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Hugh K. Browning House

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Location: 2088 Hawthorne Street, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Hugh K. Browning House photo

The house and garage at 2088 Hawthorne Street were built in 1926 by Hugh K. Browning III as designed by Alex Browning, one of the original Scott colonists and Sarasota's "first" architect. The two story house is stucco over hollow clay tile and rests on a brick curtain wall. The twenty-nine windows are wood-frame and with few minor exceptions are unaltered. The roofline is complex with seven steeply-pitched gables on cross gables at asymmetrical angles and levels from each elevation.

The house and garage are of the English Cottage Style, or more specifically, Norman Revival Style of domestic architecture. The style developed in America in the early 20th century, in the teens elsewhere, and in the 1920s in Florida. The style was the result of a national nostalgia movement that was philosophically based on comfort and utility. The style was the result of a national nostalgia movement that was philosophically based on comfort and utility. The movement was a reaction against Victorian excess and heaviness and a return to nature and craftsmanship. The movement materialized due to the growth and suburbanization and of the American middle class.

Romantic styles, contrasting with utilitarian and bungalow styles of the movement included Colonial Revival Styles (Dutch, Spanish, French) and English styles. English styles occurred in three basic forms: the Cottage, Tudor Revival and the English Country House. The English styles were all "picturesque", yet quite different in detail.

It is interesting to note that architect Alex Browning, who apprenticed in Glasgow, created a sample assortment of the Romantic styles for three of his children, all within one block of each other.

The authors of The Old House Journal, describe the English Cottage Style:

"The English Cottage Style is meant to be quaint and charming. Often of stone, stucco, or brick construction, the cottage is dominated by its roofline, which frequently has soft, flowing curves that recall the thatch roofs of the originals in the English countyside...there are usually large expanses of wall space, pierced by relatively few windows. There's very little overhang to the roofs."

"The English Cottage house is described with words like ‘charming,' and ‘quaint,' and by emotional association that embodies all of the rustic honesty and simplicity of the English yeoman. It is a truly ‘homely' dwelling, suggesting hearth, family and all the domestic virtues."

"The English Cottage looks as if it grew organically suggesting that the owner build the house himself using stones that he tore from the land with his own two hands."

 

Historical Information: The house and garage were built in 1926 by owner and builder Hugh Kerr Browning III, son of Alex Browning, one of the original Scottish colonists and Sarasota's "first architect." The land was a gift from Hugh's brother John Bowie who had subdivided LaLinda Terrace into 36 lots.

The house was the first for Hugh and his bride Cora, who was the sister of Ludwig Walpole of Ludwig Walpole Insurance Company, and the Walpole Drugstore. Hugh passed away just six years later, in 1933. In 1946, the property was sold by Browning's widow who had remarried. Ms. Cora Durant purchased it, fondly referred to it as, "The House of Seven Gables."

The Browning family was quite well-known in Sarasota's history, having arrived in 1885 with the Ormiston Colony of Scottish settlers. John B., the patriarch, and Jane, of Paisley, Scotland, migrated to America with their four children. The Brownings are particularly important in Sarasota history because they are the only Scottish colonists to have remained in the area to participate in Sarasota's development. The memoirs of Alex Browning are the only major research source on the lives of the colonists and continue to shed light on those very critical years in Sarasota's development.

Alex Browning was a prolific architect, having designed many residences and larger building, such as the Frances Carlton Apartments. He was the co-architect on the Tampa Bay Hotel in 1890. Alex's brother, Hugh K. II remained in Sarasota until 1916 and was the building contractor on the Watrous Hotel (where Café Epicure stands today) and several fine homes on Gulfstream Avenue (now replaced with condominiums). He returned to Sarasota in 1927 and constructed the power plant and movie studio at Sun City, north of Bradenton. Hugh K. II, also served on the City Council for a number of years and eventually returned to New Jersey where he passed away in 1937.