Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Umbrella House Sold and Will Be Preserved

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Umbrella House Sold and Will Be Preserved

Article excerpt


The Umbrella House, a centerpiece of the Sarasota School of midcentury modern architecture, has changed hands for $1.6 million.

The Paul Rudolph-designed house, at 1300 Westway Drive, was sold by Vincent and Julie Ciulla to their neighbors across the street, retired Wyeth pharmaceutical company CEO Bob Essner and his wife, Anne.

The Ciullas, museum exhibit designers, bought the house for $1.2 million in 2005 from Carol and Gary Stover, who had restored the interior. The Stovers owned the home from 1997 to 2005.

The Ciullas then replaced the air-conditioning system and the roof, and also rebuilt a portion of the shading structure that gave the iconic house its name when it was completed in 1953.

The Essners, in turn, plan to reconstruct the remainder of the so- called "umbrella" -- a post-and-beam structure with slats that provided shade for both the house and the pool, said Elliott Himelfarb of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation, who has spoken with the new owners.

The Ciullas rebuilt the umbrella, which was lost to a tropical storm in the late 1960s, only over the house itself.

The Umbrella House isn't the Essners first foray into buying a Rudolph-designed residence. The couple also own the Rudolph- designed Harkavy House on Morningside Drive, in Lido Shores.

They intend to make the Umbrella House available to the foundation for dinners and other events, Himelfarb said.


The Umbrella House, described as "one of the five most remarkable houses of the mid twentieth century" by Architectural Digest, was built in 1953 as a model home for developer Phil Hiss' Lido Shores development.

Hiss reportedly told Rudolph, then 35 and only recently split from his architectural partner Ralph Twitchell, that he wanted a house that would attract attention from both passersby and the press.

The Umbrella House accomplished both. At that time, Lido Shores was little more than a sandy desert, not the lush and affluent subtropical neighborhood it is today. …

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