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Riegel Cottage

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Credit: City of Sarasota
Location: 935 Citrus Avenue, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Riegel Cottage photo

The Riegel Cottage is a one story frame residential structure constructed c. 1912 and is located at 935 Citrus Avenue in Bungalow Hill Subdivision. The house retains its original architectural integrity with very minimal alterations and displays distinctive characteristics of a National Folk Style residence, reminiscent of Pre-Railroad Folk Houses.

Typically these early wood-frame houses had one-story shed extensions added to the rear, as more space was needed. The Riegel Cottage's full width front porch is one of its dominant stylistic characteristics. By the late 18th century, in southern folk houses, the full width, shed-roofed front porch became universal. This porch provided a cool shelter in summer from the hot sun and frequent thunder or rainstorms.

The composition of American folk housing was significantly altered as railroads were built throughout the country in the decades from 1850 to 1890. Soon folk houses that had previously been built with logs, sod or heavy hewn frames were no longer being constructed. Wooden houses began to be constructed with light balloon or braced framing covered by wood sheathing. Many of the previous folk house plan shapes survived even though the post railroad houses were constructed using these new and different techniques.

In Sarasota, this certainly could be considered an early example of the bungalow style that soon became widely used throughout the expanding city. An article in the Sarasota Times dated July 20, 1911 describes another bungalow being built (or perhaps the same one) identical to the subject. Titled "New Buildings" the article states:

"Across Hudson bayou on the Orange Avenue Boulevard, Mr. Madison will soon have completed an attractive residence, built on the lines of a Southern California bungalow, a type of house very popular in that section. This will contain six rooms on the first floor and an attic which can be converted into two rooms. The main roof of the building extends over the porches with wide overhanging eaves. There will be a living room, dining room, two bedrooms and a Turkish den. The dining room will have a large bay window, an open fireplace will be in the living room, with chimney built on the outside and folding doors will he used between the rooms, the interior will be finished in beaver board and the whole building is arranged for convenience and comfort."

HISTORICAL INFORMATION

In September 1906, the Bahia Vista (Bay View) Heights Addition to Sarasota was platted. Subsequently, in May 1911, the area was additionally subdivided into Bungalow Hill. Bungalow Hill later became part of Sarasota Heights, an area south of Hudson Bayou. Sarasota Heights had been incorporated as a separate town by the state legislators on May 22, 1917 and Dr. F. W. Schultz was elected mayor. Some citizens of Sarasota suggested that the people in Sarasota Heights were attempting to dodge taxes and tried to fight the incorporation in court. But in the spring of 1925, the people of Bungalow Hill (Sarasota Heights) accepted incorporation. When the legislature authorized the incorporation, the act provided that the Heights Mayor, J.W. Harvey, was to serve as one of Sarasota's councilman.

FREDERICK A. and ESTHER JENSEN RIEGEL

In September, 1905, John W. Madison, a local realtor and large landowner purchased a large parcel of property on the south side of the Hudson Bayou. In 1916, Frederick A. Riegel purchased two lots from Madison adjacent to the Bayou at the end of what is now Citrus Avenue. On those lots, Riegel immediately constructed a large two-story family home. Riegel purchased two additional lots later that year and another lot (Lot 8) from a Dora Flood. He purchased another lot (Lot 6) in 1919 and another (Lot 8) in August 1921. All of the lots were immediately south of his home. Lot 10, the lot Riegel purchased in 1921, is the site of Riegel Cottage.

There is a strong possibility that the house was constructed on Lot 8 in 1912, although it is possible that the house was constructed at another site prior to 1921 and moved by Riegel to its present site. Based on the fact that it can be confirmed that Madison was constructing homes as early as 1911 in the area south of the Bayou, as referenced in the Sarasota Times article above, either conjecture could be true.

City directories and the Abstract of Title prepared by State Title & Abstract Company indicate that Dora Flood, who came to Sarasota from Plainfield, Vermont, resided on the south end of Citrus Avenue at that time, although no accurate house numbering existed. The 1914 City Directory indicates that Miss Flood operated a boarding house. She was the owner of Lots 6 and 8, prior to Riegel purchasing the lots. This information lends itself to the theory that house was in fact moved. In addition, the possibility exists that Riegel purchased Miss Flood's house in 1919 and, in 1921 purchased the lot that is the house's present site and moved the house to its current location on Lot 10 about that time or prior to 1924. Riegel paid cash, Therefore no record of any mortgage exists to substantiate that he constructed the house and family members were unable to confirm or deny that Riegel moved the house from that or another location to its new site, one lot south where it has been located since 1921.

In about 1925, work was underway in the dredging of Hudson Bayou., This dredging gave Riegel easier accessibility to the Bayou, as well as provided increased solid land area to Reigel's bayou property. Previously, the land in this portion of his property was marshy and not suitable for dockage. Riegel was then able to build a boat dock at the water's edge and, in 1930; Riegel obtained a houseboat from a Mr. Walters from St. Petersburg in lieu of a debt Walters owed him.

He moored the boat at the dock on his property on the bayou and then sold the family home that he had erected in 1916 and the family lived on the boat at the dock. At about the same time, in order to provide living space for his two sons, Alfred and Frederick, Jr., he erected the small building always referred to by the family as "The Boys House", near the place where the houseboat was docked. Three or four years later, in 1933 or 1934, Mrs. Riegel drew up plans for a new family home that was erected on a portion of the remainder of the family's Citrus Avenue property near the bayou and docks. Both the Boys' House and this house still stand.

According to family members, during the depression years, Riegel and his wife had several small frame houses moved from other sites to another part of his property on the west side of Citrus Avenue near the bayou. Mrs. Riegel handled the maintenance and rentals of the houses. These houses were also used as rental properties for several years before being sold by Riegel. The Riegel's also owned land on nearby Pomelo Street as well as one of the first beach cottages on Point of Rocks. Family members credit Mrs. Riegel as being responsible for the rental properties and with being a keen business person.

In 1945, Riegel purchased 27 acres off Midnight Pass Road on fiesta Key where he operated his marine business until his death in 1973. The boatyard on Siesta had equipment that was unmatched in the area and it was the largest yard in the area for many years. The family sold the marina for development in the 1980s.

The Riegel Cottage was locally designated by the City of Sarasota in 1994.

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