Buildings: Sarasota History
The Federal Building located at 111 South Orange Avenue was constructed as a U.S. Post Office with a WPA federal subsidy of $175,000 appropriated by Congress in 1931. Plans for the Neoclassical Revival Style Post Office were prepared by George Albree Freeman, his associate, Harold N. Hall and supervising architect, Louis A. Simon. The test borings for the foundation were prepared by the local Sarasota contractor, C.W. Matheny and the plans of George Albree Freeman and H.N. Hall were approved at the Washington D.C. level by August of 1932.
A contemporary newspaper clipping described the building as a “Classical design of the Corinthian type, fireproofed throughout with steel structure piling in the foundations. The most modern plumbing, heating and ventilating equipment will be installed. One radical innovation in the new Post Office will be the use of marble and aluminum where metal is ordinarily employed in parts of the building used by the public.” Although Neoclassical Revival in style, several design elements and materials were indeed innovative for the time; in particular, the suppressed or implied parapet which appears at the western elevation and the use of aluminum in the interior.
The Federal Building or Post Office is an example of the fourth building period phase (1930 – 1935) in the city of Sarasota. Following a collapse of the land boom in Sarasota and the subsequent national Depression, new construction projects signaling recovery were heralded in the local press. The arrival of the S.H. Kress Company building in Sarasota received major press coverage in 1931 and the allocation in 1931 of Federal funds for the erection of the Post Office received equally enthusiastic coverage. Although the supervising contracting firm was the Worsham Brothers of Knoxville, Tennessee, Federal money and new construction created construction jobs in Sarasota.
The Post Office designs were created by George Albree Freeman who was born in 1859 in New York and practiced architecture in Stanford, Connecticut the latter part of the 19th Century. Mr. Freeman also practiced architecture in New York City where he shared an office at 28 West 23rd Street with the nationally prominent architect Bruce Price. Together Freeman and Price designed a Shingle Style residence (Seacroft) located near Seabright, New Jersey. The drawings for the resort shingle style house are dated 1882. Freeman's architectural commissions in New York include a Neo-Georgian building dated 1904, extant at 128 East 44th Street.
George Albree Freeman first appears in Polk's Sarasota City Directory in 1926 with an office listed as 12 Blackburn Building located at 113 South Palm Avenue. George Albree Freeman was also the architect of record for the residence of Mr. Powell Crosley, Jr., located in greater Sarasota with plans prepared June, 1929. The residence of Mr. Powell Crosley, also known as Seagat, was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in February of 1983. Freeman was a versatile and eclectic architect designing everything from Shingle Style seasonal residences to high style Mediterranean Revival mansions such as Seagate, as well as a Neo-Georgian townhouse in New York City, and finally, the Neoclassical Post Office or Federal Building in Sarasota, Florida. George Albree Freeman died February 22, 1934. The Federal Building or new Post Office was presumably Mr. Freeman's last executed design.
The associate architect of the Federal Building, Harold N. Hall, was a local engineer and architect who was the architect of record for the Woman's Club located at 1241 North Palm Avenue.
In summary, the Post Office or Federal Building, located at 111 South Orange Avenue is significant in the use of stylized Neoclassical Revival Style ornamentation. Quality of craftsmanship is represented in the carved elements, in particular, the handling of the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian capitals which appear at the colonnade of the west elevation. The interpretation of Neoclassical Revival Style motifs is academic in handling. Neoclassical elements are applied to the building in an academic and accurate manner, such as the string courses, modillioned entablatures and columns in antis. The Neoclassical ornamentation, however, is not “parroted.” Stylized elements appear, including the use of an implied pediment, which appears above the 9-bay loggia doors located at the west elevation, the modern material grilles being Neoclassical in form, the material being innovative. The Federal Building is a prominent building on a landmark site. Number 111 South Orange Avenue is significant as an example of the building industry in Sarasota and a product of the Works Progress Administration. Finally, it is the last monumental design project executed by the architect, George Albree Freeman.