MANATEE -- Some residents insist that their home, Mt. Vernon Condominiums, on Sarasota Bay a bit east of Cortez Village, is actually a piece of heaven on earth.
While none of the 220 who enjoyed music, dancing and barbecue in front of the clubhouse for Mt. Vernon’s 35th anniversary lawn party Sunday were able to supply an actual geological survey confirming the site’s pious pedigree, the twinkle in their eyes was a reminder they were not about to deny it either.
A special feeling seems to pervade these 85 acres at Cortez Road and Independence Drive that were turned by developer Gil Waters from a commercial gladiolus field in 1975 to 434 one-, two- and three-bedroom condos that are now restricted to those 55 plus. Many of these condos have Sarasota Bay views.
“The developer wanted to provide a community step-up from mobile homes,” said Jane Harman, who, with her husband, Art, were the second family to purchase a condo and followed Dave and Eleanor Baughman, who moved into the first condo on Sept. 21, 1976.
As of Sunday, 23 units are occupied by original owners and three units are rented by original owners.
“We fell in love with the views,” said New Englander Beth Morehead, who, with her minister husband, Kent Morehead, bought a bayfront condo in Mt. Vernon a year ago. “But the added bonus was the people. We found ourselves welcomed into this great community that we didn’t know we were getting.”
Condos have come and gone in Manatee County, but Mt. Vernon -- which was designed to have Washington, D.C., architecture with Colonial arches, white buildings, and streets with names like Potomac Circle, Lexington Drive and Independence Drive -- has not only endured, but strengthened, residents said.
“It’s the people,” said Board of Directors president Doug Hartley, who came in 1979 with his wife, Janet. “We are all remarkably close for a large development. We are also a very active senior community. We are always doing things together.”
Best friends Betty Pellegrini and Dottie Fleming, who have 16 and 19 years at Mt. Vernon, respectively, can wake up on any morning and decide to take art classes; take ballroom dancing; study the Bible; go bicycling, sailing, bowling, kayaking or line dancing; play Mah Johgg, bunco, poker or pinochle; or work in the garden.
That list is only a small fraction of the offerings.
“That is why it is said that we have all the good looking women,” grinned John Kostera, Mt. Vernon’s steering commitment president, who looks 22, but is 76. “All the activity keeps us looking young.”
The condo also has its own poet laureate, J.C. Christiano, who is one of the original residents and writes verses about Mt. Vernon’s birds, sky and people.
They not only hail from all over the world, but residents chat up the place and entice others to come.
There are at least 35 “family affair” connections where sons, daughters, parents, godparents, in-laws, uncles and others have bought condos, according to Mt. Vernon historical records.
The Moreheads bought their two-bedroom, second-floor furnished condo overlooking Sarasota Bay last September for a bit less than $160,000, Kent Morehead said. The Moreheads’ monthly maintenance fee is $391.
“We came down and rented on Siesta Key in Sarasota for a few years, but what we could afford to buy there no one would want,” Kent Morehead said. “But I was on the website, Zillo, and saw this waterfront property in Bradenton that seemed to be in our price range. I was amazed.”
Any Siesta Key withdrawal pains?
“No, we love Bradenton now,” Kent Morehead said. “We love Snooty the manatee. We love Robinson Preserve. We love everything we have here.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686