Then and Now – 1932 & 2023 — 510 Park St N (Jungle Area)
This Mediterranean Revival house, located across the street from Admiral Farragut Academy (which in 1931 was still the Jungle Hotel) was permitted in 1931 by Frank Caldwell Williams. The design was completed by famed architect, Addison Mizner, who is said to be responsible for the Mediterranean revival movement in Florida and is the only Gulf Coast example of his work (his structures are mainly in Palm Beach County Fl). This house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Frank Caldwell Williams was born on May 27, 1890, in Cincinnati Ohio, an only child, his father the wealthy owner of Wester & Southern Life Insurance Co., in Cincinnati. Frank received his schooling in Cincinnati and upon graduation went to work at his father’s business.
In late 1913, Frank married Ms. Loretta Lynn Cook and the couple honeymooned in South Africa. From South Africa Frank and Loretta met his parents in Rome and the four traveled to Paris and London before sailing back to the states. Their return voyage was a mere two years after the sinking of the Titanic, and I am sure that a thought or two went through their minds of this unfortunate accident, how could it not. Over the years Frank and Loretta would make 57 overseas trips and bring back many valuable art pieces which went on display in the home they would build on Park Street.
Their firstborn was a girl, Loretta Emma, born on July 15, 1914, their second (and last child) was also a girl, Marie Geraldine, born August 8, 1916.
It was in 1916 that Frank and Loretta began wintering in Miami Florida, a location they returned to each year until 1926. On September 19, 1926, a category 4 hurricane hit Miami, destroying a greater portion of the beach-front and properties. Frank and Loretta immediately altered their plans for coming to Florida the next month and decided that they would come to St. Pete instead. Although the storm had cut across the state, exiting into the Gulf around the Tampa Bay area, there wasn’t the extensive damage that occurred on the East Coast. Frank, Loretta, and the girls arrived here on October 27, 1926, and spent the winter in the Princess Martha Hotel. The Williams family spent the rest of their winters here in St. Pete.
By 1930, Frank had decided to retire and decided to make this the family’s permanent home. He purchased the vacant property where his future home would stand and applied for a permit to begin construction. The slab alone was to cost $5,000. Frank had been fond of the Mediterranean style houses that were in vogue in the 1920’s and had become acquainted with architect Addison Mizner during his winters on the east coast of Florida. Contact was made with Mr. Mizner and a business arrangement was made. As mentioned above, this house is the only Mizner home on the west coast (Gulf Coast) of Florida. The contractor for the job was O.J. Steinert.
Addison Mizner designed the house to have 17 rooms, a guest house, and a formal sunken garden. The interior would have a huge two-story rotunda 36’ in diameter, a lighted two-story skylight above and glass walls opening to the garden on three sides. A columned art gallery on the second floor would be accessible by a double flying staircase. There would be a cocktail room with full bar, an octagonal room with imported marble fireplace, two master suite bedrooms with Carrara marble accents, a sitting room with silver leaf walls and paneled dining room overlooking Boca Ciega Bay. The mansion would become known in the 1930’s as the “Williams Mansion”, it would later, in 1980, take on the name “Casa Coe da Sol” or “House of the Setting Sun”.
Frank lived in this house until the time of his death on October 20, 1939, he was 49, and had been in ill health for a few months. He was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Cincinnati.
Loretta, and her daughter Gerladine, continued to live in the house another 22 years. Loretta filled her time with learning to play piano, she had always aspired to the study of music and when Frank died decided to act on her passion. She began piano lessons in 1940 and after practicing 3-4 hours per day and taking two lessons a week for many years, decided in 1954, that she had reached a level of playing that she could put on a concert. Loretta covered all the costs of advertising and paying for the professional orchestra that was to accompany her and began to sell tickets in the Times at $1.50 per ticket. All proceeds, be there any, would go to the local Cripple Children’s Hospital. The concert date was set and took place in the brand new Boca Ciega High School auditorium. The local papers and critics lauded Loretta’s philanthropic venture, and her performance, as being a worthwhile achievement.
Loretta and Geraldine continued to be active in local charities and the arts and held many social events at their Park Street home.
Loretta died on August 8, 1961, at age 65, and was buried next to Frank. The daughters placed the “Williams Mansion” on the market, and it was sold in 1966 to Gen. Lacey V. Morrow (USAF Ret.), whose brother was famed newscaster Edward R. Murrow. The sale amount was $100,000 according to the St. Pete Times.
Shortly after his purchase of the “Williams Mansion”, Gen. Murrow learned he had terminal lung cancer (having been a heavy chain smoker like his famed brother). This situation obviously weighed heavy on the General, who, during a trip to Baltimore in December of 1967, checked into a Baltimore hotel, wrote a suicide note, and took his own life with one blast to the chest from a 12 gauge shotgun – he had lived less than 6 months in the mansion on Park St.
The “Williams Mansion” was sold by the Murrow estate to Charles and Mary Helin of Detroit. Charles Helin was owner of Helin Tackle Co. and had just opened a tackle plant in St. Pete (located at 134 19th St So.). On April 19, 1971, Charles and Mary sold the house to Henry and Edith Petronis who named the house “Casa Coe da Sol” translated as “House of the Setting Sun”. It was through their hard work that the house was placed on the National Registry of Historic places, mainly since it was the only example of Addison Mizner’s architectural design on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
On June 13, 1989, the Petronis family sold the house to Dr. Raymond and Paulette Borota, who resided in the house until they sold it in 1997 to the current owners, Jean-Francois, and Patricia Rossignol for $2.1 million.
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