What used to be tucked away on the southeast corner of Ringling Boulevard and South Orange Avenue was a small unassuming house that rested in the shadow of the restored Federal Building. When the home was purchased in 1907, as a residence for Dr. Cullen Bryant “C.B.” Wilson and his wife Fannie, the Federal Building did not yet exist among the scattered residences of South Orange Avenue. Today, Regions Bank stands in the location of the Wilson house, after it was moved to Urfer Park at 4012 Honore Avenue near where Bee Ridge Road and Honore intersects. On November 13th of this year Sarasota County will host its grand opening to celebrate its place in our history.
The house was constructed in 1906 and quite likely designed by architect Edgar Ferdonk who was practicing in Sarasota in the early part of the 20th century. The building was enlarged in 1913 with a roof top addition to create a full second story which according to family members was used to house seriously ill patients. When the second story was added to the building, the chimneys at each end of the structure were retained but mostly enclosed within the second story. Today, only one chimney is visible on the north side of the house.
The house is notable for its long association with the Wilson family and use of pressed stone, a precursor to today’s concrete block. Pressed stone, sometimes called rusticated block, was frequently manufactured on-site with portable molds. Although this material is evident in a number of early Sarasota homes, the stone on the Wilson house is unique for its larger size.
Dr. Wilson was a lifetime resident of Sarasota, born in 1878 in old Miakka, the son of state senator Augustus Wilson and Callie Crum Wilson. Augustus Wilson moved to Old Miakka in 1877 from Polk County. After his arrival he served as the first postmaster in what is now Sarasota County, as well as an Indian Agent for the State of Florida. Perhaps most significant, Augustus Wilson was the Florida Senator who introduced the bill to create Sarasota County in 1921.
Dr. Wilson was educated at the Florida Military Institute, the University of Florida and the University of Alabama Medical School. He married Fannie Reaves, daughter of C.L. and Martha Tatum Reaves of Fruitville in 1904 and began his medical practice in Sarasota in 1906, one of the first physicians to practice in the area. He served on the board of Sarasota Memorial Hospital from the time of its founding in 1924 to the time of his death in 1941.
An article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in February of 1941 at the time of his death described Wilson as a man and as a physician who “enjoyed the respect and confidence of everyone.” The article continued by stating that “the old time family doctor held in high esteem and today largely cherished as a memory was exemplified in his practice of medicine.” His son, Dr. Reave Wilson continued the family’s medical practice after World War II.
The house ended up at a crossroads, since it was located on a site slated for development. A successful appeal was made for its preservation to the City of Sarasota Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Board by Wilson family member and local attorney, Clyde H. Wilson, Jr. who also enlisted the assistance of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation. The soon-to-be-opened house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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Unless some very modest community has beat us to it and then neglected to let the world know of its achievement, Sarasota is to have the first homemade people’s park. The idea of extending the present popular road-building day plan to secure the improvement of a tract of land for a park purposed by James E. Moore, has been seized upon with avidity and unanimity. In another column will be found Mayor Higel’s official contribution, in the shape of a proclamation setting aside Thursday, November 6, as Park Day, with the purpose in view of making this an annual event in Sarasota’s history.
The Modern Movement/International Style
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The modern movement began in Europe and gradually influenced American architects. European architects, including Mies van der Rhoe experimented with plasticity – exploiting new materials and the latest technological advances, especially the steel frame. Design emphasis was on utility and function, rather than ornament. With the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany and the onset of World War II, several modern architectural designers immigrated to the United States, bringing with them their structural and theoretical concepts.
The antiseptic tone of today’s obituaries is a far cry from the finely crafted, inspirational prose that documented the deaths of Sarasota’s early residents.