Is The National Register of Historic Places District of Laurel Park in Jeopardy?


“I hope any of you who have expressed an interest in “what’s happening!!! ” to my neighborhood Laurel Park will read this. It’s a thumbnail tale but it’s a beginning to the story of the end of something precious. 10 years ago I pursued a legal remedy to what is now occurring in our neighborhood ,,, I was damned as a destroyer because I believed the code then and now in place in Laurel Park in no way reflects the historic character of our neighborhood. The issue is not housing types ( modern vs craftsman vs dutch colonial vs med rev ) but about no diversity in lot size*, no possibility of multi-family like the Spanish Oaks, or bed & breakfasts, or artist studios, > adaptive reuse of historic structures. Next to Dylan Jon Wade Cox fine example of “shotgun vernacular” stand two 500 ft square ” workers ” cottages ( circa 1924 ) Mine is one of them. Built on 3000 square feet it includes a shared garage … a feature of several Owen Burns built homes ( circa 1924 ) on Madison and Columbia Court. A feature that would not be allowed today. Nor could one build on 3000 square feet. The large new built on the corner and the one across from mine are required by code to be built on a suburban lot size of just under 5000 square feet. They are 1,000,000 dollar ( + ) single family homes. The folks now who are running and /or supporting STOP are the very same people who have praised these developments, sat on their hands and allowed this to occur in Laurel Park. STOP’s president and registered agent lives in the neighborhood and has served numerous times on our Board. This is the same Board that led the charge against another important historic structure, the original Sarasota Herald Tribune home to the Women’s Exchange and most egregiously refused to give support to saving the now demolished 7 Gables and in fact actively contributed to it’s demise. At what point will Laurel Park’s National Historic Designation be rescinded?”

Diana Hamilton


With regard to the impact of new construction on a National Register District:

The number and scale must not overwhelm a district’s sense of time and place and historical development.

When the State of Florida nominated Laurel Park for National Register District designation the number of contributing structures was just barely enough. The boundaries of the district had to be creatively drawn to exclude some large land parcels and new buildings to make it work.  In addition, to boost the number of contributing buildings, the Womens Exchange and two commercial buildings across from the Exchange were added by the State of Florida’ s preservationist.

In recent years there have been enough demolitions of contributing structures along with the addition of new homes built on vacant sites without regard for their scale to jeopardize this honorific designation.

Here’s hoping the Laurel Park neighborhood’s organized homeowner association board will wake up!


Laurel Park Landmark celebrates 91 Years…………

The Sarasota Herald Tribune is celebrating 91 years of publication.  The newspaper’s first home was in the building best known today as the Woman’s Exchange at the corner of Oak Street and Orange Avenue.  Read the article in today’s paper….

An earlier post on the building…………


Woman’s Exchange


A landmark in Sarasota and an anchor building in Laurel Park’s national historic district – The Woman’s Exchange.  The not-for-profit organization benefiting the arts has occupied the building since 1969.


539 S. Orange Avenue – Building in the rear is todays spanish Oak Apartments


The structure was constructed in 1925 for the Sarasota Herald Newspaper – today’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune, our city’s longest running newspaper.  This building, along with several industrial and commercial buildings, and the Sarasota County Courthouse, which was briefly housed on Oak Street, created a pocket of commerce in a growing residential area during Florida’s Land boom.

WE2Sarasota Herald Building


In the 1980’s the city surveyed and inventoried its historic properties and selected 24 buildings that it felt exemplified Sarasota’s history to be preserved for future generations.  Those 24 properties became the first in Sarasota to be honored by inclusion on our nation’s most prestigious list of valuable historic buildings and sites – The National Register of Historic Places.  The Woman’s Exchange building is one of those honored properties.



Owen Burns Legacy in Laurel Park……..

In Sunday’s Sarasota Herald Tribune historian Jeff LaHurd offered readers an excellent article titled  –The Legacy of Owen Burns.  

In the Laurel Park National Register of Historic Places District the legacy of Owen Burns lives on………..

Oak Street between Osprey Avenue and Washington Boulevard bisects the Washington Park Subdivision.  It is just one of many subdivisions that make up today’s Laurel Park National Register of Historic Places District.

Owen Burns ad 1924

The plat of the Washington Park Subdivision was recorded in February 1925.  It was owned and developed by Owen Burns. A number of homes built by Owen Burns dot the subdivision along with some of the preserved  brick paving, sidewalks and curbing.

Washington Park

One of Laurel Park’s most distinguished residences was designed by architect, Dwight James Baum.  Today it is one of only two buildings in the national historic district that is individually designated historic by the National Register of Historic Places.

Kennedy House

 Dr. Kennedy House at Oak and Columbia.

Owen Burns and Dwight James Baum_2

This remains one of my favorite photos.  Mr. Owen Burns and Mr. Dwight James Baum (right) are captured in front of the realty office next to the El Vernona.

el vernona-0

A wonderful panorama of the  Burns Reality Office and the El Vernona Hotel shortly after completion.


A great perspective of the early Sarasota landmarks.

If you are interested in viewing more vintage photographs of Sarasota visit the William Hartman Gallery on Palm Avenue.  Mr. Hartman has an incredible collection  on display.  If you want to read more about Sarasota’s history, pick up one or more of Jeff LaHurd’s books at one of our local bookstores.


Sarasota’s Iconic Sea Horses….



These sea horses never appeared in Laurel Park however residents of the neighborhood frequented Lido Beach and the Casino complex during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and knew them well.

Lido Pavillon 1

The majestic eight-foot tall sea horses first appeared in Sarasota at the Lido Beach Casino. They were the design of the building’s architect, Ralph Twitchell. The sea horses were cast of concrete in molds created from full-sized, hand drawn templates. They were then attached to the façade of the casino to create an eye-catching motif on the second story promenade of the building. For almost 30 years they stood as sentinels casting an eye out to sea and affording the perfect backdrop for a magical photo portrait in paradise.

original S-horses

The Lido Casino was demolished in 1969. Before it was completely razed a number of the sea horses were carefully removed. They are privately owned. The building is gone, the sea horses disappeared from sight but the memory of them remained for all who enjoyed the marvelous Lido Casino complex.

Picture 61-1

A cherished photograph is of Esther Williams hanging off one of the marvelous horses at the Casino.  She was in Sarasota taking a break from shooting a Tarzan movie in Florida.


In the 1980’s the developer of the Quay project on Sarasota’s bayfront brought the delightful iconic figure back to the community. The majestic sea horses were again cast in concrete, from the original design and attached to the Sarasota Quay. The Quay opened in 1987 with eleven sea horses adorning its entryway and main plaza.


Once again these magical statues became the backdrop for photographic portraits. Visitors and residents, young and old came to the Quay and posed for a picture with them.


History has a way of repeating itself. The sea horses again lost their home after 20 years. The Quay was demolished in 2007. This time the horses were rescued by citizens interested in seeing the icons returned to the community.

sea horse down


IMG_0272 - Version 2

In 2009 two sea horses were installed at Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium in celebration of the opening of a new and fascinating exhibit on sea horses and to recognize the value Mote contributes to defining Sarasota as a unique and exceptional community. The year 2009 marked the third time the sea horses made a welcome appearance.


Thanks to a generous donor another sea horse has reappeared and is permanently installed for all to enjoy at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s home on Fruitville Road.


Another sea horse is now on temporary display along Palm Avenue, in front of the William Hartman Gallery.   It is becoming a popular photo backdrop for shoppers and strollers on the street.


Sarasota’s majestic horses

75 years old!

Form-Based Code for Laurel Park

Here is an update to the  “Form-based code post I wrote last year………… It is a recent article by Robert Steuteville, Better Cities and Towns that is worth adding to the original post- Form-based codes offer predictability.


The City of Sarasota is finally working to update and improve the existing zoning code.  To accomplish this, they are looking to use form-based code.  The Urban Design Studio, a newly formed department in the City of Sarasota has been charged with the task.  This modernization of Sarasota’s code can have positive effects on the future development of the Laurel Park National Register Historic District and the entire area known as Laurel Park, currently zoned RSM-9.


So what is Form-Based Code?

The Urban Design Studio defines it as:

A form-based code (FBC) and its districts are different than conventional zoning. Conventional zoning designates permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another, and while it separates uses it is difficult to determine what the built environment or community will look like upon build out.  A Form-based code fosters predict-able buildings and high-quality public spaces by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. The zone districts or Transects are regulations, not mere guidelines, adopted into city or county law.  Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and public spaces such as parks, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in words and clearly drawn diagrams, metrics and other graphics.  

Interestingly, in 2007 Sarasota County Commissioners voted to add form-based code to the county’s zoning as an option for mixed-use and commercial development.  According to Sarasota County’s website:

The code is uniquely designed for Sarasota County and addresses the connection of:
  • buildings and pedestrians to the public realm,
  • the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another,
  • the scale and network of streets and blocks.

Sanborn 1

Old Sanborn Map – portion of  today’s Laurel Park


In older neighborhoods such as Laurel Park where the history of development spans decades with no one code applied throughout, the flexibility of form-based code makes terrific sense.

Laurel Park is a neighborhood where:

  • setbacks vary from property to property
  • architectural styles are diverse
  • portions of the neighborhood lie in a flood zone
  • there are a variety of sidewalk, curb, apron, and street types
  • rights-of-ways vary

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There is a wealth of information to quickly understand how form-based code works and can be applied.  The Form-Based Codes Institute  is an obvious and a tremendous resource for information:

555 S. Osprey








More information is available in these articles:

Dialing-in your zoning to fit your community by Tony Perez

Why design guidelines on their own don’t work by Kaizer Rangwala

Form-based codes – new approach to zoning  published by Smart Growth Tactics

Finding the right path through design review by Kaizer Rangwala

Ways to fail at form-based codes: Don’t articulate a vision by Hazel Borys