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Whitfield Estates Historic Homes Tour set for Sunday No place like (this) home

MANATEE -- There are art pieces dating back to the 15th century.

There are chandeliers with real history, too.

There is also a box containing 33 years of love letters authored by Bette Davis, and a nude painting of the Hollywood siren who was once a guest -- as was Prince Rainier, burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee and playwright Thornton Wilder.

They are but a few of the fascinating elements within the storied walls of Jerry Chaplain’s two-story, Spanish-style home at 227 Delmar Ave. in Whitfield Estates that is listed on the National Register.

It is one of five 1925-26 Spanish-style homes on Sunday’s Whitfield Estates Historic Homes Tour.

“Jerry’s home is intensely decorated like a museum with 15th to 19th century artwork and furnishings,” said Norm Luppino, the homes tour coordinator. “He’s very knowledgeable, has a real passion for art, and it is definitely reflected in the interior of his house. He collects art that has high value and high visual impact.

“People are going to feel like they’re walking through a museum wing at the Louvre in Paris.”

Chaplain bought the house in 1997 and gradually added several elaborate landscape features and structures to the property.

“I do it all myself,” said the fit and energetic 70-year-old. “When you’re willing to put in the extra time to do a job right, the results can be pleasing.”

Like his impressive art collection.

Hardly a week goes by that Chaplain doesn’t engage in some sort of art transaction, either.

“I’m trying to quit, but I can’t stop myself,” he joked.

The house was built in 1925 by Thomas Arthur Monk, the first homebuilder in Whitfield Estates. He built numerous area landmarks, among them Sarasota High School and the Monk Building on the southwest corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Ninth Street West.

One individual who will take Sunday’s tour is Arthur M. Guilford, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee regional chancellor.

Monk was his grandfather and designed Tallahassee Leon High, where the grandson was a student.

“He died when I was 7, but we used to visit and stay at their home on Anna Maria Island,” said Guilford, whose middle name is Monk. “So to go and see something he designed and built besides high schools is exciting for me. I have not been to the house, but I’ve heard a lot about it. It will be fun.”

One story he’s likely to hear from Chaplain involves a chandelier in the ballroom that was added by Everett “Chick” Austin, the first director of the Ringling Museum, who owned the house from 1947-57.

“This chandelier was taken down in 1941 from the Peruvian Embassy when the Germans attacked Paris,” Chaplain said. “It was packed up and sent back to Peru where it was in possession of the Peru ambassador, who kept it until he died in the original box, and his son took it with him when he moved to Sarasota. When he found out it wouldn’t work in the house he built here, he consigned it to Christie’s and I bought it -- still in the original box!”

The other homes on the tour are:

7219 Broughton Street

This Ralph Twitchell designed Mediterranean-style home of Patricia and Edward Knapp was selected by Sarasota Magazine as one the top 10 most beautiful homes in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This house is listed on the National Register as part of the Broughton Street Historic District.

7215 Broughton Street

This Mediterranean-style home of Becky and Dan Young is the second on the tour designed by Twitchell and is also on the National Register as part of the Broughton Street Historic District.

7211 Broughton Street

This Mediterranean-style home of Lee Dillon and Barry Josephson, designed and built by Twitchell, was the first of four in his Whitfield Estates venture. It is also listed on the National Register as part of the Broughton Street Historic District.

7421 Broughton Street

This two-story, Spanish-style home of Brian Brooks, built in 1926, boasts a 16-foot ceiling in the living room, period details and large surrounding gardens. Brooks, owner of Brooks Brothers Electric Company, rebuilt and restored the house in a manner sensitive to the original details of the house.

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

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