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Norm Luppino – Perspectives – Historical REAL Estate

Norm Luppino

The Legendary Crosley Estate:

An Upside To A Real Estate Bust

By Norm Luppino

Few properties were as affected by the dramatic swings in Florida’s volatile real-estate market as the historic Crosley estate on Sarasota Bay. But as evidence that there is often an upside within a market bust, it was during some of Florida’s biggest real estate slumps that the Crosley mansion was built, later saved, and finally restored to create one the premiere cultural facilities on Florida’s west coast.

The first attempt to develop the property occurred during the famous land boom of the 1920s. In 1925 – more than 3 years prior to Crosley’s association with the site — a business consortium purchased the 63-acre parcel for $365,000 with the vision to create an exclusive bay front subdivision named Seagate. At $5,800 per acre, it was the highest price ever paid for acreage in the Sarasota Bay area.

Crosley Estate

The potential developers named their venture “Seagate” and promoted it as “Sarasota’s most aristocratic suburb.” A large sign was erected along the Tamiami Trail, but before any roads or homes were constructed, the sudden collapse of the land boom dissolved their grand plans. The property was foreclosed upon and sold at auction on the Manatee County court house steps for a mere $12,000.

Crosley Estate

In the spring of 1929, Cincinnati millionaire Powel Crosley Jr. took advantage of the market downturn and purchased the property for $35,000 – less than 1/10th the price it sold for in 1925.

One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the first half of the 20th century, Crosley owned the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and was a pioneer in the manufacturing of radios, compact cars, and the Shelvador refrigerators (the first refrigerator with shelves in the doors). Although Florida was experiencing a severe economic depression, Crosley proceeded to invest $350,000 to create one of the finest showplaces in the region. The estate included a 21-room mansion, exquisitely rendered in the classic Mediterranean style, and a 200-foot yacht basin. The Crosleys occupied their palatial residence for ten winters and often entertained nationally prominent guests. However, after Mrs. Crosley died at the home in 1939, Powel seldom returned to the property.

Crosley Estate

After World War II the Florida economy rebounded, but Mr. Crosley soon discovered that the home’s grand scale and ornate style had become obsolete in the post-war real estate market, which now emphasized smaller and sleeker homes. Eager to unload his “white elephant,” Crosley offered to exchange it for a Texas cow ranch and even considered donating it to a Cincinnati-based medical research institute.

Crosley Estate

Eventually he sold the furnished estate in 1947 for $100,000 – less than one third its original cost – to a New York investment company that planned to subdivide the property into modest home sites and convert the mansion into a clubhouse. When that plan failed to materialize, the company attempted to transform the mansion into “a distinctive hotel for discriminating clientele.” They renamed it “Versailles” and advertisements touted nightly dancing and entertainment featuring “stars from Broadway and Hollywood.” That venture quickly fizzled and the following year the company resold the property to the Horton family, who retained ownership for the next three decades.

Crosley Estate

Although the mansion suffered from deferred maintenance, the Horton family is credited with keeping the estate intact during a period when many similar landmarks were demolished.

In 1982, they sold the mansion and 45 acres for $5.5 million to the Campeau Corporation, which planned to build a luxury mid-rise condominium complex and utilize the mansion as a clubhouse. But, like the fate of prior propositions, this venture went bust when the condo market collapsed in the mid-1980s.

After sitting abandoned, amidst extensive overgrowth for more than a decade, Manatee County seized the opportunity to purchase the mansion and 16.5 bay front acres for the bargain price of just under $1.6 million. By then, the barrel tile roof was gone, water leaks in the roof and windows had resulted in severe damage to the interior, and the exterior was black from mildew. The county, however, recognized this diamond in the rough and has worked feverishly to successfully transform the relic into one of this area’s most cherished jewels.

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Norm LuppinoNorm Luppino, past Chairman of the Crosley Estate Foundation, is a licensed real estate professional for SaraBay Real Estate. A resident of Sarasota since 1986, Norm is a native of Michigan where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from Lawrence Technological University and a Masters degree in Urban Planning from Michigan State University. Norm has been featured in Sarasota Magazine as a Five-Star Real Estate Agent for Best in Client Satisfaction the past four years.

Norm Luppino
Realtor
SaraBay Real Estate
(941) 565.4377
www.normluppino.com
normslistings@aol.com

Photography Courtesy of Norm Luppino, Manatee County Public Library Historical Image Digital Collection & Alfred Gordon

Copyright © 2018 REAL Exclusive Magazine
Links to this article are encouraged

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