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The Edson Keith Estate

Markers: Sarasota History

Location: 5500 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - The Edson Keith Estate photo

The Edson Keith estate on the south bank of Phillippi Creek, typical of the grand estate houses erected by the extensive Chicago coterie of friends in Sarasota, reflects much of Sarasota's most venerable history. The estate lies near the "rancho", or seasonal fishing camp, on the creek named for Felipe Bermudez. This ranch was first recorded by government survey in 1847. The Sarasota area was dotted with such Spanish camps, supplying fish to Cuba and the West Indies in the early 1800s during Spain's rule.

Part of public lands ceded to the state by the federal government upon admission to the Union, the Philippi parcel was a tiny portion of the 4,000,000 acres purchased by Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia in 1881 for $1,000,000. This purchase helped rescue Florida from bankruptcy after the Civil War.

In 1883, farmer and bee-keeper W.J. Drumwright purchased 40 acres of the parcel from Disston for $50, selling that and additional land in 1910 to George H. and C. Woodburn Matheny, who subdivided it as "Phillippi Park." In 1911, Chicago socialite Mabel Linn purchased the estate property from the Mathenys and began development of a homesite.

Miss Linn sold the undeveloped property in 1915 for $7,000 to Edson Keith, Jr., president of a large millinery business and a member of Sarasota's "Chicago Colony" which included the Field, Palmer, and other prominent families. In the summer of 1916, the Keiths began construction of their "Italian Renaissance" home on Phillippi Creek. The architects were William A. Otis and Edwin H. Clark of Chicago. Original out-buildings still standing include a two-story servants' home, garden shed, and garage. Other buildings on the estate included a water tower, a chauffeur's house, and various sheds for farm and citrus grove activities.

Keith died in the home in 1939 and his widow sold the property to Chicago doll clothing designer Mae Hansen Prodie, whose husband operated the home as a luxury inn in the 1950s. Mrs. Prodie retired to the home in the 1960s and upon her death in 1986, Sarasota County acquired the property as a park site through a bond referendum.

Dedicated in 1990 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission

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