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McKaig House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: Sarasota History Alive
Location: 1744 South Drive, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - McKaig House photo

The McKaig House is a one and two-story Colonial Revival Style structure with a secondary detached one-story garage located at 1774 South Drive in Cherokee Park Subdivision. The house was constructed in 1936 and has been well maintained.

The main residential structure is an imposing and outstanding example of the Colonial Revival Style and is the work of builders, Logan and Currin, considered one of the most prominent and successful builders in Sarasota throughout the Boom Time years of the 1920s, and into the 1930s.

Colonial Revival architecture is usually of an expansive scale, calm manner and represents nostalgia for a younger America. High style residences are likely to be enormous in size. On lesser dwellings, proportions are low and broad emphasized by widely spaced window openings, horizontal coursing and strong cornice lines.

Using traditional style as a starting point, these houses were designed as contemporary homes. They were considered by far the finest houses which America had ever known. They typically have clapboard exteriors and windows with at least six panes of glass in each sash. Front windows usually have ornamental shutters which do not open and shut. Instead of a front porch, Colonial Revival houses usually have a side porch known as a sun parlor or sunroom. These rooms predate the retreat of the American family to the patio, the barbecue, and the backyard. Colonial Revival houses often sit on large grassy lawns and have ornamental shrubbery around their foundations.

Historical Information

A number of new subdivisions were platted in Sarasota in 1925. These included Sapphire Shores, to the extreme north of the city, and Cherokee Park, near the southern limits of the city. Both developments provided certain "amenities": gateposts, curving streets, small "pocket parks", and theme street names.

James C. Brown, a silk manufacturer, born in Scotland, came to Sarasota from New Jersey in 1925. He purchased a large parcel of property, the site of a former orange grove, in the southern part of the City limits from A.E. Cummer. He constructed a beautiful Mediterranean Revival residence for himself, Cherokee Lodge (demolished in the 1960s), and subdivided the remaining property. In 1925, he filed a plat for the property which he named Cherokee Park Subdivision.

An early map indicates that several lots were sold and that prices ranged from $1,200 to $1,800. The price of the subject property is shown as $1,500 and is marked sold on that map. In about 1944, McKaig purchased the lot on the west side of his residence and at some other time, he acquired an additional lot to the east. In 1949, McKaig sold the west 50 feet of the vacant west lot to Emmett Addy who added it to his own lot, just west. The Addys constructed a residence on the property that same year.

The sales map indicates there were plans for tennis courts and a community swimming pool, neither of which appear to have been constructed. Following the demise of the Florida Land Boom, real estate business disappeared overnight. Relatively sparse development of the city took place, and new construction of the 1930s to 1950s was mostly infill. Most of the lots in Cherokee Park remained unsold and were not developed until after World War II as seen by the existing housing stock.

Clarence Leslie McKaig and Alice F. McKaig - 1936-1993

In 1936, Clarence L. McKaig contracted with architect L.H. Johnson for the design of a residence to be constructed on a lot recently sold to him by the developer of Cherokee Park on South Drive within the subdivision. A building permit for $8,000 was issued and construction of the house began on May 11, 1936 and was anticipated to take three months to complete. The building firm of Logan and Currin was the contractor. Logan and Currin were highly respected builders and are recognized for the construction of many homes in Sarasota. During Sarasota's Boom Time years and throughout the 1930s, the firm was one of the most active building contractors. Frank A. Logan constructed a house for his own family, on Datura Street in nearby DeSota Park Subdivision. Logan was a graduate of Dennison University in Granville, Ohio and was originally from Norwick, Ohio. He served in the Army during World War I and invented a new type of gas mask canister while serving as the head of the production plant at Edgewood arsenal in Maryland. The canister was subsequently widely used by the Army. Logan came to Sarasota in 1924 and formed the Logan and Currin building firm with Russell A. Currin whom he had been associated with in college. He entered the bond business in 1931 and in 1936; the City Council recognized his ability by appointing him the city's fiscal agent. "Largely, through his efforts, the city's bond refunding plan was successfully negotiated."

Russell A. Currin had come to Sarasota from Baltimore, Ohio in 1923. In Sarasota, Logan served as the President of the Chamber of Commerce, two terms as a member of the City Council, and the only man ever to serve two consecutive terms as commander of the Sarasota Bay Post No. 30, American Legion. Currin also took an active role in local community and government affairs. He served on the draft board and was a member of the Board of Public Instruction (School Board). Both, Frank Logan and Russell Currin, served as City Councilmen.

Together, Logan and Currin constructed many homes and built many of the prominent buildings throughout the city and worked with most important architects of the 1920s and 30s. Having earlier been chosen as the contractor of a home for the Caples House (listed in the National Register as part of the Ringling Historic District) near what would be later part of the Ringling Museum and home acreage, helped establish the quality of their work within the community. Several other distinguished homes are given credit to the firm, such as two mirror image houses on Woodland Drive in Sapphire Shores, the Indiana Apartments on Fifth Street and many of the homes constructed throughout Lewis Combs Subdivision and DeSota Park, south of downtown.

Clarence McKaig often liked to tell the story of how he acquired the lot in Cherokee Park on which he built the subject property. He told the story of a Sunday in 1935 when he and his wife were out for a drive and drove through the Cherokee Park Subdivision. They were stopped and engaged in conversation with James C. Brown, the developer and owner of Cherokee Park. Supposedly, Brown asked if they like the neighborhood and, after replying that they did, he asked them if they would like to have a lot. McKaig responded that they were financially unable to purchase one. At that point, Brown told them he would give them their choice of a lot if they would agree to construct a home within one year and give him approval of their design. According to C.L. McKaig, Brown was interested in stimulating growth and continuing development of Cherokee Park. Brown also deeded lots to two others, Colonel Mayo and Benton Powell, both of which selected lots and built homes on North Drive within the subdivision. The McKaigs selected the subject lot, C.L. drew up the deed, and Brown signed the lot over to them.

Once the McKaigs received title to that lot, they approached Realtor A.E. Edwards who was handling a government loan program for home buyers during the Great Depression. Edwards had his office in the Edwards Theater, now the Sarasota Opera House. When asked by Edwards if they had any cash to put down on building a house, McKaig replied that they only had $1,000 cash but they did own a lot. The lot was used as collateral, the loan was made and the house was built within the year.

The McKaigs moved into the house on September 2, 1936. The completion of their home made the total number of houses in Cherokee Park only five. Brown's estate, Cherokee Lodge, Colonel Mayo's home at 1700 North Drive, Benton Powell's residence, also on North Drive and John Fite Robertson's house, constructed in 1926 by boom time Realtor, Pat Ennis, further west on South Drive, at 1607. McKaig recalled in later years that he trained his bird dogs to catch quail in Cherokee Park, it was so undeveloped. Snakes were a problem, too. Robertson and McKaig would burn off the overgrowth to kill the snakes in the vacant lots.

Clarence "Mack" Leslie McKaig, was born in Normandy, Tennessee. His father worked in the farming and logging business. McKaig's father died when he was three, and he had various jobs from the time he was nine and worked his way through prep school. Just before World War I, he was working on the Old Hickory gunpowder plant near Nashville and waiting to go into WWI, when he contracted the flu, which was epidemic at the time. It cut his military service short, just long enough to get a uniform, a discharge and a $50 bonus. McKaig attended schools in Bedford County, Tennessee in earlier years and later at the Brandon Training School in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville. McKaig took and passed the Civil Service exam and paid for his education with money earned from working in the United States Post Office in Nashville. The summers away from the post office gave McKaig time to earn more money. During two of these summers, McKaig and some student friends sold Bibles in Pittsburgh. He sold enough Bibles and other books to pay his expenses and tuition. He passed his Tennessee Bar exam and was admitted to the Tennessee State Bar in 1924, several months before his graduation from Vanderbilt.

McKaig learned from Nathan G. Robertson, father of his good friend, Attorney John Fite Robertson, that Sarasota was enjoying a big real estate boom and might be a good place to open a law practice. He came to Sarasota on New Years Day, 1925 aboard the old Seaboard Airline Railroad, stepping off the train into a swarm of the "knickerbockers army" - real estate sellers who invaded Florida during the land boom. McKaig had $75, $50 of which he immediately put in the bank. While waiting until he could take the Florida bar exam, McKaig asked Postmaster Homer Welch for a job at the post office and was hired. He also got his real estate sales license by going to the courthouse and paying $2 to the tax collector. He was admitted to the Florida Bar six months later, and immediately began to practice law.

McKaig opened his law office, specializing in wills and estates, on the fourth floor of the First Bank and Trust Building (where the Plaza at Five Points stands today) where he remained for the next 65 years, changing from the fourth floor to seventh in the 1980s.

McKaig served as the attorney for the Palmer family which owned the building most of those years, and had large land holdings in Sarasota until the mid-1970s. He also served as the legal council for the Palmer Bank from 1945 until 1967. He served as Sarasota's City Attorney from 1941-1946.

In 1946, when the change to a city-manager form of government was established, much through his efforts, he resigned and was appointed by the new City Commission as a member of their advisory board. McKaig also served as a director of the Palmer First National Bank & Trust Co. of Sarasota from 1945 until 1974. In 1951, together with his friend and neighbor, John Fite Robertson, he drafted the charter and by-laws for the nonprofit neighborhood association of Cherokee Park.

He was the first President of the Sarasota Bar Association in 1934 and was the longest serving board member of the Sarasota Welfare Home (now The Pines of Sarasota). McKaig was instrumental in the passage of the legislation and the validation of the first issue of bonds for what is now Sarasota Memorial Hospital. He became active in civic affairs and was a member of the board of directors of the Sarasota County Chapter of the American Red Cross and served for many years as a director and on various committees of the Chamber of Commerce, and was chairman of the board of stewards of the First Methodist Church. He was also a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, the Masonic Lodge, the Rotary Club, and was a member and commander of the American Legion, having served shortly in the Army during WWI.

In September, 1928, McKaig traveled to Parksburg, Missouri to marry Alice Funkhouser, of Plattsburg, Missouri before returning to Sarasota to make their home. Mrs. McKaig attended Ward-Belmont Colleger in Nashville, Tennessee and met C.L. when he was a student at Vanderbilt. The couple resided in the Cornish Apartments on Loma Linda Street before building the subject structures. Alice McKaig was active in women's affairs in Sarasota and belonged to the Woman's Club, the American Legion Auxilary, the Garden Club, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Ace of Clubs Bridge Club. She served as President of the Rotary Anns. During WWII, she was chairman of the Camp and Hospital Committee of the Red Cross, and served as vice-chairman of the chapter. Although the McKaigs never had children, he and his wife provided college scholarships for a number of Sarasota children and helped underwrite the Southern Scholarship Foundation - a Tallahassee-based organization which buys and equips homes for student cooperative living. McKaig served on the Board of Directors until he was 91 years old in 1990. One of the houses constructed by the organization for student housing located in Tallahassee is called McKaig House and commemorates McKaig's long tenure on the foundation's board of directors.

The McKaigs often made fishing trips together to Lake Okeechobee and Mr. McKaig was an avid bird hunter and maintained a hunting car for hunting trips. At the rear of the property is a concrete slab where McKaig kept a dog run for his bird dogs. A separate septic tank was installed for cleaning the run. On his hunting trips, McKaig often joined friends, Frances "Docky" Walpole and Verman Kimbrough for bird hunts.

The McKaigs retained ownership of the property and resided in the home until their deaths in 1992. Clarence McKaig died in July, 1992 and Mrs. McKaig in October, that same year. Upon Mr. McKaig's death, an editorial was printed in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that eulogized McKaig by saying:

"Sarasota lost a prominent link to its past Sunday with the death of Clarence L. "Mack" McKaig, a Tennessee native whose courtly manners and honest competence graced a law practice that endured 65 years in the same Five Points office building."

Greatly respected in the legal community, "Mr. Mack" was recognized upon his death by the Sarasota County Bar Association by a Certificate of Appreciation that was presented to his descendants.

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