An All-American home in the Polo Club
When people discuss Lakewood Ranch’s more prestigious communities, The Lake Club and the Country Club always come up. Many people say the Polo Club has a special cachet. It has a lifestyle that few places in the world can boast. After all, it’s home to “the sport of kings.”
The authenticity is overwhelming. This is not some gussied up idea of what a developer thinks a polo club might look like. It’s the real thing and has been for decades. Horses are everywhere, grazing in pastures and being put though their paces. The homes that dot the place are actually mini-ranches, with barns and outbuildings, set on spreads that range from 5 to 10 acres-plus.
There is big money out here, including some of the country’s most famous fortunes. But all the residents are here for a horse-centered environment, and that makes it a democratic place. Everybody knows everybody, and the social events connected with the matches provide even more bonding for the residents.
Do you have to play polo to live there? Not necessarily. Reed and Ginny Savidge don’t play — although they certainly attend the tailgate parties that are a feature of every match. For them the big draw is the country lifestyle. They both grew up on large pieces of land. Ginny’s childhood home was a 250-acre ranch in Kentucky. “I can still plow and operate a back-hoe,” she boasts.
The Savidges moved to the Polo Club back in 2001. They had built and lived in several houses in Sarasota, in places like The Landings and The Meadows. But their hands-on support for The Out-Of-Door Academy, which their kids attended and for which Reed raised $3.5 million, led them to consider somewhere nearer to the school’s new campus. And besides, the move gave Ginny the chance to do what every person wants to do: “I wanted to build my dream house.”
The Savidges chose a model from the famous Southern Living collection called Barton Creek. It’s a classic all-American design, a country estate crossed with an old-fashioned farm house. There are screened porches front and rear, each with a swing, and the Savidges leave the home open to the weather as much as possible.
The house is larger than it looks. It measures in at just less than 6,500 square feet, and it’s set on 5.32 acres. Like virtually every home in the Polo Club, there’s a barn included. The Savidges’ has eight stalls and a special floor of shell covered with rubber. As with most Polo Club barns, there’s an apartment, too. In this case it’s 800 square feet, nicely fixed up.
It’s the custom that if you don’t keep horses yourself, you rent the barn and apartment to someone who does. The Savidge barn is currently rented to a trainer from abroad and four sleek-looking horses.
The interior of the main house is American country with a cowboy twist. The floors are oak, and decorative art with western references is everywhere. Pedestal-mounted saddles greet the visitor in the entrance hall, and on the wall on the dining room is a painting of a beautiful Native American girl.
The house is customized with many touches the Savidges added. You’ll see a decorative window transom they found at an antique store in Arcadia. The fireplace mantel in the family room belonged to Reed’s parents. The fireplace beneath it is not gas, by the way. “I wanted an old-fashioned wood burning fireplace,” Ginny says.
The master bedroom is on the ground level, and the bath features a modern claw-foot tub. Nearby is a well-used office. The Savidges own several Ace Hardware stores, including the busy one on Longboat Key, and much of their business is managed here. Upstairs there are three bedrooms, each with its own bath, and a large playroom. It is here the couple’s three children grew up; they have moved out and now own their own homes in Lakewood Ranch.
Like all Southern homes, there is a formal living room, but the life of the home can be found in the family room. Here, family and friends can relax and look out over a perfect Polo Club view. In the distance, past the swimming pool and some well-manicured grass is the track where the horses are trained.
With their kids grown up and gone, the Savidges have decided to put their home on the market. (It’s priced at $2,897,000.) “But we’re sure going to miss this,” Reed said, gesturing toward the view. “We love watching the horses. And the wildlife.”
As if on cue we heard a loud squawking noise and looked up to see a trio of sandhill cranes in great commotion. What was going on? Was something threatening their nest?
Then we saw the panther. In my 35 years here it was the first one I’d ever seen. For a moment you had no idea what was going to happen, and I feared the worst. But never underestimate a crane. The panther was increasingly flummoxed by the racket the cranes were making. Suddenly he took off, running at full gallop across the field.
At that moment the Savidges’ house — and the Polo Club — was the coolest place in town.