British Developers Leave Their Mark On Sarasota
By Patricia Tan
From its earliest days, Sarasota has seen the impact of British settlers and developers, and our landscape continues to be influenced by them today.
The Florida Mortgage and Investment Company first promoted Sarasota as a “modern town” in Scotland in 1885. Scottish families who arrived here in the 1880s expecting to find developed citrus groves, fertile land and affordable housing were disappointed at the “frontier camp” which was Sarasota at the time, and many returned home. John Hamilton Gillespie, a Scottish aristocrat and lawyer stayed and made Sarasota his home. He became a real estate developer, building many homes, the De Soto Hotel on Main Street, and what is believed to be America’s first golf course. These early developments were instrumental in attracting wealthy Americans to settle in our area.
Fast forward a hundred years or so, and golf played a significant part once again as a British company began to develop Sarasota’s very first golf and country club development. Taylor Woodrow Homes, a leading British builder began to develop The Meadows in the 1970s. Taylor Woodrow took 1,650 acres of unspoiled Florida countryside and started our area’s very first master planned community and completed an 18 hole golf course, clubhouse and the first housing clusters in 1979. Made up of a wide range of neighborhoods, from small condominiums to large estate homes, The Meadows now consists of more than 3,450 homes and has become a household name in our local real estate market.
Taylor Woodrow brought our area much more than a master planned community. Some of the British executives they brought to Sarasota continue to make their mark on our landscape today.
David Nash, a British citizen, was President of Taylor Woodrow Homes of California and Taylor Woodrow Homes of Florida, and was involved in the initial Meadows development. He liked Sarasota so much, he wanted to stay on, and left the company to go into business for himself. He went on to build two condominiums in The Meadows – Harpers Croft and Willow Green and then Woodland Park, McIntosh Meadows and the Sarasota International Trade Center. David’s company is still active in our community today. He most recently completed a commercial development on Lockwood Ridge Road.
London Bay Homes, owned by British-born construction veteran Mark Wilson and his wife Gemma, has built luxury homes on the west coast of Florida since 1990, in renowned communities such as Mediterra, The Founders Club, Grey Oaks, and The Lake Club at Lakewood Ranch. Mark tells me it was his father’s involvement in the early days of construction at The Meadows that originally brought his family to the area.
Given the many new homes that have been built in Sarasota and Manatee counties since 2000, it would be easy to assume that these may have made homes in The Meadows less desirable today, than they were when built in the 1980s and 1990s. Not true. The Meadows continues to be a world class community, thanks to the excellent stewardship of the Meadows Community Association. With its mature landscaping and well maintained roads, The Meadows boasts more than 80 lakes and waterways and miles of walking and bicycle trails. The density of homes in the various villages that make up The Meadows is much lower than in some newer subdivisions – more space between neighborhoods and condominium buildings, and single family homes built on larger lots. When Taylor Woodrow set out to find the perfect location for their new community in the 1970s, they were able to identify a large buildable tract of land, reasonably priced, close to town, and with easy access to the area’s beaches and downtown cultural attractions. It would be hard to identify such a centrally located parcel of land today.
Little did John Hamilton Gillespie know, when he decided to settle in our “frontier camp”, that he would start a tradition of British building that survives here today.
This British-inspired, brick built estate home, on Windsor Park in The Meadows is currently offered for sale. Built in 1989, completely updated, and set on an acre amid mature oak trees. The home is reminiscent of English country life at first glance. However, the pool and extensive outdoor living areas definitely say “Florida”.
Patricia Tan was born in England, and her career in international sales and marketing led her to live and work in many countries around the world before moving to Sarasota in 1997. Patricia is a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI), and Transnational Referral Certified (TRC). She is involved in global activities of the Sarasota, Florida and National Association of Realtors, and currently serves as NAR President’s Liaison to U.K. Her real estate business operates from Coldwell Banker on St Armands Key, where her focus is to bring international buyers to the local market. She regularly makes marketing trips to Canada, Asia and Europe, to promote Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Sarasota area in particular. Patricia may be reached at 941-504-9232 or Pat@PatriciaTan.com.
Copyright © 2011 REAL Magazine
Links to this article are encouraged