Source : heraldtribune.com
By : MIKKI HARTIG
Category : Hotel Marketing Florida
The Gulf Beach Resort — the first and last “motel” on Lido Beach — provides a visual reminder of times past and the way vacation lodging once existed. Over the last three decades, all but two of the original dozen or so “motels” from the 1950s and ’60s on Lido Beach have been demolished and their sites redeveloped with more modern resort facilities. The exceptions are the Suntide, which has been considerably altered from its original appearance, and the Gulf Beach Resort. The buildings, now known as the Gulf Beach Resort Motel, are suggestive of the Ranch style of architecture, most commonly seen in residential architecture during the same period of construction. There are three buildings containing a total of 42 condominium/vacation lodging units. Virtually all of the units retain their original glazed wall tile, sinks and large glass shower stalls. Walls are plaster and floors are either contemporary tile or carpet over concrete. Each unit includes a small kitchen and a single bathroom with a tiled shower. The original swimming pool is on the northwest portion of the property. West of the swimming pool are the hotel’s original concrete shuffleboard courts — both features common to lodging of the time. Centered within the entrance drive off of Ben Franklin drive is the motel’s original street sign — also emblematic of the period. The design of the sign features a tall arched metal frame with stucco over the frame on the north and south side. Round concrete posts resting on large concrete blocks support the sign.
Sarasota experienced its first major wave of tourism during the 1920s, when there were few places for drivers to stay overnight in the early era of auto travel and camping was the most common way to get rest. But more than another quarter-century would pass before the area firmly established itself as a vacation destination, in the post-World War II years’ economic and leisure boom. By the late 1940s, more than 86 percent of travelers were behind the wheels of their cars. Highways replaced rail travel. Roadside cabins changed into what became known as motor courts or motels, which sprang up along nearly every highway and in every resort town. The term “motel” combines the words “motorist” and “hotel.” Motels offered what the traveling public wanted: clean rooms, parking next to the room and convenient or well-located affordable lodging for the family on vacation. Swimming pools were a typical amenity that few people enjoyed at home. Street signs were a signature part of the entire motel concept; catching the attention of a potential guest was critical and competition for the most eye-catching sign was common. Many motels often also included other recreational opportunities such as shuffleboard courts and playgrounds for the children of guests who often had spent long hours riding in the back seat of the family automobile.
Motel construction in Sarasota during the years after World War II mimicked that of other resort areas of the country. By 1948, there were 26,000 motels in the United States. That number would double by 1960. On April 13, 1950, Ture Gemzell, who came from Germany by way of Sweden, and his friend and business associate, Arne Petterson, created a Florida partnership, Gulf Beach Hotel Ltd., as part of their plan for the development of a Gulf-front site. They soon began their first Sarasota project with the construction of a hotel for investment purposes on the site. Gemzell served as the contractor. First identified as the Gulf Beach Hotel, it was the first motel to be completed along the Gulf on Lido Beach in Sarasota. Gemzell and his wife had first come to Florida as visitors, but moved to Sarasota permanently in 1951. By the 1960s, there were over a dozen motels aligning Ben Franklin Drive and the Gulf of Mexico on Lido Beach.
Petterson remained in Sweden, except for an occasional trip to Florida to see his investment properties. Also in financial partnership with Petterson, Gemzell soon built the Twin Motel on North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota in late 1950. By 1953, Gemzell had also built and owned a second Lido Beach motel, the Beach & Sun Motel. By the 1970s, vacation lodging began to change. In 1972, it was said that “an old hotel was closing somewhere in America every thirty hours. And somewhere else in America, a plastic and glass Shangri La was rising to take its place.” In 1977, two years before his death, Gemzell sold the Gulf Beach Motel to Sarasota Marketing Association, with ties to Leader Federal of Lexington, Mass., which also owned the Azure Tides and Three Crowns Motels on Lido Beach, both of which have been demolished. The organization purchased the property to convert the motel units into condominiums. They undertook the addition of kitchenettes to each unit and began marketing the units for sale. Upon the sale of the units, as condominiums, a condominium association was formed, and an ongoing rental program established.
In 2003, a prominent local investor made efforts to purchase all the condominium units with plans to redevelop the property after the demolition of the motel. He bought some units but the majority of unit owners did not choose to sell and worked with the Gulf Beach Owner’s Association to support and pursue protection of the property by applying for and successfully gaining historic designation through the city of Sarasota’s historic designation process. Over the objection of the vested investor and his counsel, the property was historically designated on June 2, 2003. In 2009, Sarasota County placed a historic marker on the motel site to provide recognition and understanding of the importance of the motel. The resort stays near capacity all season and reasonably so during the summer. This year, the association received a grant from Sarasota County to enhance the motel’s landscaping.
Source : heraldtribune.com/article/20130918/ARTICLE/130919598/2055/NEWS?p=4&tc=pg