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Burns Court Historic District

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: City of Sarasota
Location: 431 Burns Lane, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Burns Court Historic District photo

The Burns Court Historic District consists of fifteen concrete block and masonry construction, stucco-finished, Mediterranean Revival Style, one-story bungalows, each with its own one-car garage housed in nine original garage outbuildings. Burns Court was constructed from 1924 to 1925 by the prominent developer, Owen Burns, with designs by Thomas Reed Martin of Martin Studios of Sarasota. The dwellings are located on a "U"shaped vehicular access lane which is approached from the west side of the 400-block of South Pineapple Avenue. Burns Court was built as a "co-operative subdivision". Mr Burns personal home was located at 431 Burns Lane.

On the South Pineapple Avenue boundary of the District, the five original garage structures are linked visually by a stucco masonry wall which is pierced by pedestrian accesses -- round-arched gates and openings marked by masonry stylized brackets.

Each dwelling measures approximately 26 ft. x 40 ft., and is sited in a lot measuring approximately 42 ft. x 90 ft. Each shares a generous front-yard setback and original sidewalk line appears at the front lot line of each dwelling.

The Burns Court dwellings were designed with significant climatic sensitivity, each building has four exposures, assuring the necessary cross-ventilation with the casement windows and entrance porches which provided exposure to the Sarasota Bay breezes. Each building offers a range of architectural design elements in the Mediterranean Revival Style with Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission overtones. Most of the units share design partners of "mirror images," rather than "carbon copy" designs. The use of segmental, round and ogee arched door and window openings as well as a variety of roof parapet shapes provides a design vocabulary which relieve a potential monotony, that a lesser architect might have committed.

The fifteen dwellings-and corresponding nine garage outbuildings, sidewalk and vehicular access patterns, and masonry wall enclosures are remarkably intact.
The Burns Court Historic District is a remarkable enclave, significant for its site integrity as well as the association with the prominent developer, Owen Burns, and as a design of the significant regional architect, Thomas Reed Martin.

Owen Burns:

The owner/builder of Burns Court, Mr. Owen Burns, first came to Sarasota to take advantage of the excellent sports fishing which the area provided. Mr. Burns was born on the eastern shore of Maryland in 1869 and first visited Sarasota in 1910. By 1913 Mr. & Mrs. Burns had purchased the Halton Sanitarium located on Gulf stream Avenue. The home of Mr. & Mrs. Owen Burns on the bay front was being made over during their absence in New York. Originally built for a sanitarium, there were many partitions, and most of those were torn out to make the rooms larger. By the early "teens" Mr. Burns had established the Burns Realty Company with an office located at 229 Main Street as well as the Burns Dredging Company. Mr. Burns also worked in.partnership with Mr. G. M. McAlpin as "Burns & McAlpin," a company which was engaged in curbing and sidewalk paving and building construction.

Owen Burns was a significant force in the development of the City of Sarasota, both in the construction realm and the real estate-field, having purchased more than 75 percent of the present city from Col. J. Hamilton Gillespie. One of the largest land fills in the State of Florida was executed from his home, 310 North Gulf Stream Avenue to Sunset Park and Golden Gate point.

By 1926 the Burns Realty Company, Burns Supply Company were located at Broadway and 7th Street in a U-shaped structure with the current street address of 101 North Tamiami Trail (opposite the current First Street). The Burns Realty Company building was designed by Dwight James Baum, and by 1927-28 the office included a listing for Burns Construction Company which was responsible for the construction of the Ringling Causeway which connected Lido Beach with Ringling Isles.

Named after Mrs. Burns, the former Vernona Hill Freeman, the El Vernona Hotel (later purchased by John Ringling and re-named the John Ringling Hotel) was one of Mr. Burns' owner/built projects of national note. In addition to his real estate and construction careers, Mr. Burns was also a member of the City Planning Board. At the time of his death, Mr. Burns was the owner and operator of the Tre-Ripe Citrus Guava preserving company which was located on the former Seventh Street (which today is First Street).

Thomas Reed Martin:

Thomas Reed Martin, the architect who designed Burns Court, was born in Menasha, Wisconsin in 1866. Having studied and worked in the architectural field inChicago, Mr. Martin moved to Sarasota in 1910 and secured his first local commission to construct the "Oaks" for Mrs. Potter Palmer.

The firm of Mr. Martin, Martin's Studio, was located at 306 Main Street with services listed as follows: "blueprints, landscape architects, lighting fixtures, pottery, interior decorating," with emphasis on the design of "original Floridian homes. Thomas Reed Martin is alleged to have been the original architect commissioned to design John Ringling's residence, "Ca'd'Zan," (although his design was not ultimately executed). He is credited with having designed more than 500 houses in the Sarasota area, commissions which included the H. B. Williams Residence, 1509 South Orange Avenue, and the L. D. Reagin Residence, 1213 North Palm Avenue. Mr. Martin's design capabilities ranged from the design of "Floridian homes" to the adaptation of modern materials including the use of glass block and formed concrete in later commissions, including The Newton Shockley Residence located at Golden Gate Point. Mr. Martin and his son, Frank Martin, designed several of the WPA funded public buildings located at Plaza Santa Domingo, Sarasota. Thomas Reed Martin died in 1949 at the age of 83.

The Burns Court Historic District was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1985.

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