Lamolithic House makes history

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The Sarasota County Commission has approved the historic designation of yet another house on Siesta Key, this one located at 5546 Avenida del Mare.

It is the fourth house on the barrier island in the past several months to win a place on the Sarasota County Register of Historic Places. Others are located on Point of Rocks Road and on Sanderling Road.

In this latest instance, the county’s Historic Preservation Board reviewed the application submitted by an authorized agent on behalf of the owners of the Lamolithic House on Avenida del Mare.

The house as it appears today (photo by John Morton)

The members concurred with a staff recommendation that the house met two criteria outlined in the applicable section of the county code: The house is associated with the post-World War II development of Siesta Key and the Sarasota School of Architecture, and it is “a noteworthy example of the post-war International Modern Style of architecture,” a memo said.

In fact, the house was designed by two of the best-known architects of the Sarasota School of Architecture: Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph.

A bit of history

The application for the historic designation — prepared by David Baber and Lorrie Muldowney, the former manager of Sarasota County Historical Resources — noted that Siesta Key “appeared on early maps as Clam Island, Muscle Island, Palm Island and Little Sarasota Key.” It “was known as Little Sarasota Key when a subdivision named Siesta was platted in 1907 on [the island’s] northern tip by the Siesta Land Company, organized by pioneers Harry Higel and Captain Louis Roberts. Development included the Sarasota Yacht and Gun Club and later the Bay Island Hotel.”

Then, in the early 20th century, bungalows, sidewalks, canals and roads were built, and a U.S. post office opened in 1915.

As the key developed, the application said, the entire island came to be called Siesta while the county experienced a population explosion during and after World War II.

“Sarasota County’s Coastal Zone Survey that was published in 1990 identifies several concentrations of historic structures on Siesta Key,” the application added, noting three collections: one at the southern end of Flamingo Avenue and Roberts Point Road, one at Point of Rocks and south along Midnight Pass Road, and one at Sarasota Point, in the Sarasota Beach and Mira Mar subdivisions.

The house standing at 5546 Avenida del Mare was part of the Sarasota Beach subdivision. The lots on which it was built were part of a larger transfer of property that occurred on Oct. 31, 1947 between F.J. Archibald, trustee for Eloise J. Archibald, and John Edward Lambie Jr., the application noted.

Eloise Archibald “was the widow of a prominent Sarasotan, Ira G. Archibald,” the application explained. He was the president of the Archibald Hardware Co., the Archibald Furniture Co., the Morris Plan Co., and was vice president of American National Bank.

Then, in late April 1949, the property was transferred from the Lambie family to R.E. Sprague and his wife, Pauline. No evidence exists that the Spragues ever lived in the Avenida del Mare house, the application added; they continued to occupy a home located at 129 Edmondson St.

Research has found that the first occupants of the house constructed at 5546 Avenida del Mare were Adolph Orion Infanger and his wife, Louise, who stayed there until close to the time of their deaths, the application noted.

In 1933, the house was purchased by Nancy Smith, who sold it to its current owners, Mark and LorrieBogart, in 2009.

The architects

The Lamolithic House was a project of architects Twitchell and Rudolph. In 1925, Twitchell came to Sarasota to supervise the construction of Ca’d’Zan, the home of John and Mable Ringling, the application said.

“In early 1941 there was an occurrence that, at the time may have seemed inconsequential, but would ultimately have a profound impact on Twitchell’s legacy as well as architecture in Sarasota. A young graduate from Alabama Polytechnical Institute (now Auburn University), Paul Rudolph, came to work in Twitchell’s office as a draftsman,” the application said.

In 1949, Rudolph became a full partner with Twitchell, a position Rudolph maintained until 1952, when he began an independent practice.

Rudolph “is considered ‘the dean’ of the modern architecture movement that occurred in Sarasota and became known as the Sarasota School of Architecture,” the application added.

The significance of the Sarasota School of Architecture was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places in the form of a Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF), adopted in 2007.

“From the International Style,” the MPDF said, “Sarasota School architects took an understanding of the concept of borrowed space, the logical use and expression of structure, the separation of structure and enclosure, simple building form and detail, and honest use and expression of materials. From earlier Southern regional designs they took modular construction, a raised floor, and efficient environmental control systems. To these the architects added the use of low maintenance materials, a play of light and shadow, and a desire to humanize International Style environments. It is the successful blending of these elements that creates the Sarasota School Style.”

Also, according to the application, Christopher Domin and Joseph King said in their book Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses that “the Lamolithic Houses represent Rudolph’s first opportunity to experiment with a more urban design approach.”

The term “Lamolithic” was a combination of Lambie’s name and the word “lithic,” which means made of stone.

The Lamolithic House was built by John “Jack” Lambie Jr., a founder of St. Boniface Episcopal Church, the application noted.

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