When McClellan Park opened in 1916, just a year after the city officially incorporated, it was known and advertised as “Sarasota’s Garden Spot.”
Its layout and look were considered unusual because the landscape architect incorporated curved roadways at a time when rectangular grids — as in the hospital area, for example — were the norm. The driving force behind the unique approach: two sisters, Katherine E. and Daisietta G. McClellan, who first visited Sarasota in 1910. They loved the area and decided to pursue creating a high-end residential neighborhood only three years later.
The result was an upscale development that preserved Florida’s tropical atmosphere while providing the newest, most up-to-date amenities, in many ways ahead of its time. Pergolas marked the Orange Avenue entrance. There were paved sidewalks throughout, and large shade trees and flowering shrubs lined the shell-covered roads. At the same time, every lot had running water from artesian wells, as well as electricity, telephone lines and septic tanks. Katherine McClellan was a professional photographer and liked to combine the artistic and the practical. Because of an Indian mound on the property, Katherine decided to use Native American words to name the roads, including Seminole, Mietaw, Illehaw, and Sioux drives.
Amenities included a freshly dredged yacht basin, a beach, tennis courts, croquet and a community clubhouse made of pecky cypress. In the 1930s, it became the private McClellan Park School, and, later, The School in the Park, a tutoring center. The sisters’ ambitious vision didn’t pan out, however. While advertisements claimed that McClellan Park was “close but just outside the city limits,” it did not attract a rush of buyers, despite the Florida land boom. In 1923, a local development company purchased the unsold properties and finished building out the area, 149 homes altogether.
“You see a mix of all kinds of architecture, including West Indies and modern,” says Mark Betres, a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co. and resident in McClellan Park. “It’s a potpourri of different styles.”Today, McClellan Park maintains its eclectic allure. Many of the original 1920s clapboard cottages and Spanish Mediterranean-style houses have been faithfully restored by their owners and upgraded on the interior. There are also good examples of midcentury modern and Florida ranch homes, not to mention a large, walled estate.
In the six and a half years that Betres has lived in McClellan Park, he has observed two trends. One is the acceleration of tearing down of smaller, older homes and replacing them with larger. There is new construction, and the 149 homes now range from two to five bedrooms offering living space from 1,706 to 5,779 square feet.Betres loves the combination of the old and new. When he first arrived, an older neighbor told him that his house occupied the highest spot in Sarasota, where the Native Americans who originally lived there used to go during hurricanes. “As a result, I’m not required to have flood insurance,” he says.
The other trend is the influx of families with young children. They like the fact that they can walk to Southside Elementary School. The other area schools are Brookside Middle and Sarasota High.
The proximity to Sarasota Memorial Hospital appeals to doctors. The convenient location also attracts other professionals and business owners, as well. Betres, whose next-door neighbors include an airline pilot and a software company owner, points out, “I can be anywhere in minutes. I can walk down to the restaurants and stores in Southside Village.”
According to Betres, McClellan Park is a friendly place. “People tend to buy and stay there,” he says. Downtown Sarasota is only 10 minutes away, as are the white sand beaches of Siesta Key. The Tamiami Trail next door provides further shopping and restaurant opportunities, including the Sarasota Westfield Mall.
As a result, sales have been gradual and inventory is relatively low. Over the past 12 months, there were six sales, ranging from $335,000 to $1.56 million. Currently, 10 homes are on the market, priced from $447,000 to $1.5 million.
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