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Crosley Carriage House tours benefit Boys & Girls Clubs

Carl Weeks suddenly found himself in an amusing situation.

He was volunteering last Saturday at the Crosley Carriage House, the newly restored circa 1926 residence on the Powel Crosley Estate that’s a showcase for area designers and is open to the public until Feb. 20.

“Somebody asked me, ‘Are you one of the designers?’ I said, no, but I’m with one of the beneficiaries,” said the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County. “It’s a neat way to get the word out to people we usually don’t have a relationship with.”

A neat way, indeed.

The Crosley Carriage House is the centerpiece of the 2011 Jewels on the Bay Designer Showhouse that has two objectives:

n Feature area interior designers, architects, developers and landscape designers.

n Benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of both Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

Jewels on the Bay Showhouses have contributed thousands of dollars to both organizations since 1994.

According to Weeks, the idea came about when attorney Tim Knowles, then-club board president, huddled with clients Bill Tidmore and Robert Henry, the respected Tidmore-Henry & Associates interior designers in Sarasota.

“They talked about how the arts part could do a fundraiser for the clubs and it took off,” Weeks said. “It’s an opportunity for people to look at what interior designers can do and the boys and girls clubs split the proceeds.”

Net proceeds from tour tickets amounts to “one of our top six special event fundraisers,” said Valerie Nelson, vice president for development with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Mack Reid, president/chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County.

The Carriage House has 17 rooms, two outdoor cabanas, space for three cars and quarters for Crosley’s seaplane pilot, his yacht captain and his chauffeur.

It sits just southwest of the mansion Crosley built as a winter home on a 60-acre parcel of land.

The estate averages 50,000 visitors annually and has a local economic impact of more than $4 million per year, managers say.

Showhouse chair Joyce Hart and husband/designer Jeff Hart are spearheading the Showhouse project for 2011. She credited Manatee County, which owns the Crosley, and the Crosley Foundation for the historic preservation of the Carriage House.

“It is truly a labor of love to see the transformation of this structure now complementing the mansion,” Hart said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.