Journals of Yesteryear

Pineapple Apartments at Herald Square

Author: Charlotte V. Roberts
Source: Sarasota County History Center
Photo Credit: Sarasota History Alive

The landscape of Sarasota at the intersection of Orange and Pineapple Avenues changed dramatically between 1925 and 1929. The Sanborn Insurance Map for 1925 shows no structures on the triangular property. Looking across Orange Avenue, the only structure is a single family residence and garage. The Seaboard Air Line Railway went from Lemon Avenue down Pineapple on its way to Fruitville. By 1929, the neighborhood was busy. The December 15, 1926 edition of the Sarasota Herald showed a photo of the new home for the newspaper, complete with advertising and business offices, the pressroom, the linotype and composing rooms, which opened on October 4, 1925.

Also, in that edition two pages headlined, "The Ringling-Burns Interests Have Shown Their Faith." More than eight photos reflected new construction that had been completed by the two developers. In addition to the El Vernona Hotel (which later became the John Ringling Hotel, and still later, John Ringling Towers), The Broadway Apartments (now the Belle-Haven), the Colson Hotel for "the colored population and colored tourists," was a photograph and short article on the Pineapple Apartments.

Built by Owen Burns at a cost of $75,000, this new structure was said to be very well equipped and representative of the fashionable area known as Herald Square. Seven handsome efficiency apartments were on the second floor, and stores occupied the first floor, including Tee Gee, a five-and-dime type shop; and Freeman's Drugs, operated by Clarence and Nellie Freeman.

The Pineapple Apartments began in the New York offices of celebrated architect Dwight James Baum. In 1924, Baum discovered Sarasota, and after meeting Owen Burns, determined that he wanted to recreate in Sarasota the architecture he had seen in Europe and the Mediterranean. Burns and Baum worked together on many projects including the El Vernona Hotel, and the Broadway Apartments.

By 1945, the pharmacy was owned by Joseph & Kate Privett and the apartments were re-named Burns Apartments. In 1950, a modern addition contained 18 one-bedroom apartments with additional retail space on the ground floor. The 1960 City Directory reflects that the Sarasota Herald-Tribune had moved to 801 S. Tamiami Trail, and Privett's Drugs was at 1605 Third Street with a new owner.

In 1886 Denise Kowal and a partner bought the building to save it from demolition by speculators who wanted to build a high-rise on the property. They have extensively renovated both the interior and exterior, and remodeled the 1950 addition so it appears to be part of the original structure. In addition, a cupola, wrought iron balconies, awnings, and tile address signs were added. Kowal took three of the original studio apartments to create an apartment for her and her family. Several years ago, the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation featured the apartment as one of the homes on their annual Historic Homes Tour.

The structure remains today one of the most unique in the city; distinctive because of its prominent location and splendid architecture. Unique also is the mixed use: commercial and office below, residential above, and zero setback from the sidewalk. Planning and design professionals have since embraced this concept for downtown Sarasota housing and across the country.

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