BRADENTON -- Manataee County government, usually in the position of being the funder of county property and agencies, found itself on the receiving end Tuesday morning when the Crosley Foundation presented a check for $40,000 to the Board of County Commissioners to help maintain "Seagate," better known as the Powel Crosley Estate, a 1929 landmark on 16.3 acres, built for one of the nation's most celebrated inventors.
The bayfront estate on Seagate Drive, just north of University Pkwy. off US 41, behind the USF-Manatee campus and opposite Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, is an architectural gem of the pre-Depression era that finished construction just before the Crash of 1929. Today, it is considered one of the finest homes of its kind in the world and dubbed "The Jewel of the Bay."
The Crosley home's huge exposed oak beams, painted with fanciful decorations, and its red roof, classically tiled floors, entries and a priceless view of Sarasota Bay, speak of an era of grand parties and opulence when Hemingway was young, Herbert Hoover was President and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" was the rage of the social set.
The two-story mansion, set on hundreds of yards of exclusive waterfront property, is available year-round for picnics, rental and tours. Nearby is Ca d'Zan, the sprawling, opulent mansion of John and Mabel Ringling that now houses the Ringling Museum's priceless art collection. The Ringlings and Crosleys were great friends.
Crosley Foundation chairman David Wick told the commission the money came from a year of fund-raising efforts aimed at completing restoration of the large carriage house on the site and other needed repairs. The annual "Holidays at the Crosley" Festival of Trees and its royal English afternoon teas are longstanding Manatee County traditions.
Powel Crosley, Jr., noted for making affordable the new technology of radio for millions of Americans, created the first soap opera to maintain interest in the radio medium, and also originated the idea of shelving for "iceboxes," nighttime baseball and the design of the sporty Crosley Roadster. He left the estate in 1932 after the death of his beloved wife Gwendolyn. to return to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, which today proudly claims him as its son. He died in 1961. In 1992, facing deterioration, the house was purchased by the county and adopted for restoration as as an architectural and historic gem.
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