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Paul Rudolph's 1952 Sanderling Beach Club is one of the 'Florida Buildings I Love'

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Harold Bubil, Real Estate Editor Emeritus for the Herald-Tribune, writes in the newspaper that Paul Rudolph’s Sanderling Beach Club is one of his favorite buildings in Florida.

The project was begun when developer Elbridge S. Boyd originally formed Siesta Properties, Inc. in 1946 with the plan to create a residential community in the area. In 1951, a homeowners association for residents of Siesta Properties known as the Siesta Club was founded. A year later in 1952, a cabana club was proposed to house guests of the local residents.

According to the website Satasota History Alive,

Local architect Paul Rudolph was selected to design the clubhouse, cabanas and observation tower. The initial phase, built in 1952, consisted of a concrete patio with a small white wooden observatory. The platform, about 10 feet up, was reached by a simple set of stairs, along the east side and furnished with chairs and a table. On either side of the patio was a single-story structure containing five cabanas each. A two-bay restroom building was located east of the tower. Each of these structures displayed a distinctive roof consisting of a series of shallow vaults constructed of thin plywood. Several resident-members participated in the construction of these early buildings.

Rudolph’s first proposal for the project. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Rudolph’s final proposal - note the revised design of the lookout. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Rudolph’s final proposal - note the revised design of the lookout. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Rudolph’s rendering of the final scheme. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Paul Rudolph looking out from the constructed observatory. Photo: Library of Congress

According to the website Satasota History Alive:

By 1958 three more buildings, with five cabanas each, were constructed by local contractor John Innes. Three new cabana buildings, which followed Paul Rudolph's design for the original two buildings, were arranged in a stepped line extending south of the original group. “A tennis court had been built, a life boat and telephone provided a measure of swimming safety to the area, and Sunday lunches were being held underneath table umbrellas.”

A clubhouse was not constructed until 1960, although included in Rudolph's original plans. John Crowell was hired to prepare the plans for the new two-story building. It was to abut the existing restroom building on the south and contain five Rudolph-style cabanas on the second floor. It was also expected to align with the shell roofed observation tower. However, a lack of structural integrity was recognized in the tower soon after its construction. For a time people were no longer allowed on the platform. The entire tower was torn down in the late 1960s.

The current site. Photo: Google Maps

Typical Cabana Floor Plan. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Writes Bubil:

The Gulf-front site demanded modestly sized structures that sat lightly on the sand and provided shelter for the tenants, some of whom have rented their cabanas for decades and have decorated the interiors to suit personal tastes and needs.

Rudolph’s early Sarasota structures often were experiments, and that was the case at Sanderling. The arched roofs are made from curved plywood, a material he learned about while serving at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II. The posts are economically made of doubled-up 2-by-4s.

But it is the spirit of the cabanas that defines Rudolph’s creativity. The wave-like form of the roofs is appropriate for the site, and the simply geometry of the cabanas makes them look like delicately sized temples for sun worshipping.

On June 29, 1994, the project was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.