The Sweet, Sweet Cookie House
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
We are extremely fortunate here at Cedar Point to be the home for the Cookie House, the last remaining building from the Bass Biological Laboratory, which was located in Englewood and served as the first full-time marine science laboratory in the U.S. south of North Carolina. It was also one of the first non-governmental laboratories in the state, as well as one of the first co-ed research centers.
The Bass Lab was founded by John Foster Bass Jr. and his wife Else in 1931. The Cookie House itself was the first building constructed on the site, and served as the personal lab and office for Mr. Bass. He built it himself using a special type of architecture called stovewood construction. This style involved cutting ~6 inch thick pieces of round pine logs and placing them like a coin standing on its edge into a mortar mix. He used pine logs from his property off of San Casa Drive, and used sand dredged up from Lemon Bay as the mortar mix. This is now one of the only buildings in all of Florida with this construction design. In addition to the Cookie House, the BBL also had: a personal home for the Bass family, dorm buildings for resident and visiting researchers, a boat house, a two-story research lab, an orange grove, a water tower and windmill, and even an apiary.
The BBL functioned for over a decade, describing over 470 hundred marine and terrestrial species and making many breakthroughs and innovations for the supply of lab specimens for dissection for research labs all over the world. More than 100 scientists came through the Bass Lab to perform their research, including the famous married conservationists Marjorie Harris Carr, who was instrumental in stopping the disastrous Cross Florida Barge Canal that would have built a Panama Canal-esque waterway through the center of Florida but is now a hiking trail named after Mrs. Carr, and renowned herpetologist Dr. Archie Carr who helped protect special coastal habitat on the Atlantic coast of Florida for nesting sea turtles that is now called the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
In addition to these influential scientists performing ground-breaking research, the BBL also became a rich cultural hub for Englewood. Mr. Bass was open to people of all backgrounds coming and staying at the lab, as long as they wrote him a letter justifying why they wanted to come spend time there. He only charged residents $1 a day to live on site, and an additional $1 a day to use the lab space. The community would also visit the property, as the BBL would host field trips for visiting schoolchildren, communal bonfires, and even an annual Halloween party.
Unfortunately, following John's death several years earlier and the tough times with rationing during World War II, the lab finally shut its doors in 1944. However, the BBL had been an extremely important and influential facility, and the need for a marine lab still remained following its closure. The wealthy Vanderbilt family stepped in and funded a new lab that would be headed by another prominent scientist that worked at the BBL, Dr. Euegenie Clark. The new lab was called the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, and Dr. Clark became famous for her research working with sharks, earning her the nickname, "The Shark Lady". The Cape Haze Marine Laboratory would eventually move to Sarasota and be re-named the Mote Marine Laboratory, which is still a prominent fixture of our community today.
By 2006, the Cookie House was the last remaining structure left on the BBL’s original property off of nearby New Point Comfort Road. However, a developer had bought the property and was looking to build a new series of condominiums. To preserve the Cookie House, a massive relocation project was organized that cost in excess of $60,000, and moved the building to Cedar Point just down the road, where it can be permanently preserved for perpetuity.
Thank you to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium for sharing their archival photographs of the Cookie House and Bass Biological Laboratory with us!