Casey Key is Filled with Architectural Delights
Articles: Sarasota History
The natural beauty of Casey Key has attracted the attention of visitors and residents to the Gulf Coast for many years. Casey Key's first non-native inhabitants were members of the Isaac Shumard family, originally from Missouri, who arrived around 1900. Casey Key's earliest remaining structures date back to the first quarter of the 20th century and were quite typical of Sarasota's Boom Time, Mediterranean Revival Style, architecture.
However, as early as the late 1930s innovative architects were creating an architectural legacy on Casey Key in ways that are still being recognized for their importance. A notable example was the Miller House (pictured), located at 2209 Casey Key Road and built in 1948.
Designed by the architectural team of Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph, who worked together in Sarasota from 1941 to 1951, their stated purpose in the design "was to make unmistakably clear how each member is joined to its neighbor." An award given by Progressive Architecture magazine in 1949, for the home's "orderliness of design and pleasant interiors" demonstrated that the architects had achieved their stated goal.
Featured in "Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses," a recent book by Christopher Domin and Joseph King, the home is described therein as "a large winter residence placed on a beachfront bluff that combines a sense of warmth and intimacy derived from the materials used and an openness created by the T-Shaped plan and open bay system."
Although, additions were made to the Miller House, its plan remained remarkably intact. Originally 2,500 square feet, the home had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Constructed of Ocala block, the living room, kitchen, and loggia featured massive cypress beams. The architects made extensive use of glass, with a clerestory window in the living room and large sliding glass doors throughout the house to provide ventilation and invite the outdoors in, a hallmark of the Sarasota School of Architecture.
Important in its own right, the Miller House, now demolished, is also important as a place marker in the historic architecture of Casey Key and the dynamic careers of Twitchell and Rudolph. North of the location where the Miller House existed, at 2405 Casey Key Road, is the Joseph W. Lippincott House, built fifteen years before the Miller House, around 1935. Reportedly designed by Ralph Twitchell for this prominent publisher, the home is Mediterranean Revival in style although its rounded corners and restrained ornamentation shows that Twitchell’s work was moving towards modern as demonstrated in his Art Deco style, Lido Beach Casino of 1937 and the Miller House in 1948.
Further north on the key, at 3013 Casey Key Road, is Paul Rudolph’s last Casey Key residence, the Deering Home. Completed in 1958 this home refined many of the ideas used in the Miller House such as the creation of a design that seamlessly merged indoor and outdoor spaces and utilized native materials. In the Deering residence, architect Rudolph designed multi-level indoor-outdoor spaces within a simple cube, a hallmark of his residential work for this period.
For architects and designers seeking inspiration today, our knowledge of Casey Key’s rich architectural legacy of the mid-20th century, may provide answers.