The home, previously owned by William J. Burns, is on the market for $3.75 million.
In the era of Great Gatsby and prohibition, a world-renowned detective lived not on Baker Street, but on South Washington Drive on St. Armands Key.
The home, at 47 S. Washington Drive to be precise, was owned by William J. Burns, director of the Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice — the precursor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
After establishing 34 worldwide branches of The William J. Burns National Detective Agency and writing several articles and books, the New York Times referred to Burns as a detective "who was equal, if not superior, in renown to his romantic compeer of fiction-Sherlock Holmes..."
With its Mediterranean Revival style, the house is anything but elementary, and it’s for sale.
The home, which has an asking price of $3.75 million, was first designed by architect Thomas Reed Martin in 1926.
Burns originally wanted his Florida home on the east coast where the Mediterranean style was made popular by Henry Flagler’s hotels, according to the National Register of Historic Places. However, after meeting John Ringling and seeing Sarasota for himself, Burns decided to build on St. Armands.
It was in March, 1927, that Ringling Estates, Inc., deeded the two lots to the Burns family. After having the interior designed by a niece, the Burns family moved into the home in November, 1927, according to the National Register of Historic Places.
Since then, the three bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom home has seen some renovations, with the addition of a theater room, salt water pool and a deep water boat dock. Additionally, a one-bedroom guest house was added over the garage.
However, the old charms of the home are not lost, said Coldwell Banker Realtor Lynne Koy.
Original features such as a fireplace, iron staircase and 1920s tile still remain in the home. The 4,000-square foot home also features a secluded cellar that Koy originally thought was for storm protection.
“The storm shelter did much more than just shield people from hurricanes,” Koy said. “It was actually a cellar that was used during prohibition to serve liquor to guests.”
It is these features, and the home’s facade that have cemented its place on several historically designated properties lists, something Koy feels is important for the area.
“Sarasota really is characterized by John Ringling and the people that came along with him,” Koy said. “I think it’s important to preserve those properties which tell our stories. We won’t be able to tell our story if we tear these homes down and we don’t have anything remaining of our original heritage.”
While the home features part of Sarasota’s historical pasts, it does have modern amenities such as air conditioning, a two-car garage, a security gate and a completely renovated kitchen.
With views of Sarasota Bay from its backyard and its proximity to St. Armands circle, Koy said the home is in an ideal location.
“You have this unique jewel sitting on a lot that was owned once by John Ringling with all the modern conveniences one would want in a home, plus the ability to walk to St. Armands,” she said. “People are really relating to the fact that it has so much history in such a beautiful setting.”
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