There is life off the Island
Is there really real estate on the other side of the Cortez and Anna Maria Island bridges? I actually know people who wouldn't swear to it, since they only leave the Island if they need to go to the airport, praying they'll be able to pass through the real world unnoticed. Well, I'm not afraid. I've seen real estate in the real world, and I'm here to tell your it's pretty nice.
A few weeks ago there was a Historic Homes Tour in Whitfield Estates in Sarasota. For those who never leave the Island, Whitfield Estates is an interesting community nestled between Route 41 and Sarasota Bay not far from Sarasota/Bradenton Airport. The tour was considered historic since the homes that were opened were all built during the Florida land boom of the 1920s.
The area was promoted as "The Jewel of Florida's West Coast" and was named for its principal financial backer, Louis Broughton Whitfield. The vision of the developers in 1924 was to create a community of homes, a hotel, golf course, yacht club, business district and even two islands.
By 1926, the Florida real estate market was already starting to collapse and although 61 homes, an apartment building, the country club and one store were completed, very little of the original plan was achieved. Many of the original homes still exist and 14 houses and one apartment building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Four of the five homes on the tour were listed in the National Register and are considered to be architecturally significant to one of the most important periods in Florida's history.
Building in Whitfield Estates didn't start again until after World War II and was finally built out in the early 1980s. So what you'll find in the community are the large original mostly Mediterranean influenced homes mixed in among the more contemporary ones.
The homes built in the 1920s are for the most part large, at least 3,000 square feet, with many large windows to promote cross ventilation in the days before air conditioning. Many balconies and screened porches; incredibly maintained tile, slate and wood floorings and arched doorways gave the homes substance and character hard to find today. One has been described as the prettiest house in Sarasota.
In 1924, the homes were marketed from $16,000 to $30,000, and the lots sold for between $3,000 and $7,000. But after the real estate market collapsed, so did the values and one of the houses resold in 1945 for $3,950, another in 1939 for $5,800 and one in 1938 sold for $7,000. I could find listings for two of the homes on Broughton Street currently on the market for $650,000 and $549,000, however, I believe all five houses are available to purchase.
As of this writing you could still go to www.whitfield-ballentine.org and see the beautiful historic homes on the tour with a description of each.
If you didn't have the opportunity to go on the tour, a drive around Whitfield Estates along Delmar Avenue and particularly Broughton Street are worth the excursion just to see the exterior of the homes.
Anna Maria Island can feel like you're living in a parallel universe. – it's the Island and the rest of the world. But if you take the time to venture out into the real world, you may be surprised what you'll find on the other side of the bridges.