Osprey Avenue’s ‘boathouse’ to become B&B

The lighthouse structure on North Osprey Avenue long has caught the eye of tourists. Photos by Norman Schimmel

A local icon is about to answer many dreams. The boat structure at 425 N. Osprey Ave. may soon be open for visitors to spend a night or two.

Elwin Lissone came before the city’s Historic Preservation Board Tuesday, Aug. 14, to seek permission to add a stairway to the second floor of the boat building to create a bed and breakfast. “We would like to share this building with everyone,” he said. “We just need a few small adjustments.”

Who has not seen it and loved it? Away from the sea plies a ship along Osprey Avenue, leaving a three-story lighthouse to starboard. “It’s definitely a tourist attraction,” said Lissone. “During season, there are lines of people taking pictures.”

The two buildings were constructed in 1933 by shipwright Oliver Blackburn for Capt. Arthur Rowe. The good captain worked for both William Selby and John Ringling. Together Rowe and Blackburn built the pair of structures as a reminder of the sea.

The ‘boat’ portion of the Lissone residence would serve as the bed-and-breakfast facility.

Lissone bought the local icons six years ago and struggled to keep the wooden structures intact, following a thorough renovation in the 1980s. The boat, which is 100 feet long, rises two stories with a circular staircase inside. The lighthouse is three stories tall. Both rest on brick foundations.

Elwin and Diana Lissone’s plan is to create a two-bedroom bed-and-breakfast in the boat building, while they live in the lighthouse. “For fire and safety reasons, there needs to be an egress from the second floor to the ground,” said Edwin. “There is a spiral staircase inside, but it’s too narrow.”

They asked for permission to expand the second-floor bedroom in the boat building by about 10 feet, shortening the screened porch aft. The new staircase would be positioned to the building’s rear and not be visible from the street.

Because the building is designated as a historic structure, Lissone needed the historic board’s approval to make any changes. There was some discussion of materials, but the board unanimously gave its approval, awarding the “certificate of appropriateness” required for the couple to move on to the next step in the approval process.

The following day, Lissone appeared at the Development Review Committee, comprising representatives of several city departments, to see if anybody had questions or problems with the couple’s plans. Lissone said he was considering installation of an automatic sprinkler system in addition to a professional fire alarm.

The Lissones’ plan is scheduled to go before the city planning board on Sept. 12 for consideration of their “minor conditional use” change.

When asked after the meeting how much they were considering charging per night, the Lissones said it was too early to tell, but that the B&B would be less expensive than the only other one in Sarasota. The Cypress on Gulfstream Avenue charges between $150 and $289 per night.

When told there were people in Sarasota who had expressed interest in staying in the unique structure, Elwin smiled and said maybe once the inn was open, he might offer special rates to local residents, especially in the off season.