Named by its original owners when they built this neo-Mediterranean style house in 1926, the Casa della Pace (House of Peace) is one of the most important historic residences on the island of Venice. Now, after being in the care of the same family for 62 years, the 3,033 square foot home is on the market for $ 3,300,000 through Paula Wesley of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.
Located at 408 Venezia Parkway, the house is owned by Wren Grigore, the grandson of Victor and Anna Retty, who were the second owners of the property. The estate is located in the historic district of Venezia Park, which has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1989. The area contains 47 buildings important for the history and development of Venice. La Casa della Pace was named one of the 10 most beautiful homes in the area by Sarasota magazine (which called it a “picture perfect”) and the property was part of the Venice Area Garden Club’s 2017 Home Tour. .
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Venezia Park is one of the residential areas designed by the famous town planner John Nolan (1869-1937) who came to Venice in 1925, at the invitation of Dr Fred Albee, another Harvard graduate and bone specialist who had purchased large tracts of land in southern Sarasota County.
Nolan had done town planning in other parts of the country, but none of his work was as comprehensive as the Venice project. Nolan designed it from scratch in the mid-1920s as part of a plan by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers to create a luxury community for its members. In 1925, the Brotherhood invested in the Florida land boom, buying 33,000 acres, including what is now Venice.
The stately homes in the city park-like neighborhoods included a stucco exterior, arched windows, balconies, decorative tiles and wrought iron, terracotta roofs and spacious loggias and enclosed courtyards that incorporate spaces from indoor and outdoor living.
Case della Pace expresses forbidden architecture and is definitely Old World European. But the property has specific defining characteristics – a grand ballroom and the largest oak tree on the island, as well as an enormous sculptural banyan tree that is a cathedral in height and proportion.
The property is actually an estate surrounded by an eight foot wall that surrounds three large lots across from Venezia Park and a lot directly behind the house off Harbor Drive. In addition, there is a guesthouse divided into three studios, all of which are currently rented out. A cabin with a large adjoining storage shed is part of the enclosure and the detached two-car garage has a small work room in one of the bays. Outdoor garden furniture sheltered by a pergola is just one of the many outdoor spaces organized for entertaining, relaxing or eating.
The house has five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large ballroom with a crystal chandelier and a wood-burning fireplace. The ceiling in this room is adorned with exposed beams and decoratively hand painted, reminiscent of Ca ‘d’Zan, the John and Mable Ringling Residence. Some of the windows in the house are casement and one is stained glass. The bedrooms have walk-in closets, niches, window seats and built-in bookcases. The wide interior doors are in solid wood, stained and carved.
The compact vintage kitchen overlooks the lush garden of bougainvillea, palm trees, ferns, oaks, frangipani and flowers. The kitchen counters are granite, the glass upper cabinets are dark stained wood. A custom built-in hutch gives the room a furnished look. The spacious rooms offer a view of the gardens and benefit from beautiful natural light. The house has been carefully curated and is an elegant ideal of what a neo-Mediterranean house built in the 1920s should be.
The Casa della Pace was built in 1926 for respected and civically involved philanthropists Harry and Lota Mundy. He was a bridge engineer and she was a concert violinist, who also served on the city council of Venice.
In 1959, Victor and Anna Retty moved from Detroit and bought the estate. They owned the Venice Theater building and an open-air movie theater that then stood at the corner of Laurel Road and Tamiami Trail. Victor Retty was a city councilor and founded the Venice Elks Club. He was an engineer, inventor, businessman and author, who published articles on construction and transportation equipment. Eventually the property passed to Anna Retty’s son Julius Grigore and then passed to her daughter Wren Grigore, the current owner.
“This resort created by my grandparents and parents has been my permanent home since 1972, so I have spent much of my life enjoying all aspects of this spectacular property,” said Wren Grigore. “I love the grandeur of this historic house and the privacy of the surrounding gardens. When I was younger, I learned to sew, cook and garden with my grandmother. I also enjoyed fishing and boating with my grandfather. Today, I appreciate being in a perfect location to downtown Venice, the beach, shops and the park just across the street. I also love that it is a bike and golf cart friendly community.
Life with her grandparents also had some exciting social moments.
“They loved to be entertained in the beautiful ballroom,” Wren continued. “They made it glamorous because my grandparents had decades of experience owning theaters in Detroit and Venice. Every two weeks my grandmother would go to Jacksonville on old dirt roads to pick up the last outings to entertain the Venice community.
With their historical significance, architectural integrity, beautiful garden, privacy and spaciousness, new construction would have to go a long way to match the considerable appeal of this vintage residential icon from 1926.