One of Sarasota's hidden Communities is a place called River Forest. East of US41 and sitting on Phillippi Creek, this little gem started as wilderness with a truly wild past! It was the perfect concealment for bootleggers and rumrunners along the Gulf Coast as they brought in illegal cargo from the Gulf via the Creek during Prohibition.
There's the Cheap Booze angle! Now Here's the Charming Woman story....
After wintering in the area for several years, retired US Congressman from New Hampshire, Edward Wason and his wife Susan built a home on the Creek in 1940 and settled in. Shortly thereafter, the Congressman passed leaving Mrs. Wason to fend for herslef in the "wilds of Sarasota". Mrs. Wason related the difficulties she and five lady friends encoutered when their auto-mobile became entrnched in mud between the Trail and her home. Sandbags didn't work for traction so the ladies stripped off their frocks and laid them down in the muck TO NO AVAIL! What a sight they were marching back to the road in filthy dresses. It's hard to be a stuffed-shirt with your stockings hanging asunder!
Mrs. Wason also waxed poetically about the great abundance of wildlife and the beauty of the majestic oaks that enshrined her home setting the stage for many an afternoon tea and dinner party by the creek.
By the late 1950s, the appearance of River Forest had changed rapidly as most of the original estate's parcels had been sold. Many of the 86 homes date back to the 50s and 60s with a few torn down and rebuilt. Mrs. Wason eventually sold her home to Mr. & Mrs. Charles Cutler who owned the first foreign auto dealer, Cutler Motors, selling British Motor Corp cars and licensed to sell Porsches and Jaguars. The Cutlers made many improvements to the estate, then sold it to the current owners who undertook an extensive enlargement and restoration project in 1998.
Here's a view looking back towards Phillippi Creek!
River Forest is close to the Landings Shopping Center on the west side of Tamiami Trail, just 10 minutes to Siesta Key and 15 minutes to Downtown. The Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar and The Table Restaurants back up to the Neighborhood on the east side within walking distance. The location is so convenient, charming and desirable that many residents have lived there for 30 and 40 years!