How a Spartan Mansion found a new home thanks to Friends of the Carlton Reserve and Sarasota Parks

A Spartan Mansion trailer located at Tucker’s Camp was removed from the Carlton Reserve on Wednesday morning, Feb. 26, 2014.  Bill Lemons prepared the trailer for transport and then pulled it out of the Carlton to be renovated at his La Porte, Indiana facility. This saved the County the expense of removing it while providing Bill Lemons with a “project” for his hobby. 

Thanks goes to Kenya Leonard who recognized that the trailer could be a “collectible.” Thanks also to Debbie Blanco who coordinated the project, enabling the Friends of the Carlton Reserve to find a future owner.  It was the Sarasota County volunteers’ Wednesday morning work crew who did the actual work of preparing the route for the trailer out of the Carlton via the South Border Trail.  The removal effort was on schedule and went according to plan.  Amazing!

Sherm Stratton filled in some of the background on the trailer:

“We think the trailer was placed at Tucker’s Camp on the south border before the Carlton was in public ownership when a hunt lease was granted to Boyce Blackmon. Boyce sublet the southern part of the Carlton to the Tucker family who owned Tucker’s Sporting Goods near Five Points in downtown Sarasota for many years, When the Carlton came into public ownership in 1984, the County used a second trailer on this site as a field office.  That trailer burned up in a 6000 acre fire in May, 2000,  which also ravaged the oak canopy in an area that is the designated site for public use facilities ( the P.U.F. area that appears on County planning maps for the Reserve).

“The trailer we’ve just removed survived that fire, but has been derelict for several decades and presented problems because of its dilapidated state in an area open to passive public recreation. The County has long wanted to dispose of it but its remote location and condition made removal difficult and expensive.

“Russ Johnson, secretary and treasurer of the Friends of the Carlton, with permission from the County, advertised the trailer, hoping to find a buyer or other interested party willing to remove. Volunteers would then clean up the site where unsightly debris and cabana materials had been left to decay. Constructed of heavy gauge, aircraft grade, riveted aluminum, this 1949 Spartan Mansion trailer is sought by collectors but the cost and difficulty of removal discouraged all but one. After 30+ responses, the list of interested persons who would undertake the task of removal at their own expense came down to Bill Lemons from LaPorte.

“With his own crew and help from Sarasota County volunteers, most of whom are members of the Friends of the Carlton, Bill Lemons permanently removed the trailer after tearing off the cabana, and installing new hubs, bearings, wheels, and tires. Volunteers helped clear debris from the site and build a temporary bridge over a dry bed stream in which the 33′ trailer would have  “bottomed out.”

“Some years ago, one of our “Friends” donated several truck loads of 4X4 “retired” real estate posts for making trail markers. Our volunteers cut the posts to appropriate lengths this morning and created a temporary bridge in a low spot ahead of Bill Lemons’ tow vehicle as the trailer made its last passage over 1.6 miles of rough trail to the nearest paved road.

“He plans to renovate/recondition the trailer. He shared pictures of previous such hobby projects he has completed to become part of his collection. We will post “before and after” photos as soon as they arrive. [ed. note: You can see what a renovated Spartan looks like here.]

Sherm adds: “As we watched this piece of Carlton memorabilia being rescued, members of the work party speculated what the reaction might be if we pulled the trailer into an RV dealership and offered to trade it. And some of us remembered Lucy and Desi on their ill-fated turn into the wilderness on a rainy night in

The Long, Long Trailer.”[clearboth]