Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

BEAUTY & the Bust

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

BEAUTY & the Bust

Article excerpt

BELLE HAVEN: The apartment building was built in 1925 with the grandest of dreams, but history had other ideas

SARASOTA -- The Belle Haven Apartment building stands alone today, much as it did when it was completed in 1925.

Opened as the Broadway Apartments, its Mediterranean Revival design characterized many of Sarasota's Roaring 20s buildings, giving the relatively new county a look of substance and permanence.

Arguably still one of the area's most beautiful structures, this three-story jewel was the design of New York and Sarasota architect Dwight James Baum, who was responsible for some of Sarasota's signature buildings.

Baum was brought to town at the behest of John and Mable Ringling to design Ca d'Zan and went on to design the Sarasota County Courthouse, Herald Square, and, near the Belle Haven, the El Vernona Hotel, the Owen Burns office building, and the Sarasota Times plant, most recently known as Ceviche Tapas Bar and Restaurant.

Sarasota was flush with excitement when construction started, still of the notion that "Sarasota's Growth Cannot Be Stopped," as headlined in the Herald. But unbeknownst to all but the closest observers of that frenetic era, momentum was slowing and by the time of its opening in March of 1926, only six months remained until the Miami hurricane of September signaled the end of the boom -- the bust was near.

As today, this bayfront property was prime, a perfect site for multipurpose construction. Leasing agent J.J. Casabona Co. noted, "No tract is more beautiful than this." The street that ran in front of it, formerly Banana Avenue, had been renamed the more upscale sounding Broadway Avenue, today's Tamiami Trail.

In 1925, the area was platted as Central Broadway and was advertised, "If you have faith in Sarasota, you must have faith in Central Broadway."

Among the restrictions: no unsightly awnings, no billboards, laundry, filling station, hospital, sanitarium or charitable institutions.

As a nod to modernity, rules also forbade swine, cattle, horses or poultry.

The first big developer

Burns' 150-room luxury hotel, the El Vernona (Aristocrat of Beauty), named for his wife, was nearly complete, while on the drawing board some grandiose projects from the Adair Realty and Trust Co. of Atlanta awaited their turn to fill out the area.

Established in 1865, Adair was the oldest real estate outfit in the country and had invested heavily in the area. One of their primary projects was Whitfield Estates, advertised throughout the nation. They also financed the American National Bank Building in downtown Sarasota.

For Central Broadway, which extended from the El Vernona Hotel to near today's 10th Street, Adair planned an eight-story apartment building, an office building, stores, and a skyscraper hotel, The Adair.

Almost immediately after the Broadway Apartment was completed it was purchased by Owen Burns for $250,000 (over $3 million in today's money). …

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