyone "other then those of the Caucasian race".

The Sapphire Shores Subdivision was located just south of the Caples & Ringling's Estates which added to the desirability of this area. During the Real Estate Boom approximately a dozen homes were built in Sapphires Shores all with a Mediterranean flavor, the Binz home is one of the larger ones constructed at that time. After the land crash hit in 1926 the developers were apparently hard hit by lagging sales and the property was encumbered by liens including one from "Cement Gun Company" for $4,964.83 due from the construction of the sea wall along Sarasota Bay. A survey indicates that construction came to a standstill in the area until the 1940's and '50's when the majority of the land was developed.

This structure reflects the type of settlement occurring during this period in Sarasota's history, and reflects the prosperity and optimism its residents had in the community's future. This, along with its association with the Binz family from Chicago represents a broad migration pattern of wealthy Chicagoans to the Sarasota area from the turn of the century until today.


FRANK & MATILDE BINZ

The subject structure was occupied by Frank Binz, Sr. and his wife Matilde. The Binz family moved to Sarasota in 1925 and were active in the building trade as well as other commercial and civic activities in the area.

Frank Binz, Sr. was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin on October 19, 1861 to a prominent family that prominent from Wisconsin and later in Illinois. Frank Binz moved to Chicago as a young man and eventually became involved in the storage warehouse business, owning one of the largest concerns in Chicago.

Around 1923 Frank Binz's son Gus vacationed in Sarasota, he was favorably impressed with the beauty of the area as well as the apparent business opportunities. This was at the beginning of the boom when all things seemed possible.

Upon returning to Chicago, Gus related what he had found in Sarasota to his father who decided to come see for himself. Frank Binz visited Sarasota by 1925 and went home to sell his business and quickly began investing in the Sarasota area.

One of his first investments in the area was his home site on "Indian Beach Dr.", today's Bay Shore Rd. at the intersection of Brywill Circle. This location was a prominent lot in the Sapphire Shores Subdivision, an up-scale development adjacent to the Caples and Ringling's estates. His son, Frank Binz Jr. served as the contractor for the house.

In May of 1926, after settling into his new home, Frank Binz Sr. began construction of the "Binz Fireproof Warehouse" at the cost of roughly $60,000.00. The warehouse is located at 1071 North Orange Avenue. This building was completed on November 1 of the same year. It was used for the storage of furniture, clothing and other household goods. The building was strategically located alongside the A.C.L. Railway to allow for the northern shipping of household items as well as to receive them. This structure is an important local landmark and is part of an important historical district along Orange Avenue which includes the city power-plant building and the city water works.

Another Binz Investment was the Binz Cast Stone Co.,Inc. which manufactured cast concrete building materials for boom time construction.

Following the death of Frank Binz, Sr. in 1929, Frank Binz, Jr. took over management of the Binz Warehouse until the sale of the business in 1953.


DESIGNER & BUILDER

Construction documents found on the premises of the Frank and Matilde Binz Residence list Clarence C. Hosmer as the architect and are dated June 1, 1926. The architectural plans show construction details including the design of the wood balusters, a complete door schedule, two pergolas, an interior mosaic tiled fountain and a two story loggia.

Clarence C. Hosmer was responsible for the design of numerous structures in the Sarasota area, both commercial and residential, singly and while in association with Thomas Reed Martin in the Martin-Hosmer Studio.

Hosmer also practiced in Chicago as the Managing Director of the Architectural Exhibition League in 1923 and 1924. He came to Sarasota during the Florida Boom either in late 1924 or early 1925. Within a matter of months, Hosmer was engaged in designing a number of structures in Sarasota and Englewood, including entry markers to welcome travelers to Englewood as well as the Lemon Bay Woman's Club Clubhouse which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Sarasota, he was responsible for designing a prominent war memorial and a number of residential/commercial structures including the locally designated Cornish Apartments and The Commercial Court, both executed in the Mediterranean Revival Style.

In association with Thomas Reed Martin, Hosmer designed the Bacheller-Brewer Model Home listed on the Local and National Registers of Historic Places in 1990 and 1991 respectively. This home is recognized as a fine example of the Mediterranean Revival Style of architecture.

While practicing in Sarasota, Hosmer was also active in the Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The Sarasota Herald reported in its January 24, 1926 edition that he was elected Secretary and Treasurer of the organization.

Hosmer left Sarasota in 1930, for Houston, Texas. From Texas he moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where he was associated with the New Jersey Housing Authority. His last position was with the Masonite Corporation. It seems likely that Hosmer left Sarasota in 1930 as a result of poor economic conditions following the 1926 land crash. His numerous jobs which followed can be attributed to the unstable business climate in America during the Great Depression.

Hosmer's contribution to Sarasota County's architecture has been recognized recently by the listing of several of his buildings on the Local and National Registers of Historic Places. Hosmer's association with Thomas Reed Martin, one of the most significant architects in Sarasota County in the first half of the 20th century in the Martin-Hosmer Studio contributes to his importance and influence as a generally recognized designer.

BUILDER

The Frank and Matilde Binz residence was constructed by their son Frank Binz Jr. and the firm of Binz and Lambert Construction Company. Binz and Lambert Construction also built the Binz Fireproof Warehouse and a Spanish Bungalow located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Cocoanut and Central Avenues.

The Binz Fireproof Warehouse is located at 1071 North Orange Avenue. Its cost of construction was approximately $60,000.00. and it was completed on November 1, 1926.

The Frank and Matilda Binz home was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1993.