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Amateur Poetess Practiced Real Estate

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Ann Shank, former Sarasota County Historian
Source: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Photo Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources

Sarasota History - Amateur Poetess Practiced Real Estate photo

A little baby girl is certainly a treasure,
So I’m sending her a bonnet just for good measure -
Also the stockings to keep her feet warm,
So that old Jack Frost can do them no harm.

Ethel Wood loved poetry and used rhymed verse such as the one above to communicate greetings to family and friends. Her birthday poems to her father were typically part of his annual birthday celebration at “Uncle Ben” Stickney’s as reported in the Sarasota Times. “To My Little Mother,” an undated press clipping of a poem in Wood’s collection, could well have been written by her at the time of her mother’s death in 1924.

Wood came to Sarasota as a winter visitor with her parents, Luke and Annie Wood, in 1896. They purchased a house that, with surrounding citrus trees, had been untended for several years. Near the present McDonald’s at U.S. 301 and Wood Street, the house became their winter residence. They kept milk cows and tended the citrus. In the summer, they returned to Onset, Massachusetts.
Luke Wood had been a farmer, and his daughter continued the family tradition in her gardening and landscaping. One of her favorite spots on the Wood property was the ravine. A news reporter described it as “one of the loveliest garden spots in Sarasota…A visitor passes through a wildwood of shrubs and flowers and fruit trees” on the way to the ravine hidden by “tapestried gray moss hangings.” Only a hint of the ravine remains, just west of the Wood Street – U.S. 41 – U.S. 301 intersection.

Within two years of her father’s death, Ethel Wood joined Daisy Williams in establishing the real estate firm of Williams and Wood in October, 1935. Wood was relatively new to real estate. A diary entry on May 10th of that year noted that she had received her first sales commission, $100, the previous day. The women’s office was on the north side of lower Main Street, opposite Sears and Roebuck. For more than a decade, they sold, rented and managed properties.

In 1948, Wood began modernizing her house. After having electric lines installed, she wrote in her diary that, with the G.E. refrigerator working, it was “a relief not to bother with the ice man.” She interspersed selling property with overseeing those working on her house.
Wood died in 1966 at 90 years-old. Her friends remembered her as someone who loved to dance. She frequented dances at the Recreation Club, and a letter from a friend in 1960 inquired, “How are you – are you waltzing and whistling?”

Wood had planned for her house to become a home for the elderly in memory of her mother, but it did not meet building code requirements. Anderson Ford purchased the property and deeded it to the Sarasota County Historical Commission, which turned it over to the Historical Society. After nearly 10 years of public debate about where the house should be relocated, and with the support of a number of community groups, the house was moved to Sarasota County School Board property on the corner of Hatton and Euclid streets and operated as a house museum by the Historical Society. After the museum closed, a later move took the house to its present site on Florida Avenue.* The Wood house is somewhat changed, but remains a clear example of early Sarasota “urban” architecture.

*The house was moved once more to 1260 12th Street in 2006, and is located in Pioneer Park.