Dierks Houses blend Sarasota School of Architecture and other design features
Two houses located on Sanderling Road on Siesta Key have won listings on the Sarasota County Register of Historic Places, thanks to unanimous County Commission votes.
Known as the Dierks Houses because of their original owner, a county staff memo explained, they are located at 8440 and 8445 Sanderling Road.
The owners of both parcels submitted applications to county staff, along with supplemental materials, to support their contention that the structures possess historic significance as noteworthy examples “of regional Modernist style influenced by the Sarasota School of Architecture and the ‘Orient and South Seas,’” the staff memo pointed out.
During its meeting on Oct. 27, the county’s Historic Preservation Board found the structures met two criteria stipulated in the county’s Code of Ordinances regarding historic designations, the memo continued. The Historic Preservation Board members agreed that the houses are associated with post-World War II development on Siesta Key, specifically the Sanderling subdivision, the memo added. Further, “[T]he Dierks Houses retain their historical significance and a remarkable degree of physical integrity,” the memo said.
In making both motions to approve the applications, Commissioner Alan Maio on Nov. 17 complimented staff’s efforts. Rob Bendus, manager of Sarasota County Historical Resources, and Renee Di Pilato, director of the county’s Libraries and Historical Resources Department, “have just done an absolutely great job,” Maio added.
Anyone interested in obtaining an historic designation for a structure should reach out to Bendus, Maio said.
“I’m glad that Commissioner Maio made some comments,” Commissioner Nancy Detert noted after seconding his motion for the property at 8445 Sanderling Road. She did not want people to think the board members were rushing through the item, she pointed out. (It was listed on the Nov. 17 agenda as Presentation Upon Request, and no commissioner had asked for a staff presentation. Usually, business matters that are not expected to be controversial are placed on the board agendas under that heading.)
Detert added that the commissioners have turned down other requests for historic designation, “because [there] was really, frankly, nothing all that special about [the structures].”
In contrast, the Dierks Houses located at 8445 Sanderling Road, she continued, reflects the Sarasota School of Architecture. “It deserves some recognition.”
No member of the board commented on the application for the Dierks House that stands at 8440 Sanderling Road before they voted on its historic designation. Commissioner Christian Ziegler seconded Maio’s motion to approve that request.
Documents provided to the commissioners in their agenda packets for the Nov. 17 meeting noted that the owners of the house at 8445 Sanderling Road are Todd and Sean Bavol-Montgomery. For the 8440 Sanderling Road property, the owners are Bob and Ida Roggio, documents said.
The Dierks house located at 8445 Sanderling Road is one story, while the other house is a combination of one and two stories, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records.
The post and beam structures rest on wooden pilings and have pitched tile roofs, the applications added.
Dierks had an interest in Japanese and South Sea structures, as well as the Prairie School “and especially the Sarasota School of Architecture,” the applications continued. Her design “was a regional adaptation of a regional adaptation,” the applications added. “The geometric volumes are simple and blend with the coastal seascape.”
The source of much of the information in the applications, the owners pointed out, was a document written by Pauline Dierks Curry, the daughter of Ruth Dierks. The material was found by Sean and Todd Boval-Montgomery when they bought the house at 8445 Sanderling Road, the applications added.
The house at 8440 Sanderling Road, which was built in 1967, the applications noted, “stretches along the gulf shore.” The Bavol-Montgomery house, the applications continued, was constructed in 1955 on Heron Lagoon.
An overview of the architectural features and history
“The siding and fences of these adjoining houses are both board and batten, and the lumber of both was grown, cut and milled by Dierks Forests, Ruth’s family’s lumber company in Arkansas. Most of the lumber is heart yellow pine, some of it milled to special patterns of Ruth’s design,” the historical document pointed out.
Part of the interior paneling is ash and walnut, it noted.
“Ruth ordered glass mosaic in a random pattern for the pool [at] the larger house and for bathroom counters in both houses,” the document continued. “The chimneys are simple, tall rectangles of sandstone.”
John Innes of Innes Builders, who was active in Sarasota from 1953 through 1975, was the contractor for both houses, the document said. He constructed “many of the more interesting houses of the time,” it added.
“The architect for the smaller house was Ralph Erikson, who designed the 1964 Addition to the County Courthouse, and, also in 1964, a Sarasota County Welcome Center in Venice,” the historical document pointed out.
Further, Erikson had an office at 5129 Ocean Blvd. on Siesta Key before he relocated to South Washington Boulevard in Sarasota, the applications said. The Siesta Village address is located in what is now a series of shops just north of Village Café and the Avenida Madera intersection.
The applications also explained that the Sanderling Club comprises homes with mostly wide beachfront parcels on the Gulf of Mexico, Heron Lagoon and Little Sarasota Bay. The club’s cabanas, the applications noted, “are on the National Historic Register and were designed … by Paul Rudolph.”
Rudolph, who later served on the faculty of Yale University, is known as a key member of the Sarasota School of Architecture.
“The Dierks houses are in excellent condition,” the applications added, “and have had very little alteration since their construction.”
“The larger house [8440 Sanderling Road) has been carefully restored and compatibly furnished by the new owners, Bob and Mary Roggio,” the applications said.
The Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show that the Roggio family bought the house for $925,000 in February 1997. The market value of the property is $3,238,200, the Property Appraiser’s Office website says.
Todd and Sean Bavol-Montgomery purchased the house at 8445 Sanderling Road in August. 2013 for $1.6 million, the Property Appraiser’s Office records note. That house’s market value this year is $2,172,500.
Dierks’ place in Siesta Key history
The two houses “occupy a narrow 400 foot long strip of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Heron Lagoon; they are at the south end of Sanderling Road on south Siesta Key,” the applications explained.
They are significant, the applications said, “because of the way they represent the desire of designers in Sarasota during the 1950’s and 1960’s to create houses that blend with the coastal flora and scenery, and that make use of cross breezes, deep overhangs, natural materials … Such houses do not exclude the environment, even the stormy Gulf, but welcome the weather of Sarasota’s keys.”
Dierks studied architecture and engineering at Stanford University, and she was a painting student of Thomas Hart Benton, the applications continued. “She gloried in the combination of natural beauty, delightful climate and culturally significant people that she found when she came to Siesta Key in 1954 to look for a gulfside lot on which to build a little house that incorporated her design criteria,” the applications pointed out.
She purchased the first lot for $11,250 in 1955 from Siesta Properties, which Elbridge Boyd had established in 1946, the applications noted. A former resident of Atlanta, the applications said, Boyd and his wife, Helen, moved to Sarasota in 1939. He “was a community activist and a developer of several subdivisions on Siesta Key, each having large lots and native plantings,” the applications added.
Among frequent visitors to the Dierks houses in the 1950s and 1960s, the applications said, was Mary Hook of Kansas City, which was Dierks’ hometown. Hook later developed the Sandy Hook subdivision on the northern part of Siesta Key, the applications pointed out.
Among other details, the applications noted that Siesta Key — or Little Sarasota Key, as it was known on old maps — was platted in 1907. “[T]wo strong gales and a major hurricane reconfigured the key, actually creating south Siesta Key (which had been a part of north Casey Key), and Heron Lagoon (which has been the pass between the two keys,” the applications pointed out. “The Great Depression and World War Two, as well as the storms mentioned above, kept Siesta Key growth to a minimum” until the mid 1940s, the applications said. That status continued through the 1960s, they noted, “when the Sarasota School of Architecture flourished and individuals such as Phillip Hiss, Mary Hook, and Ruth Dierks began to build exciting houses that represented the new regional architecture and incorporated their own [adaptations].”