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Dolph and Laura Albritton House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: City of Sarasota
Location: 1707 Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Dolph and Laura Albritton House photo

The DOLPH and LAURA ALBRITTON HOUSE is located at 1707 Bahia Vista Street at the intersection of Pomelo Avenue in Graham Heights Subdivision. The structure meets the criteria for historic designation through its association with the development of agriculture and the cultivation of strawberries during a time when Sarasota was attempting to establish itself as one of the biggest and most famous strawberry centers in the state. It is also linked to the early development of truck farming within Sarasota's agricultural industry.

Adolphus Daniel Albritton, came to Sarasota as a boy in the 1880s and went on to play an important role in both agricultural development as an early grower, and as a pioneer in strawberry cultivation. Albritton, along with his father-in-law, W.F. Rigby, was also responsible for the construction of many of the first commercial buildings in Sarasota during the first quarter of the century.

The Albritton house is an excellent example of Florida frame vernacular in the form of an American Folk House built using the methods prevalent in the early 1900s. It also serves as a wonderfully preserved example of a typical truck farm house within a farming and strawberry producing community.

The turn of the century brought increased expansion to Sarasota including the founding of the Sarasota Times. The town population increased and a number of Victorian residences were constructed around Morrill Street and Orange Avenues.

The completion of the Seaboard Airline Railway in 1903 marked the end of Sarasota's pioneer era and the beginning of increased commerce. Tracks for the Seaboard Railroad came directly through town. This connection helped to expand markets not only for Sarasota's fishing industry but also for local citrus and agricultural industries. In return the railroad brought numerous manufactured goods and building materials not available in Sarasota.

In 1907, the Town of Sarasota levied real estate taxes for the first time with the first tax bills sent out early in 1908. In December of 1908, the town held its first bond election. A proposed $25,000 bond issue for street paving was approved but a proposed $5,000 issue for sewers was defeated. After the bonds were sold a pavement was put down on Main Street and Orange and short sections of Central, Pineapple, Osprey, and Gulf Stream.

With the promise of future growth, further improvements, and successful farming in Sarasota, Adolphus "Dolph" Daniel Albritton was enticed to purchase property south of downtown in an area where acreage became available, just south of the Hudson Bayou.

The Albritton's biography:

"Dolph" Daniel Albritton was born in Fort Green, Florida. His father moved the family to Old Myakka in the early 1880s. He attended school with A.B. Edwards, who later would become the first mayor of the City of Sarasota. Albritton moved to Sarasota to court his future wife, Laura Rigby. A.B. Edwards served as best man at their wedding in 1900. The wedding was held at Laura Rigby's father's houses. She was the daughter of William and Leola Rigby, who came to Sarasota in 1894. Mr. Rigby was Sarasota's first building contractor' and constructed Sarasota's first municipal building, the first jail, and many of the first commercial buildings. He and his sons, who also worked in various capacities in the construction field in Sarasota, were all well known for their building activities.

Albritton went into partnership as a contractor and builder with his future father-in-law, William Rigby from 1903 until 1916. Albritton, himself, built one of the first commercial buildings in Sarasota, the annex to the old Bell Haven Inn and together, he and Rigby, constructed many of the first commercial buildings in Sarasota as well as their own homes.

Albritton built his first home in Sarasota on what is now the southeast comer of State Street and Lemon Avenue. In 1905, he purchased 40 acres on the north side of what is now State Road 780. It was between Sarasota and Old Myakka. His mother and the children still at home lived on the southside just opposite. He eventually sold his 40 acres in-the woods because "it was too far for him to continue building and the soil was poor".

In 1908, he built his third home which is the subject of designation marker. He continued building in Sarasota but decided farming was his real talent and began his own farming operation. He farmed the north side of Bahia Vista Avenue from Pomelo to Osprey Avenue. His small farm encompassed four acres. He grew all kinds of fruit and vegetables but his specialty was his strawberries. He had an acre of tomatoes, one in melons, one-half acre in sweet corn, the same in Irish potatoes besides other vegetables in small amounts. He even had a rice paddy. He grew the first head of lettuce in the area and from this location he shipped the first refrigerated train carload of Sarasota produce to the northern markets. A May 15, 1915 article in the Sarasota Times states that Albritton was enjoying a great success from intensive cultivation on his farm. He was able to supply his family with every variety of fresh vegetables and still have sales receipts in 1914 for $1,400.00, a considerable amount for farming at the time in Sarasota. He sold almost all of his crops locally and the rest were shipped daily by rail.

Newspaper accounts reflect that a great deal of experimental farming was taking place in Sarasota during the first part of the 20th century in order to determine the ability to raise various fruit and vegetable crops. Celery cultivation one was of the most successful crops in the Sarasota Bay District and county as a whole. Strawberries cultivation was another. In March, 1914, as a result of success in producing strawberries, the growers, with Albritton present, met and formed the Sarasota Strawberry Growers Association. Albritton was made a director. At the time, only Albritton, Dr. Crowley and Franklin P. Dean, had already made a start with strawberry cultivation on their own land. The formation of the association was considered a very progressive step for Sarasota and Manatee County. The organization then proceeded to lease land and establish their 1,816 acre farm at Morning Glory Ridge one and a half miles from town for the production of the fruit. Based on Albritton's own farm's success, the Association hired him as the Association Farm Manager. Bertha Palmer, along with other Palmer interests, expressed her confidence that the work done by the local association would result in making the section a leading strawberry center in the development by subscribing to $2,000 of the $10,000 of initial stock of the organization. In December, 1914, the Association ordered Sarasota's first refrigerator railroad cars and shipment of strawberries along with other vegetables was to begin within a few weeks.

Albritton continued his farm operation which was considered one of the larger strawberry farms. Strawberry's cultivated locally brought "fancy" prices on the market based on their quality and as such created a demand for the locally grown berries.

Albritton also purchased an additional 40 acre tract at Inwood Park in close proximity to the railroad depot where he put in a 700 foot well and ditched the land for irrigation. He continued to farm on this land and reside on Bahia Vista Street until September, 1923 when he sold off the farmland property, including the farmhouse to Elizabeth O. Graham. Mrs. Graham, a widow, subdivided the property and platted Graham Heights Subdivision in December, 1924. The Albritton House remained a part of this subdivision.

In 1925, he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, builder and realtor, Harry Rigby, in the development of the Boom Time subdivision, Nacrima (American spelled backwards), just east of the Sarasota city limits near Bahia Vista and Tuttle Avenue. (Although the subdivision was not fully developed when the real estate market in Sarasota collapsed, but still exists today.) Albritton and his wife, two daughters and two grandchildren moved on to a piece of property near the development on the east side of Tuttle Avenue, just south of Bahia Vista, across from the old Doctor's Hospital. On that property, he grew "everything except citrus and pigs".'

In 1927, Albritton opened and managed another forty acre farm, the first unit of Palmer Farms. He harvested the first celery which was shipped north by train out of Sarasota. It was called "Black Gold" because of the black muck and the high price. During the Depression, his family remained well provided for and he fed many hungry people.

Albritton remained with the Palmer Corporation until his retirement in 1939. He and his wife then moved to Riverside, Florida and had a large farm there where they harvested green vegetables. He later returned to the Sarasota area and purchased another farm in Laurel with local businessman, Fred House. He continued that operation until 1945 when he retired completely from farming.

In May, 1950, he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. More than one hundred guests attended the celebration. Several prominent Sarasota residents attended; J.W. Harvey, Jr. and Sr., Gertrude Higel, Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Edwards and several Albritton and Rigby family members.

According to his family, Albritton was responsible for many firsts in Sarasota. He bought a Model T Ford from the first carload shipped to Sarasota and one of the first radios sold in Sarasota. He bought it in Carlton Teate, Jr.'s shop. His telephone was only the 22nd installed and he rented the 24th post office box.

The Dolph & Laura Albritton House was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1994.