2000 Main St., Dwight James Baum, architect. National Register of Historic Places
A rush of development in the 1920s put Sarasota on the map for northerners looking to get rich quick in Florida real estate.
One of their own, New York society architect Dwight James Baum put the young city on the architectural map, too.
Baum, then in his late 30s, came to Sarasota to design a mansion for John and Mable Ringling. We know it as Ca’ d’Zan (“Florida Buildings I Love,” No. 3, 1925).
While he was here, Baum also designed nearly a dozen notable structures — houses for professional people, apartment and office buildings, and the Sarasota County Courthouse.
The Mediterranean-influenced building, among the most attractive courthouses in the state, if not the nation, opened in 1927, just six years after Sarasota County broke away from Manatee County.
A renovation in 1999 and a recent clean-up have the structure, with its distinctive tower in the courtyard between two wings, fulfilling its status as a Sarasota landmark.
Baum used terra cotta accents and cast-stone classical architectural elements to give the building its stately appearance. Barrel tiles on the roof were imported from Spain. Wrought-iron details were done by the noted metal artist Samuel Yellin, whose work also is seen at Bok Singing Tower (“Florida Buildings I Love,” No. 60).
The building, constructed by Stevenson & Cameron, once had a handsome landscape and façade facing Ringling Boulevard, but additions in 1955 and 1965 obliterated or obscured them.
Baum could be considered Sarasota’s first “star” architect. He attained “wide recognition as a master of the suburban country house” in Fieldston, The Bronx, and other northern suburbs of New York City, writes Ronald McCarty, keeper of Ca’ d’Zan, in his introduction for the 2008 revision of the 1927 monograph “The Work of Dwight James Baum” (edited by William Morrison, Acanthus Press, 232 pages, $69).
Baum also did a number of homes in the Tampa suburb of Temple Terrace.
At a time when Sarasota was booming, Baum’s arrival from New York helped raise its architectural profile, McCarty said in a 2008 interview. “He was their most prominent of the architects of the 1920s.
“Baum received the gold medal from the architectural league of New York, and that put him into a national standing. That’s one of the major reasons John Ringling hired him” for the Ca’ d’Zan project.
Baum, born in 1886 in Little Falls, New York, had an architectural degree from Syracuse and was right at home with the Fieldston’s self-made executives. His work also appealed to the very rich, as illustrated by John and Mable Ringling’s decision, 15 years earlier, to set aside Thomas Reed Martin’s concept for their bayfront palace and instead let Baum design Ca’ d’Zan.
While Martin designed many more structures in Sarasota than did Baum, the New Yorker made his mark with the big jobs — the Sarasota County Courthouse, the El Vernona Hotel (later the John Ringling Hotel) and the Broadway Apartments (still standing as the Belle Haven office building near the Hyatt Regency Sarasota). They were the landmarks of the 1920s real estate boom.
Baum’s Sarasota houses: Ca’ d’Zan; Kennedy home, Oak Street; Schueler House, South Washington Drive, St. Armands; Edwards House, Flamingo Avenue, Siesta Key. His public buildings in Sarasota: Sarasota County Courthouse, Main Street; Sarasota Times building, First Street; Broadway Apartments/Belle Haven, Fourth Street; Pineapple Apartments/Herald Square building, Orange Avenue at Pineapple; real estate office/Karl Bickel house, North Trail (demolished); El Vernona/John Ringling Hotel, North Trail (demolished).
After just 25 years in architecture, Baum died of a heart attack on a New York City sidewalk on Dec. 13, 1939, while rushing to catch a bus home to Fieldston, where he designed 90 of the 250 architecturally distinctive houses. He also did about 60 houses in nearby Riverdale.
Information from the author’s 2008 feature story on Baum is included in this report. “Florida Buildings I Love” is a weekly homage to the state’s built environment. The author presents fee-based PowerPoint lectures to civic groups and neighborhood associations. E-mail: Harold.Bubil@heraldtribune.com.