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H.B. Williams Residence

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota Public Records
Credit: Sarasota County History Center
Location: 1509 South Orange Avenue, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - H.B. Williams Residence photo

The two-story, split-level rectangular plan, Mediterranean Revival Style home located at 1509 South Orange Avenue at the corner of Floyd Avenue was designed by prominent local architect, Thomas Reed Martin, and is located in the Morton Terrace Subdivision in Sarasota Heights. The stucco-façade masonry and hollow-clay tile construction residence was featured in an article which appeared in the Sarasota Herald in December of 1926. Included in the1926 article was a photograph of west and north elevations of the house.

The Williams residence was built at a cost of $50,000 and was described as “a unique type of Mediterranean architecture, so cleverly designed by Thomas Reed Martin Studios of Sarasota.” The article further described the split-level interior plan and pointed out that the “service department has been worked out in a very splendid manner. The garage is accessible from the house.” Modern conveniences included, “electric pumping equipment, a water softener, an iceless refrigerator, and an electrically equipped laundry. Kitchen features have been developed to the latest science.”

Thomas Reed Martin, the architect who designed the H.B. Williams residence, was born in Wisconsin on April 28, 1866, practiced architecture in Chicago and came to Sarasota in 1910. Mr. Martin's first local commission was the development of “The Oaks” for Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago. By 1924, Mr. Martin had established the Martin's Studios with an office located at 308 Main Street. The Martin's Studio offered “blueprints, landscape architects, lighting fixtures, pottery, interior decorating and designers,” and Mr. Martin further specialized as “designer and builder or original ‘Floridan Homes.'

In addition to his architectural services and practiced, he was President of the Martin Building and Mercantile Company, General Merchandising and was Postmaster of Nokomis, Florida. An article devoted to the work of Thomas Reed Martin appeared in the Sarasota Herald on September 9, 1926. Entitled, “City Architect Attracts Statewide Attention,” the newspaper article speculated that Sarasota was “designed to become a…mecca for students of art and architecture,” due in large part to the successful influence of Thomas Reed Martin. It was also noted that the Martin Studios employed “a dozen skilled artists, designers and draftsmen” and that “Mr. Martin has succeeded in turning much business to local manufacturers who are fast attracting attention as workers in art subjects including ornamental iron, pre-cast stone ornaments, ornamental pottery and woodwork-elements very much in evidence in the executed design of 1509 South Orange Avenue.”

Mr. Martin and Martin's Studios were responsible for many of the most architecturally significant structures built in Sarasota, including the Burns Court Historic District, and the L.D. Reagin Residence on North Palm Avenue. In addition to his successful Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival Style designs, Mr. Martin, in partnership with his son, Frank C. Martin, who joined the firm after World War 1, designed residences which were built with modernistic materials including glass brick, concrete flooring and joints, and Spanish Deco designs which were remarkably sophisticated, including the E.A. Beattie Residence, located at 1156 First Street in Sarasota.

Thomas Reed Martin was a master of the integration of historical revival ornamentation in structures of modern form and convenience. The H.B. Williams Residence is remarkable in the use of stylized Mediterranean Revival ornamentation, elements which were thoroughly integrated in the façade design. Pre-cast stone elements, wrought iron window grilles or rejas and balcony railings, and ornamental urns contribute to the success of 1509 South Orange Avenue. Other contemporary architects applied elements of Spanish and Mediterranean Revival Style to structures in pastiche fashion; Martin's designs displayed an understanding of materials and an integrated design scheme, in conjunction with innovative interior plans and materials. Of particular note is the interior split-level plan which is reflected in the exterior fenestration, with monumental two-story windows located at the northwest corner of the building to provide light and ventilation for the two-story corner living rooms and balconied casement openings provided for second floor rooms. Further light and ventilation were provided in the design and the use of and interior courtyard or atrium located in the core of the structure.

H.B. Williams (or Harry B.) was president of the H.B. Williams Company, Inc., “Realtors, and Real Estate Investments,” located at 201 Main Street.” According to the advertising blurb which appeared in the 1926 Polk's Directory, H.B. Williams specialized in “city property, suburban, and acreage.” Although H.B. Williams home address was listed as Laurel Avenue in the 1926 Directory, the 1927-28 Directory listed Williams' residence as 1509 South Orange Avenue. By 1929, 1509 was occupied for a long period of time by the Welsh family, and later served as the office of Dr. A.M. Foreman.