The Maine Colony of Sarasota and its historic clubhouse have a fascinating history


Unless you live in the neighborhood, you may not have heard of it. Even if so, you might have missed its near-hidden location. After all, even the Sarasota County Propery Appraiser’s website has the address of the Phillippi Crest Community Clubhouse listed as vacant land. But at 99, it still remains the social anchor of a historic neighborhood originally called Maine Colony.

In 1916, the development of the Maine Colony made headlines, when a group of Maine residents announced plans to build winter homes and a community clubhouse in a southern Sarasota neighborhood. , near Phillippi Creek. The property was purchased from the Palmer family, but World War I delayed construction of the lodge until the mid-1920s.

Early aerial photos show many homes on Ashton Road, the main road, as well as its side streets, including Portland and Damariscotta, named after the hometowns of area residents.

The wood-framed lodge was a welcoming place where Maine tourists converged for potlucks, dancing, fish frying, card games and more.

Fran Lawrence, 83, remembers when her father was club president in the early 1950s. Her family is from Maine. “They were cooking on this old stove and making these big meals for a small fee,” she says. “Sometimes someone would play the piano or put on records and we would dance.”

Old black and white photo of club house members dancing.

In a 1987 letter, Carl Davis, one of the grandchildren of the original Main Colony settlers, wrote that the clubhouse had become a reality since “Sarasota was a sleepy little southern town where the only excitement was generated by Ringling Bros.”

Although the neighborhood is no longer just a Maine thing, with new construction dotting some streets, it still retains some of that sleepy feeling.

Most homes are single-story, wood-framed, with large porches and gabled roofs. Some side streets are unpaved. Many of the early houses were kit homes from the north, traveling by train to Tampa and then by boat to the Colony of Maine via Phillippi. Phillippi Crest Community Clubhouse co-president Anja Palombo lives in one, as evidenced by the numbered ceiling beams she discovered in her home next door to the clubhouse.

The pavilion itself has a corbelled brick chimney and an inviting porch as wide as the building itself. Over the years, the generously sized lawn has hosted outdoor events like concerts and barbecues.

For the past year and a half, co-chairs Palombo and Jeffrey Frank have taken over the upkeep of the clubhouse, which has always been funded by donations from area residents. The historic social center is in need of a new roof, and this Saturday marks the Maine Colony’s first community day to raise money for the work, while exposing the clubhouse, tucked away at the end of a road, to a wider audience that appreciates its historical significance.

“We’re trying to broaden our reach and have more of a cultural center and get more engagement,” says Palombo, who also teaches art at Suncoast Polytechnical High School. “This building has so much potential for presentations and workshops, as opposed to a sterile classroom.”

“I think it’s underused because people don’t know about it,” says Frank, a psychotherapist who is also a historic architecture enthusiast.

Interior of the historic Phillippi Crest Community Clubhouse.

A stranger to air conditioning, the wood flooring inside the Phillippi Crest Community Clubhouse has an endearing slant, and the expansive space smells of warm wood and humid Florida air. A table contains old handwritten ledgers, with the flowery cursive handwriting of past board members and presidents. The room also has old card game tables and a fireplace. In a room at the back, an old cast iron wood stove still sits.

The hubcap of a Ford Model T, first made in 1908, was found on the grounds of the clubhouse.

Near the historical documents related to the clubhouse, there is an original Ford Model T hubcap, discovered in the field by local metal detector enthusiasts. (The Ford Model T was one of the first mass-produced cars and looks more like a tank than what we imagine a car to look like today.)

In 2005, the streets comprising the Maine Settlement, from Ashton to Grafton Road to the north and from Swift Road to the Creek, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A total of approximately 70 homes have been designated as historic buildings, representing 84% of the 24-acre district.

“We’re not looking to make tons of money with this event, but it won’t be around forever without us looking into it,” says Frank, who lives in one of the historic homes he’s respectfully renovated.

“I see older neighborhoods developing and it’s not pretty,” says Palombo. “We want people to enjoy the old quarter, especially as we see demolitions of old houses.”

Maine Colony’s first Community Day runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 2. You can tour the clubhouse and historic district and enjoy a wide range of entertainment for the whole family, with food by the Spice Boys, live performances and hands-on activities. experiences for young and old. For a full list of the day’s activities, click here. Non-members of Phillippi Crest are asked to donate $10 to help offset expenses and support the clubhouse.


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