Most people, even those who have lived in Sarasota for decades, don’t know where the Old Oak neighborhood is because it is small, private and the homes are so successfully tucked into old growth trees and foliage that it’s secret.
Unless you live there or are visiting, there’s no reason to turn off Siesta Drive and search for Old Oak Drive. But, the place isn’t isolated. Part of the neighborhood is on the bay and all the homes are near the north bridge to Siesta Key and to several shopping malls as well as Southside elementary school. For years, it’s been a family neighborhood and people who live there tend to stay a long time forming a community of people who look out for one another, often sharing garden tools and taking in mail for those on vacation.
Now, one of the vintage homes in the neighborhood is for sale for $1,199,000 through Janis Collier of Michael Saunders & Company and it’s bound to entice potential buyers and the curious to explore this secluded spot. The pecky cypress, 3,133-square-foot ranch has four bedrooms, four baths, swimming pool, summer kitchen on the screened pool deck and garage.
The home expresses Sarasota School of Architecture features in clerestory windows, walls of sliding glass, outdoor spaces designed to be part of daily life, and the easy relationship between house and site that is a hallmark of this architectural style. The ceiling in the living room of this home is vaulted and there’s a fireplace. The walls and ceiling are pecky cypress.
The house is owned by Amy Drachman, an attorney and single mother of twin boys. She moved from Boston to Sarasota and bought the home in 2015. “I was looking for the ideal Florida home,” she remembers. “It had to have an indoor-outdoor relationship, walls of glass, plenty of natural light, a pool with outdoor entertaining area and I wanted the property to be near the beach and convenient to an elementary school because my boys were nine at the time.” Drachman had been to Sarasota before. Her parents had a seasonal residence on Longboat Key and she visited often so she was somewhat familiar with residential parts of town.
“When I was planning the move, I searched for homes online and made several trips to Sarasota to look with my Realtor Janis Collier. I liked the Sarasota School of Architecture style because I think it expresses what a Florida home should be. I actually found this one online and when I contacted Janis, I learned she was about to leave for a trip to Mexico. But, she drew up the paper work for an offer and left it for me. When I got to Sarasota on a Saturday, I picked up the paper work and Monday morning I showed up at the house ready to buy. The house had just gone onto the market a few days before and I think I was the first to view it. And the last. When I toured the rooms, I found the place even more wonderful that the pictures.”
Over the years, Drachman scaled back the landscaping and replaced the shell driveway with pavers. She also upgraded a 1970s bathroom (it was pink with a blue toilet) and upgraded another bathroom replacing a fiberglass shower unit with ceramic tile. And she added the outdoor kitchen. Now with her boys entering high school, Amy Drachman says she does not need a home this large and would like to downsize. “My mom lives in The Landings and I don’t want to be far from her,” she said. “And at this point I don’t know if I want a townhouse or a no-maintenance house. It’s a practical move, but I will really miss this neighborhood and our house.”
The property that Drachman is selling is part of a family compound of three homes that Wilbur and Doris Peter built when they moved to Sarasota from the Cleveland, Ohio area in 1967. Doris Bolton Peter (1916-2009) had a degree in architecture and art, was a painter and owned her own interior design firm in Cleveland.
“My mother did the architectural drawings for all three houses, two on the bay and one across the street, and then had a contractor build them,” said Carolyn Peter Johnson, her daughter, who now lives with husband Bob in the first home Doris did on the bay.
“Besides being passionate about architecture and painting, my mom was an active member of the New College Library Association and my dad was on the board. She was a docent at the Ringling Museum and both my parents were active with the Ringling College of Art and Design where there is a scholarship established in their name.”
Doris Peter was also an avaid sailor in Ohio and established a sailing club for women there. Quite remarkable, when you consider that she had multiple sclerosis for 60 years and was in a wheelchair for many of those later years. Her mobility challenges influenced how she designed, allowing for an unobstructed flow between spaces.
When she built the three homes in Old Oak, Doris Peter designed each for maximum cross ventilation and did not cut down a single tree. She designed specifically for the site all three times. Views of nature were paramount and outdoor spaces got special attention.
Carolyn’s brother, Tom Peter and his wife Marjorie, lived in the house now owned by Drachman for 27 years, raising three children there. “That house was so well designed for passive heating and cooling that we never had to turn on the air conditioning until the end of May,” said, Tom. “And the overhang of the roof meant we got cooling shade in the summer and nice slanting sun in the winter.”
Tom and Marjorie Peter added to the property with a 1,200-square-foot bedroom/bath wing in 1987. And they added a garage. They put in the pool in 1995. The white kitchen (an extension and remodel of the original) with stainless appliances and gray/white granite counters has a peninsula as well as a center island which houses the cooktop. The kitchen has pretty views to the woodsy yard and gets an abundance of natural light.
Tom and Marjorie Peter sold their home in 2008 to a Connecticut family that only stayed in Florida for a few years. Army Drachman bought the Old Oak house from that Connecticut family in 2015.
The third house that Doris Peter designed (on the bay side) is owned and lived in by a son of Carolyn Peter and Bob Johnson. Of the three custom designed homes that Doris Peter built, two remain in the family.
The Drachman house is officially listed in the sale information as being built in 1951, but Doris Peter designed and had it custom built in the early 70s. What’s the discrepancy? Her daughter, Carolyn Peter Johnson explains: “When my parents bought the whole parcel of land there was a house on one of the lots. Instead of taking it down completely, mom left two rooms or two walls standing, I don’t remember which, and built the custom house around it. She designed it so every room had a view. But, somewhere in that house is some little part of what was originally built in 1951 but I couldn’t tell you where. At the time my parents bought the big parcel in Old Oak, they were living in Harbor Acres and mom was looking for a project. I don’t think they intended to buy property for three homes, but land in that area was inexpensive at the time and they knew a good thing when they saw it. Mom got her project and it resulted in three custom family homes.”