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Howard Cheney House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: Sarasota History Alive
Location: 1643 6th Street, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Howard Cheney House photo

The Howard Cheney House is a one and one-half story Craftsman Style Bungalow with a detached garage with residential space. Both were constructed c.1925. The house and garage are historically significant because they reflect the economic development of the city during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s when phenomenal development spurred the platting and development of a number of new subdivisions. Both structures are excellent examples of a minimally altered simple Craftsman Style Bungalow and a compatible outbuilding utilizing construction materials and methods from their period of construction.

The James S. Hall Subdivision, where the house is located, was one of the many subdivisions platted in Sarasota during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s. It was platted by James S. Hall on March 17, 1924. Dr. James S. Hall was from Oyster Bay, New York. The subdivision was financed by Hall but created by A.F. Baer, a "well-known" building contractor according to an article in This Week in Sarasota published on March 12, 1925. The subdivision started as a former strawberry patch and was laid out into sixty building lots. Baer designed and built fourteen homes on Hall Boulevard (today's 7th Street), between mid November of 1924 and March of 1925. The houses were of various designs and every one built was sold immediately, except one. In a number of instances, families first had their garages built to provide housing until their homes were completed because of a scarcity of housing in the city. Purchasers of lots in the subdivision were permitted to use other builders but restrictions were in place that all homes would conform to the general architecture of neighborhood.

The subject house was completed in 1925, and the original occupants were William W. and Grace Ford. By as early as the later part of 1928, the house was owned and occupied by Howard O. Cheney and his wife, Mary Howard Cheney. The Cheney's and their descendents would continue to own and occupy the house until 1998.

The Howard Cheney's Biography:

Mr. Cheney was born on December 6, 1894 in Stephens, Georgia. He was the son of Enoch and Martha Cheney. He was educated in public schools in Stephens and later attended Gibson-Mercer College in Bowman, Georgia and the Athens Business College in Athens, Georgia before he became a clerk in a general merchandise store in Stephens. He was a veteran of World War I in which he served in the field artillery. He came to Sarasota from Stephens, Georgia in January, 1926.

Cheney married Mary Howard Cheney on February 24, 1920. Mrs. Cheney was also a native of Stephens, Georgia. She was a graduate of Greensboro College for Women, Greensboro, North Carolina. She came to Sarasota with Mr. Cheney in 1926 and became a leader in the church work of the First Baptist Church and its missionary society and was involved in social work in the city. She was an active member of the Garden Club and the Red Cross.

Howard Cheney was first employed as a salesman at J.L. Wynne's Grocery at 109 E 9th Street. The Cheneys resided with Wynne at 222 Indiana, a continuation of 11th Street. Cheney worked for Wynne until at least 1930 and by about 1936 he had taken over the store. It was by then renamed Cheney's Market. Cheney's brother, Joseph P. Cheney, operated a service station on nearby Central Avenue.

In 1941, he relocated his grocery business, Cheney's Market, to what is today Fruitville Road, at the corner of Orange Avenue. His business was successful and it was necessary to enlarge and remodel the store three times over the years. By the 1940s, Cheneys Market was considered to be Sarasota's longest established independent market. The store would continue in operation until the 1970s. Mr. Cheney was active in both the Rotary Club and the American Legion in Sarasota.

Mary Cheney died in 1946 and Howard Cheney remarried in 1948. His second wife, Edna Howard Cheney, was his first wife's sister. Edna Cheney was also born in Stephens, Georgia and came to Sarasota to live in 1948. Howard Cheney had a son, Howard O. Cheney, Jr., and two daughters, Caroline Cheney Green, and Lucyle Cheney Betz. Lucyle married John "Jack" C. Betz who came to Sarasota when he was three months old. He served as a city commission from 1964 until 1971 and as mayor for three one-year terms. He was appointed by Governor Reubin Askew to serve on Florida's environmental Regulation Commssion and the Board of Business Regulation. He was employed as senior Vice President of Richmond Construction Corp. Betz was also a former movie stuntman and coached swimming and football, as well as taught math at Sarasota High School.

Mr. and Mrs. Cheney continued to live in the house until their deaths. Mr. Cheney passed away in October of 1961 and Mrs. Cheney died in January of 1977. Subsequently, Lucyle Cheney Betz became the owner and her daughter, Buff Betz, and her family lived in the house for a number of years. Other Cheney family descendants lived in the house in later years." The house remained under the ownership of the Betz family, until Jack Betz's death in 1998 and it was sold to the present owner.

Cheney's Market on Fruitville still stands but, within the last ten years, the building was again altered by the demolition of a portion of its main facade. This occurred when Fruitville Road was widened, but the inscription "Cheney's Market" can still be seen scored into the stucco near the roof line.

The Howard Cheney House was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1999.