History Matters: Just Next Door, a local history mystery

April 29, 2014 

Lillie and J.A. Lamb built two houses side by side 14 years apart on Riverside Drive in Palmetto. PHOTO PROVIDED

Through my job at Palmetto Historical Park, I discovered the home at 1102 Riverside Drive in Palmetto and the home next door at 1112 Riverside Drive were built by J. A. (Julius) Lamb.

This was a mystery to me. Why would someone build one house in 1899 and then build another house right next door in 1913?

Over the years, I've heard two reasons why this happened. According to historian Alice Myers, J. A. Lamb's wife, Lillie, was unhappy with the lack of closet space in the first house. Well, that is a problem; a lack of closet space makes me unhappy, too.

The other story came from Lenore Stewart, a member of the Palmetto Historical Commission and the niece of J. A. and Lillie Lamb. According to Lenore, her aunt and uncle had the first, very large house built with the expectation they would have a big family. After all, Julius' father, Palmetto town founder Samuel Lamb, had 16 children.

Unfortunately, the couple never became par

ents, so they sold the large house, ordered a home complete (closets included!) and ready to put together on site from Sears and Roebuck, and moved next door. Lenore fondly recalls sitting on the porch of the house with her aunt and uncle. A too-large house with no closet space seems like a good reason to move. Mystery solved!

As a child, I knew the Sears and Roebuck house as the home of Scarlett the macaw. After attending Sunday school at First United Methodist Church in Palmetto, we all loved to walk across the street and chat with Scarlett, who belonged to Ed and Evelyn Winter.

Evelyn Winter was another of Julius and Lillie's nieces. Evelyn's husband, Ed, went to Japan to fight in World War II. During that time, her uncle Julius became ill, so Evelyn moved into the Sears house with the Lambs to help care for him.

Ed returned from WWII and he and Evelyn remained in the home until 1987. The Winters were also the owners of the Seahorse Gift Shop near the north end of the old Green Bridge. The gift shop sold kitschy Florida memorabilia, signs touted "free papaya juice" and there were live alligators! They had quite a menagerie of animals -- including Scarlett the macaw.

Years later, Scarlett was laid to rest in the backyard of Tom Winter, Evelyn and Ed's son, who also happens to have been my next-door neighbor for the past 29 years.

After Evelyn sold the home, it was converted into a bed and breakfast. One of the past owners stopped by the Palmetto Historical Park and shared stories about turning the home into a B&B.

Apparently, during the renovation this gentleman took Lillie Lamb's portrait off the wall. At this point, anything and everything that could go wrong, did. His wife suggested perhaps the portrait should be put back on the wall. Once the portrait was replaced, the problems resolved themselves.

It seems Lillie really was happy in the smaller home with closet space and has no intentions of leaving! The home has gone through several owners since Scarlett and the Winter family. It is now owned by Wim and Mieke Lippens. Wim came to Manatee County as an exchange student during high school and always wanted to return.

The home is known as the Palmetto Riverside Bed and Breakfast and Lillie's portrait still hangs in its rightful place.

Amanda Polson, Palmetto historical park supervisor, grew up in Palmetto and feels historic because her high school annual is part of the museum's permanent collection. She can be reached at mmgepolson@yahoo.com.

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