Sarasota's historic house is full of history and mystery

newsintern@bradenton.comJune 17, 2013 

SARASOTA -- It was the stained glass windows, myrtle wood floors, and gothic round-top doors that made Anita Bartholomew fall in love with the historic house a short distance off of Tamiami Trail.

Bartholomew did not know much about the house when she first moved in 13 years ago, but since then she has done her research, throwing in a bit of speculation with her investigation.

"When I first moved here in 2000 I knew there was a lot of history behind the house and I knew that there were legends about the house," Bartholomew said. "However I found out that all those legends were not true."

Among the myths was that the house was built by John Ringling for little people in his circus. The placement of the extravagant upstairs windows creating optical illusions contributed to that assumption.

"Legends that said Ringling built the house were false because he was dead by that time," Bartholomew said.

Other myths hinted at hidden treasures behind the walls. Bartholomew says she has not found anything even after all of her renovations.

The three bedroom, two bathroom house at 4237 Sarasota Ave., Sarasota, still holds a lot of mystery behind its authentic walls. Bartholomew knows the house was built by Paul Bergmann, a prominent 1920s to 1930s-era Sarasota builder. However, records don't show exactly when the house was built.

"Nobody really knows for sure when this house was built because Sarasota does not keep its building records after 15 years," Bartholomew said.

Continuing her investigations, Bartholomew found out in a 1985 letter from a Sarasota planner to a previous owner that the house could have been built as early as 100

years ago.

"The letter showed that based on the style of the house that maybe this house was actually built in the teens at another location and then it was moved," Bartholomew said.

Mikki Hartig, owner of Historical and Architectural Research Services, thinks Bergmann built the house from scratch.

The 4237 Sarasota Ave. house has a lot of similarities to the nearby 4215 Sarasota Ave. house.

Bergmann, builder for Bergmann Investment Co. Inc., had to have worked on both houses, Hartig said because both are so structurally similar and from the same time period.

"When I talked to Hartig, she thought that it is impossible to find two houses which are so creatively similar at the same location," Bartholomew said. "And that made a lot of sense to me."

Despite not knowing the construction date, Bartholomew has explanations for the unique architecture of the house. Bergmann worked with architect H.S. Spague to help create his masterpiece.

"From what I can gather, Bergmann was trying to do something that would be utterly charming and beautiful, but also economical since the house was built in the middle of the Great Depression," Bartholomew said.

The history and mystery behind the house make its unique architecture and decorative style even more intriguing -- and may point to a later construction date making the house closer to 70 years old.

The built-in dressers and drawers carefully installed in the house portray Bergmann's and Spague's efforts to facilitate life for people during the Great Depression.

After spending the past 13 years renovating and researching the details of the house, Bartholomew decided this year it was time to sell. She recently listed the 1,726-square-foot house for sale.

Realtor Annette Bentley thinks it's rare to come across a house like this.

"I have not come across a house like this but everyone that I've showed it to loves it," Bentley said.

Even so, it could take a little time to match the right person to the house.

"It's going to take a special and unique buyer to buy this house because this is a truly special house," Bentley said.

Bartholomew fell in love with the house in 2000 before she knew much about it, and she still loves it today. It's going to be a bitter-sweet moment when she sells the house.

"My son lives in Portland so that's why I'm selling it, to be closer to him," Bartholomew said. "It definitely will not be easy though to leave it behind."

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