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The Field Club

People: Sarasota History

Credit: Sarasota County History Center

From ‘Great House’ to Field Club

The winter home of Stanley and Sara Carroll Brown Field was one of several winter homes built on the "gold coast" of Florida during the 1910s and 1920s.

The Fields, of the Marshall Field retail stores in Chicago, were drawn to this area by the Palmer family. Off Field Road, the home is now known as the Field Club. The Fields' home was designed by David Adler, architect for some of Chicago's most important and historic names, such as William McCormick Blair, Marshall and Stanley Field and Potter Palmer.

Adler specialized in design of the "great house" - a structure of generous size and elegant design dependent upon a sizable staff for its maintenance. Considered one of the most gifted of the "great house" designers, in the course of his career Adler completed a record 43 of them. During his lifetime, Adler's specialization became an impractical American architectural style due to the drastic changes in the federal income tax laws.

Adler's personal attention to detail and environmental site had earned him a reputation for related landscape and interior design. Construction of the Field home began in 1925 and took two years. The 18th-century Spanish villa style of the Field home was originally equipped with small, esoteric porch details on the western exterior wall. The interior doors, grill work and window detail had been meticulously designed some months following the structural plans.

Little Sarasota Bay figured strongly in Adler's design. He created a lagoon and he arched the main part of the house over a canal, creating a merging of architecture, setting and climate. The entrance to the Fields' 16-acre estate was through a two-story gate house, designed in the same Mediterranean style as the main structure.

From 1927 until 1957, the Fields wintered every year in Sarasota. The Fields, both in their eighties in 1957, decided to retire permanently to their Illinois home and put the estate up for sale.

Sarasota was rapidly developing, and it was highly likely that, when purchased, the property would be subdivided and the building razed. Field authorized John McCulley, a local Realtor, to conduct negotiations for the disposal of the property. McCulley was instructed to offer the property for $175,000 to any club that would use it for club purposes. McCulley offered the property to the Sarasota Yacht Club, but the club chose not to accept.

A group of Sarasota Yacht Club members got together on June 13, 1957. They agreed to the Fields' offer, and a budget was set up. A charter was drawn up, along with a 15-member board of directors, and the name "Field Club" was chosen. The official closing was on July 16, 1957, and the $175,000 price was paid for the estate.

Architects Ralph and William Zimmerman were hired to remodel the house into a club. The front entrance was transformed into a service entrance. There were vast interior changes, including a kitchen wing addition. Some rooms were done away with and others were enlarged. Tennis courts, a swimming pool and expanded docks for the members' yachts and boats were added.

The exterior of the building had remained largely unchanged and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Today, the Field Club's members, with its membership capped at 550, enjoy boating, tennis, swimming and a variety of activities that started with the vision of a winter resort built by Stanley Field.