Buildings: Sarasota History
The Richardson/Atwater House is a 1925 one-story residence that was moved from today's First Street in downtown Sarasota to it present site at 3850 Flores Avenue in the Granada Subdivision, in 1952.
Although the house has been relocated from its original site and has received an addition and some alteration, it continues to retain and relay its original architectural integrity to a high degree, and is appropriate in its new setting.
The Granada Subdivision
As part of the Florida Land Boom in Sarasota during the 1920s, Granada Subdivision was platted in 1924. All of the lots of the subdivision were platted for residential uses. In the mid 1920s, several single family dwellings with various styles of architecture, including Spanish and Craftsman Bungalows, were constructed. The design of the Spanish bungalows was harmonious with the subdivision's name as well as street names in the neighborhood, Flores, Fortuna, Jacinto, Bonita, Camino Real and Almeria. The entire project exemplifies the romantic Spanish Revival theme that was popular throughout Florida and California during the boom era of the 1920s.
The subdivision was founded and developed by Charles "Charley" Tyson. Tyson came to Sarasota from Tennessee in 1924 and bought acreage amid the cabbage scrub palmetto along (then) Siesta Boulevard, present Siesta Drive, between Osprey and the Siesta Bridge, and called it "Granada." Many people doubted the future of the project knowing Tyson had paid a substantial amount of money for the property. Ignoring skeptics,
"...he kept on sawing wood and developing, until Granada was a bee hive of energy, a picture of artistic merit, with a score of so of beautiful homes and broad boulevards in the making."
When Granada's original plans were drawn they included wide streets and a park with a Spanish style fountain. The park was identified on the original plat as "Bonita Park" at the center of the development and the construction of the park and its landscaping were one of the first improvements to be completed. The park was planned and executed as a focal point for the subdivision and is still in existence today. The fountain was designated an historic object by the City of Sarasota, following a petition by the Granada homeowners, in March 1994.
Beginning in early 1925, several homes were constructed in Granada by the Granada Development Company, headed by Charles Tyson, and over the next two years, approximately 20 homes were completed, also by the Granada Development Company, one of which is the subject structure. The house was completed in late 1925. Although the architect is unknown, Thomas Reed Martin, recognized as one of Sarasota's most important architects during the 1920s and 1930s, is believed to be responsible for the design of several of Granada's Spanish Eclectic Style bungalows. Martin, himself, built a home on the southern edge of the subdivision on Camino Real. Although altered, the house still exists. Martin's wife, Sadie W. Martin was a charter member of both the Granada League, a women's civic organization, and the first garden circle in Granada. Leadly Ogden was an important and extremely active builder in Sarasota during the 1920s. He and his firm were responsible for the construction of numerous boom times buildings in Sarasota and was also active in the building of homes in Granada.
Granada's Later Development
Following the collapse of the Florida Land Boom, Tyson's continued plans for Granada floundered, just as development in many of the other Boom Time subdivisions, but the push for completion of the planned community continued with newspaper advertisements attempting to lure new residents to the community. By 1930, The Sarasota City Directory contained no listing for Tyson, and he may have left the area. As an advertisement in the Sarasota Herald in the 1930s read:
"Let me suggest that you visit GRANADA, the socially approved South Side residential district near the lower bay and south beaches. All owner occupied homes. Visit VINELAND, residence of Thomas Reed Martin, local architect and see a natural tropical garden - one of Sarasota's outstanding private estates. Mr. Martin will be pleased to show you a beautiful home site adjoining VINELAND."
Martin's Vineland was located at the corner of Camino Real and Bay Road. The property extended to include the land immediately opposite the subject property on Flores Avenue. Martin's former residence and later life architectural office still stand facing Bay Road on a portion of the former Vineland site.
A minimum number of houses were constructed in Granada in the late 1920s and during the following depression years. During WWII, Granada had its own Red Cross Work Center building, although its location is not known. It was not until after WWII that the incomplete subdivision was the site of many new homes. By the mid-1950s, the subdivision was, for the most part, fully developed.
Although the subject structure was constructed in 1925, it has been moved from its original downtown Sarasota site. Its former address was 145 W. Seventh Street, today's First Street.
The first occupants of the house were R.E. Richardson and his wife, Emma Jenkins Richardson. Mr. Richardson was a tile and marble contractor. Mrs. Richardson came to Sarasota in 1923 from Atlanta, Georgia. The Richardson's only occupied the house until early 1929. Shortly after the Richardson's vacated the house, Mrs. Richardson died in September, 1929.
After various tenants, in 1944 or early 1945, G. Switzer Atwater rented the house. Atwater lived in the house with his family and operated his plumbing business, Atwater Plumbing, out of the back of the house. George "Switz" Atwater came to Sarasota from a farm near Gainesville in Alachua County, Florida as a young man. By 1930, he was employed as a plumber with J.B. Green. Atwater's wife, Jamie Groover Southwick Atwater, came to Sarasota from Boston, Georgia in 1921.
In 1947, Atwater purchased the property and shortly thereafter constructed a detached one-story masonry building for business use. That building appears to still stand, albeit modernized, and now houses the City of Sarasota Credit Union.
By 1952, increased urban development in the core of the city where Atwater's home and business were located had altered and sense of residential setting for the property. On April 4, 1952, Atwater purchased two vacant residential lots from Mary Alice Sawyer who had owned the lots for a number of years having acquired the lots from the Granada Development Company, but never having built upon them. Shortly thereafter, Atwater contracted to have the house moved from its downtown site to the Granada site. A new foundation was laid and the house was relocated to the new site. Coinciding with the house move, Atwater make a room/carport addition to the original structure and along the upper wall of a portion of the addition. The Atwaters continued to own the property until 1959 when they moved to Irving Street. Mr. Atwater died in 1965, and Mrs. Atwater in 1974.