■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
The home at 341 Gilchrist Avenue is one of those places everyone pictures when they think of old school Boca Grande charm. With a history as long as your arm, room after room of eclectic, grand-scale cottage ambiance and that subtle, clean, comforting smell of well-preserved old book pages, the home originally built in 1938 by the firm of Wyeth and King is a marvel to behold.
Between 1938 and 1963 the home was owned by the Alger family, of Packard Motor Car fame. In 1963 it was purchased by Arthur and Nina Houghton, a very philanthropic family that did much for this community. Arthur deeded the house to Nina in 1985, and she eventually sold the house in 2002 to the Van Lokeran family. They sold the house to Ed and Sharon Cruz in 2011, and until recently they lived there. It is now on the market for a little over $12 million.
While salt water and time can do a lot to deteriorate a house that is right on the beach, this house is a testament to what diligence in upkeep and maintenance, attention to detail and amazing presentation can provide. The Van Lokeran and Cruz families in particular added a large amount of amenities without sacrificing one small portion of the Florida beach cottage charm that the home exudes.
After walking through the front door into the loggia, the house becomes a wandering maze of nooks and crannies, artwork and artifacts. While there are five bedrooms total throughout the compound, there is only one true bedroom in the main house, as well as a lady’s sitting/dressing room.
Some of the highlights of the home include the fact that a majority of the paneling is original, the walkways in front and in back of the home are coral stone (as is the sea wall), a butler’s pantry and a full kitchen with a soapstone island, marble countertops and a propane Viking cooktop, a main dining room with a beautiful shell chandelier and a breakfast nook with hand-painted ceilings, a garage with hand-painted floors (by Larry Anderson, Artistic Illusions) that is more than 800 square feet, a bathhouse by the pool with two guest bedrooms, a guest house, underground cisterns for irrigation, five fireplaces and a Hollywood-style pool.