For decades, the name “Rutland” has been big in St. Petersburg. Many residents opened their first checking accounts at Rutland Bank. They got their shoes and suits at Rutland Department Store. Those vanished with time but there’s still a Rutland Plaza — and the fabulous Rutland-Farley estate, which is now on the market for $8.5 million.
Designed in English Tudor style, the 9,213-square-foot house sits on nearly 4 ½ acres overlooking Little Bayou south of downtown St. Petersburg. It has seven bedrooms, 8 ½ bathrooms, six fireplaces, a gym, a butler’s pantry and an oak-paneled library. On the parklike grounds, shaded by oaks hung with Spanish moss, are an Olympic-size pool, an outdoor kitchen with pizza oven, a bocce ball court and a putting green.
For boaters, there’s a dock and lift on the bayou, which lead directly into Tampa Bay.
The house was originally built in 1918 for $50,000 and sold two years later to a Pennsylvania oil magnate for $100,000. At the time, a newspaper story described it as “one of the finest homes on the west coast of Florida.” Hubert Rutland Sr., head of a banking and ranching empire, acquired it and 20 surrounding acres in 1935. Granddaughter Nancy Rutland, who lived nearby, recalls that the property was so big that it stretched almost a mile along the bayou and even had a riding stable.
“There was the water, and horses and we’d stomp through the woods,” she said. “It was just magical.” As for the house itself, “I thought it was haunted, but I’m sure that was my cousin playing tricks on me.”
The house remained in the Rutland family into the 1980s, when it again began to churn through owners — a developer who sold off much of the land; a Canadian con artist convicted of health care schemes; a woman who nearly lost it in bankruptcy; and another woman who tried to convert it into a school without the proper permits.
In 2004, entrepreneur Phil Farley paid $2.3 million for the estate — hence the current name. He embarked on an extensive renovation that added modern amenities while preserving the traditional character of the home. With its grand setting, the estate once again has hosted parties, weddings and charity events.
“He has been very generous with it,” Nancy Rutland said. “It’s a gracious entertainment house and you cannot get more spectacular grounds.”
On the wrought iron gate at the entrance to the house, Farley has posted a plaque with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. It reads:
“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
Information from Times files was used in this report.