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The Schueler House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: Sarasota History Alive
Location: 76 South Washington Drive, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - The Schueler House photo

The house, and its secondary garage, located at 76 South Washington Drive, on St. Armands Key, is also referred to as the Schueler House. Both structures are Mediterranean Revival in style and were constructed in ca. 1925.

During the Florida Land Boom in Sarasota from 1923-1926, the most prevalent style expressed in local architecture was Med Rev; although the majority of residential structures were smaller in scale and often displayed less decorative detail. Design work done in the style during those years, developed into two types of regional architecture, one of which was given credit to Dwight James Baum, believed to be the architect of this home based upon its similarity to his other works, and the fact that Baum did design several of the residences in Ringling Estates.

Complicated Ownership

Although it is known that the house was constructed in late 1925 or 1926 as part of the original Ringling Estates, information regarding its early occupancy has been extremely difficult and unable to be documented. Two previous owners and one neighbor attest that the house was at one time occupied by John Ringling's mother (not possible - she was deceased prior to the house's construction) or only sister, Ida Ringling North. Mrs. North did reside on St. Armands in 1929 and 1930 as indicated by the 1930 Bradenton Telephone Directory and the 1930 Sarasota City Directory for that year. Ringling's sister is more widely associated with New Edzel Castle, the former Worcester home, on Bird Key. Her brother, John, had purchased the entire island of Bird Key along with the house in 1922 with the intent of offering the house as a Winter White House during President Warren Harding's presidency.

Other Ringling family members occupied the Bird Key house from time to time prior to and at the same time Ida Ringling took up residency in 1932. She continued to reside in the Bird Key house until her death in December, 1950. John Ringling's great-niece, Pat Ringling Buck, does believe that Mrs. North resided on the east side of South Washington Drive from ca. 1927 or 1928 until ca. 1932, but is unclear as to exactly which house. In consideration of the fact that there are only three houses dating from the 1920s on this side of the street, one can only speculate as to which, if any, was the former North residence.

Another factor that lends some credibility to the home being occupied by the North's is the fact that it is possibly the only property in Ringling Estates that remained under the ownership of various Ringling corporations for such an extended period lasting until September, 1933.

In March, 1930 ownership transferred to Ringling's Sarasota Gulf and Bay Company, but in September the property was deeded back to his sole ownership through his foreclosure action at a cost of $50,000. In the first few months of 1931, much of the property formerly associated with Ringling Isles, including this house was transferred to the St. Armands-Lido Realty Corporation with New Yorker, A.A. Rattaliata as President and Ringling's assistant, Richard Fuchs, as secretary. In reviewing the abstract, it can be noted that Ringling's other holdings were frequently under financial challenge, yet this house was repeatedly excluded from the list of multiple St. Armands land holdings listed in those actions.

One other item of note, is the fact that two former owners attest to the fact that the dining room retains a hand-painted circus motif on its walls. An attempt to restore the border was made in the late 1980s and, although the border could be seen, the modern stucco finish applied over it could not be removed. In addition to these items that only add speculation, an unsigned and undated writing on a small sheet of paper can be found in the Abstract of Title in possession of the current owners. The writing ironically contains handwritten information on Ida Ringling North and her sons.

The Baum Legacy*

The Schueler House at 76 South Washington Drive, like its next door neighbor, was built to stimulate further development of Ringling Estates. Its architect, Dwight James Baum designed the El Vernona Hotel (later known as the John Ringling Towers) for Owen Burns in 1925, and he shared office space with Burns, who built the house. Baum designed the first three houses in the subdivision, including this home, and set the Mediterranean theme.

In 1926, Burns took legal action against Ringling for transferring funds from their financially sound island real estate project to Ringling's ailing Ritz Carlton Hotel project on Longboat Key. Burns and other Sarasota investors lost money in the hotel that was never completed. Ringling was known to exaggerate his financial position by switching ownership of assets from creditors. At one point, Burns refused to lend Ringling some land and Ringling accused him of mistrust. Ringling began to attempt to foreclose on various mortgages he held on land he owned under his Ringling Isles Corporation. He then changed the corporation name and broke with Burns.

Ringling replaced Burns with George Schueler, who was married to Mable Ringling's sister, Dulcey. The Schuelers moved into the house, and resided there for four years, according to Pat Ringling Buck.

*Excerpts taken from Dorothy Stockbridge-Pratt's article, "Survivors of the Boom" in the Sarasota Herald Tribune dated, September 21, 1996.

The house at 76 South Washington Drive was locally designated in 1994. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

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