Built in 1924, the Frances Carlton, located at 1221-1227 Palm Avenue, began as furnished rental apartments and later served as the state of Florida's first cooperative apartment building. It now stands as well appointed condominiums in downtown Sarasota.
Designed by Tampa architect Francis James, and Sarasota architect Alex Browning, the Frances Carlton was built for Carlton Teate, a prominent downtown businessman. For many years, Teate was the owner and operator of the General Electric Store located on upper Main Street in downtown Sarasota.
The selection of Alex Browning, a member of the original Scottish colony that settled Sarasota, as co-architect for the Frances Carlton secured the building's place in Sarasota's history. Alex Browning arrived in Sarasota as a young man in 1885. Before coming here, he apprenticed for three years with an architect in Glasgow.
Because of his training, Browning was quickly called upon to design some of the larger homes in the new town of Sarasota. John Hamilton Gillespie, later Sarasota's first mayor, had Browning design his home. Later Browning worked as an assistant to architect J.A Wood on the construction of Henry Plant's Tampa Bay Hotel, today's University of Tampa.
Browning returned to Sarasota in 1919 and in 1924 received his certificate to practice architecture from the Florida State Board of Architecture. One of his earliest projects as a licensed architect was the Frances Carlton Apartments, which began construction in August of 1924.
The plan of the building was unique to Sarasota, consisting of four blocks, the center flanks of each block connected by a stair hyphen. Both the north and south building elevations received equal design emphasis resulting in a balanced composition.
According to the Sarasota Times, "every possible convenience was offered including icebox openings on the exterior of the kitchen so that the ice could be delivered from the hallway, the promise of a telephone connection and speaking tubes to be located in each apartment, garbage receptacles and the novel inclusion of a roof garden."
In 1952, the apartment building was transferred to its new owners creating Florida's "first cooperative," according to Edmund J. Flynn, a nationally recognized authority on the subject who also purchased a unit at the Frances Carlton. Typical units consisted of a combination entrance hall and dining nook, a living room with adjoining dressing room, a bedroom, combined sun porch and guest room, and a bath room with tub and shower. They sold for $8,000.
In 1984, the Frances Carlton was listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance and its representation of the work of local architect and Scottish colonist, Alex Browning. Today the building remains a wonderful example of the Mediterranean Revival Style of architecture that has been carefully rehabilitated and well maintained. Even more importantly, the Frances Carlton holds a window to our past.
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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.