Buildings: Sarasota History
The McCall House is located at 2445 Alameda Avenue in Sarasota Bay Park Subdivision within the city limits of Sarasota, Florida. The structure's style is best described as Craftsman with Eclectic influences. Along with its Craftsman design and construction techniques, evidence of other stylistic influences can be seen such as Prairie, Colonial Revival and Adam.
During the 1920's, residential subdivisions were platted throughout an expanded city limits. Cheap land prices and the promise of quick profits swept the city into a spiral of development. This decade brought unparalleled growth to Florida. Sarasota Downtown development was coupled with expanding suburban residential areas. Sarasota was fast replacing the fishing village image that it had with that of a developing resort community. Construction following World War I, produced what would become a modern city.
During this economic boom, Benjamin F. McCall began construction of the subject property in 1925.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN McCALL
Benjamin Franklin McCall was an early Sarasota resident who came to Sarasota from Madison, Florida in 1896. His father owned a mill on the Suwannee River. In January, 1896, members of his family took a cruise on his father's sloop down the west coast of Florida from Bay Port in Hernando County to Estero in Lee County. On the trip, they learned that land was being made available for homesteading on Little Sarasota Key (now Siesta Key).
Later, that year, Benjamin, being of age at 22, was elected to settle a tract. They chose a tract just north of the Point of Rocks, running from the Bay to Little Sarasota Pass (now closed) and such parts as remain, now called Heron Lagoon, containing 154 acres. The only practical way in was by boat. Benjamin received a patent on the land under the signature of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. The patent was duly registered in the Clerk of the Court's office in Manatee County. In 1905, he sold all but a small parcel of the land to his brother, Joshua.
After leaving the homestead on the key, he went to work for the Federal Government as a carpenter foreman in the building division of the Isthmanian Canal Commission on the construction of the Panama Canal from 1905-1907. Upon completion of his work on the canal, he returned to Sarasota.
Although McCall had little formal education, his grammar, syntax and penmanship were said to be excellent and in 1907 or 1908, McCall entered into a partnership with his two step-brothers, William and J.C. Calhoun, sons of his mother from her first marriage. The Calhoun Brothers had established the store in 1903. When McCall joined them in the operation of the store, the store became Calhoun & McCall. Together they operated one of Sarasota's first dry goods, notions and grocery stores on East Main Street next door to the post office and near the railroad depot.
According to an article in the Sarasota Times entitled 'Business Men of Sarasota' dated Thursday, May 4, 1916, they had two separate store rooms. One room for dry goods, notions, etc. and another room for groceries. Feed was sold out of partioned first floor section of the Calhoun House directly east of the store. The article also states that they enjoyed a "good patronage". At the time, Sarasota's population was less than 840, men, women and children. Ben (J.C.) and Billy (William) ran the grocer, and J.C. the dry good section.
The store was the only store in Sarasota that handled general merchandise including groceries, dry goods and feed. It was a very demanding business, opening at 7:00 A.M. each morning and closing at 7:00 each evening, Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, closing time was extended to midnight. In the early 1920s, Benjamin bought out his partners and ran the store by himself until 1925.
In 1908, he married Mary "Charlotte" Farnbach, an elementary school teacher in charge of the sixth and seventh grades who came to Sarasota in 1906 from Boardman, Florida. In later years, Mrs. McCall would recall that when she came to town there were only "four horses in the town, one owned by Dr. C.B. Wilson, Highsmith and Prime had a dairy horse, as did Calhoun and McCall's and Sheehy's store.
Charlotte and Benjamin McCall were married in the old frame Methodist Church at Five Points. Mrs. Jim Halton played the wedding march. After their marriage, they took up residency for a short time in what was at that time called the "Bride's Cottage: on 9th Street, (now Fruitville Road), as every bride in Sarasota had begun housekeeping in the same cottage." Shortly, thereafter their own home on 8th Street was completed.
Following the closing of his store in 1926, he worked in the real estate business. During his years in real estate, he developed the Palm Apartments on Second Street near Tamiami Trail (locally designated in 1984). McCall also served as the Bay Haven School custodian for eighteen years. Mrs. McCall served as the first president of the Bay Haven School PTA. Together they helped found the First Baptist Church and Mr. McCall served on its building committee.
In 1925, McCall purchased land on Alameda Lane in Sarasota Bay Park and planned the construction of a new home and garage with an apartment above.
Sarasota Bay Park was platted in 1925 by John Morton Clark and Harry Kline on land that was formerly part of the pioneer Whitaker family's orange grove. Clark was an engineer originally from Detroit, Michigan who came to Sarasota and began acquiring property in the area in 1911; whereas, Kline came to Sarasota in 1921 from Gloversville, New York. He was also responsible for laying out the River Park and North River Park Subdivisions in Sarasota. In 1923, Clark and Kline purchased additional property and platted the subdivision.
Although McCall was highly skilled in construction and carpentry work, he contracted with an unknown builder for the construction of the house. It is not believed that he used an architect. Ben and Charlotte McCall had five children.
The McCall House was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1993.