Ca'D'Zan: House of John
This Ventian Gothic palace on Sarasota Bay, palatial home of John and Mable Ringling was completed in the mid-20s.
The mansion and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, surrounded by lovely gardens and embellished with Italian statuary were bequeathed to the State of Florida by the circus magnate in 1936.
Florida State Society, Daughters of the American Colonists, Mrs. Thomas S. Booth, State Historian
Sarasota County Historical Commission - Sarasota County Historical Society
This area, so named for its outcropping of yellow limestone, was the home of Sarasota's first inhabitants - - the pre-historic and Calusa Indians. Yellow Bluffs later became the homesite of William H. Whitaker, Sarasota's first known white settler. It was also the embarkation point of Judah P. Benjamin, member of the Confederate Cabinet, who fled America at the end of the War Between The States in 1865.
Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials in cooperation with
Sarasota County Historical Commission and Sarasota County Historical Society
Sarasota County Courthouse
On July 1, 1921, Sarasota County came into existence. Interest in breaking away from Manatee County had led to a series of public meetings the previous summer. Lack of good roads, inadequate representation in Tallahassee, and subjection to isolation by other sections of the county were among the grievances cited by the citizens.
For nearly five years, the new county government operated out of the Hover Arcade, a building at the foot of Sarasota's Main Street that also housed Sarasota City Hall. County officials used a temporary building on Oak Street for another year before moving into the courthouse.
By late 1924, the Board of County Commissioners began steps to construct a county courthouse. Charles and Edith Ringling conveyed land for the building. In March 1925, the Commissioners hired nationally renowned architect Dwight James Baum to be the supervising architect for the courthouse and in June they approved the preliminary drawings. In September the awarded the construction contract to Stevenson & Cameron, Inc., of New York. By February 1927 county officials completed their move into the new building.
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The Spanish/Mediterranean Revival architectural style of the courthouse was very popular in Florida during the 1920s. The H-shaped structure consisted of two two-story rectangular buildings that were connected to a central tower by an arcade.
Municipal Auditorium Recreation Center and Hazzard Fountain
In 1936, the City of Sarasota acquired approximately 40 acres of land for a bay front civic center. It was located just south of (now) 10th Street and between (now) North Tamiami Trail and the bay. Mayor E.A. Smith announced plans to construct "one of the finest recreation centers in the South" on the property.
Sarasota architects Thomas Reed Martin and Clarence A. Martin designed the Municipal Auditorium, using elements of Art Deco and Moderne architectural styles.
Funding for the project came from the Federal Works Projects Administration (WPA), the city and several prominent Sarasota businessmen. The $100,000 Auditorium opened February 23, 1938 with the annual Sara de Soto Pageant ball.
John and Ida Chidsey donated funding for the construction of a second floor for the Recreation Club at the western end of the Auditorium. The facility contained a lounge area, a recreation room, and a men's card room, North of the building, shuffleboard, lawn bowling, and tennis facilities were built. The recreation center was dedicated January 1940.
Sarasota County Historical Commission 2003
Judah Phillip Benjamin
Judah P. Benjamin, later considered "the Brains of the Confederacy," was an American lawyer and statesman. He was born on Saint Croix Island in 1811, grew up in South Carolina, and was educated at Yale College. He practiced law in New Orleans, Louisiana, and became prominent in politics, serving first with the Whigs and afterward with the Democrats. He represented Louisiana in the U.S. Senate from 1853 until that state seceded from the Union in 1861. Confederate President Jefferson Davis first appointed Benjamin as Attorney General. Later in 1861, Davis named him Secretary of War and, four months later, Secretary of State.
With invasion of the Confederate capitol by Union forces imminent, President Davis and his cabinet fled south from Richmond, Virginia, on April 2, 1865. When they reached Charlotte, North Carolina, new arrived of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, in north Georgia, Davis, Benjamin, and other cabinet members, parted company.
Sometime in May, Captain Leroy Lesley and Captain James McKay successfully secreted Benjamin first to Lesley's home in Brooksville, Florida, then later to McKay's home in Tampa.
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Under the cover of a violent storm, Lesley's son and McKay took the disguised Benjamin to the Gamble Mansion in Ellenton. At the mansion was Hiram McLeod who knew local waters as well as the warn trails in the area.
When a federal landing force suddenly appeared on the approach to the mansion, Benjamin was spirited away to the Manatee River home of Captain Frederick Tresca and his family for about a month. There, Tresca's wife Louise sewed pleats into Benjamin's vest and waistband to conceal gold coins.
After Benjamin, Tresca, and others formulated a plan, Ezekial Glazier drove a two-wheeled spring wagon from the Tresca home to the William Whitaker home in Sarasota. Hidden in the wagon under a load of freshly butchered beef covered over with palmetto leaves was the Confederate Secretary of State. In Sarasota, Tresca and Hiram McLeod took Benjamin aboard their sixteen-foot open sloop and quietly slipped out of Whitaker Bayou on June 23, 1865. They deposited Benjamin in Bimini on Monday, July 10. Benjamin eventually reached England where he established a new legal career and lived until his death in 1884.
Sarasota County Historical Commission - 1999
Landing of the Scots
On December 23, 1885 a number of Scottish families came ashore on or near this spot to settle land they had purchased for their homes in a new country. They met wilderness and hardship instead of the established town romised them: causing many to return in disappointment to Scotland. The remaining colonists along with the American settlers who welcomed them upon their arrival, platted the Town of Sarasota on July 27, 1886.
Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials in cooperation with Sarasota County Historical Commission and Sarasota County Historical Society
St. Martha Mission Church
When Tony Jannus landed his airboat on Sarasota Bay near the Sarasota Yacht Cub on North Gulfstream Avenue in April 1914, the local newspaper expressed hope that his arrival would spawn the beginning of a scheduled airline connection with Tampa. It was not until World War I, however, that serious attention was given to establishing an airport in Sarasota.
The U.S. Army Air Service had two bases near Arcadia, and once the United States had entered the war in 1917, community leaders approached local congressmen and War Department representatives about establishing an auxiliary field in the Sarasota area. Requirements for the field were minimal; a level tract of land 1000 x 3000 feet without stumps or roots, a building to store oil, water for radiators, and a pole for flag and tell tale (wind sock). To identify the landing field from the air, a sandy area in the shape of a large cross would be cleared of vegetation.
The selected site was north of Fruitville Road and east of Tuttle Avenue. Mayor George W. Franklin called a community service day for citizens to help prepare a field that would serve as a landing site for the Arcadia army pilots.
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Army pilots-in-training began flying from Arcadia to the new Franklin Field in May 1918. During that summer, the local press carried numerous articles about the soldiers who flew into Sarasota not only for training purposes, but also for recreation. Baseball teams from Arcadia fields flew into Franklin Field for games in Sarasota and Bradenton.
After the war ended on November 11, 1918, the Army had less use for Franklin Field. In 1922 Matthew Dixon purchased an Army surplus "Jenny" and on July 29 John B. Browning flew it from Arcadia to Franklin Field. The newly formed Dixon-Browning Company planned to offer sightseeing and passenger service from that landing strip.
Within two years, Franklin Field ceased to exist. In 1924 the landing strip became part of the new Avion subdivision. Eager to keep Sarasota on the list of available sites for occasional Army flight training, Mayor E.J. Bacon offered the beached of Siesta Key as "ideal landing places." Not until 1929 did Sarasota build a more permanent municipal airport, located west of Oriente Avenue (now Beneva Road) and north of Fruitville Road.
Sarasota County Historical Commission - 2000
The Bobby Jones Legend
Sarasota County Agricultural Fair
Sarasota County was formed in 1921, a year that coincided with the developing Florida Land Boom. Community leaders decided to call attention to the advantages of visiting and living in Sarasota by establishing a county fair and bringing a major league baseball team to town for spring training. Calvin and Martha Payne provided 60 acres of land "for fairground and other park purposes" at the low price of $18,000. In response to a call by Mayor E. J. Bacon for a community work day, citizens constructed a fair building and baseball field at the new Payne Park in the fall of 1923.
Sponsored by the Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce, the Sarasota County Fair Association was formed on March 30, 1923. The first Sarasota County Fair opened on January 22, 1924 at the new fairground. Extensive exhibits, a rodeo show, airplane stunts, horse races, parades, and competitions attracted fair-goers.
After the second fair at Payne Park, the area was deemed too small a space for a fair. The land was sold as residential lots and the income was used to purchase property on what is now North Beneva Road at 12th Street.
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On January 26, 1925, the Sarasota County Fair Association opened the county fair to the largest opening day attendance on record in the state of Florida, more than 5000 people. Two permanent buildings and a grandstand showcased the fair events at the new site. Two years later, March 1927, the Fair Association deeded to John Ringling all of its holdings, including the buildings. Sarasota thereby became the official "home" of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Left without a permanent fairground, in 1935 the Sarasota Fair Association began holding fairs in tents at various locations about the city. No fairs were held during World War II.
Since 1948, the Sarasota County Agricultural Fair Association, Inc. has held fairs at 3000 Ringling Boulevard on property deeded to the Association by the County. In 1956 the Jaycees gave up sponsorship of the fair, a role they had inherited from the Chamber of Commerce. After that, the fair has been produced solely by the Fair Association, the board of which is composed of 25 members from various organizations and members at large. The purpose of the Association is to promote and exhibit agriculture in Sarasota County.
Sarasota County Historical Commission 1997
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Station
Seaboard Railway Depot
In 1903 what later became the Sarasota Woman's Club was founded as the (Sarasota) Town Improvement Society. Members were active Sarasota Women who successfully lobbied town leaders to install streetlights and sidewalks, and undertook horticultural projects to beautify the area. In 1913, they began raising funds to build a clubhouse to accommodate the club's social activities and to serve as the town's first library, which remained there until 1941. In 1914, this site was purchased for $2,000 and members and the community raised the funds to begin constructing a clubhouse. In April 1915, the handsome Jacobethan Revival-style clubhouse, designed by local architect H.N. Hall and built by local contractor George Lysat, was completed. For 61 years, the clubhouse was a focal point for the group's varied activities and was the scene of numerous social, literary and entertainment gatherings. In 1976, the Sarasota Woman's Club moved to new quarters. Nevertheless, the former clubhouse continued its use as a center of Sarasota culture and entertainment for many more years until 1977, when it was placed in use as the home of Florida Studio Theatre, a non-profit regional theater company.
A Florida Heritage Site
Sponsored by the Florida Studio Theatre, Inc. and the Florida Department of State
Sarasota Woman's Club
In 1903 what later became the Sarasota Woman's Club was founded as the (Sarasota) Town Improvement Society. Members were active Sarasota Women who successfully lobbied town leaders to install streetlights and sidewalks, and undertook horticultural projects to beautify the area. In 1913, the began raising funds to build a clubhouse to accommodate the club's social activities and to serve as the town's first library, which remained there until 1941. In 1914, this site was purchased for $2,000 and members and the community raised the funds to begin constructing a clubhouse. In April 1915, the handsome Jacobethan Revival-style clubhouse, designed by local architect H.N. Hall and built by local contractor George Lysat, was completed. For 61 years, the clubhouse was a focal point for the group's varied activities and was the scene of numerous social, literary and entertainment gatherings. In 1976, the Sarasota Woman's Club moved to new quarters. Nevertheless, the former clubhouse continued its use as a center of Sarasota culture and entertainment for many more years until 1977, when it was placed in use as the home of Florida Studio Theatre, a non-profit regional theater company.
A Florida Heritage Site
Sponsored by the Florida Studio Theatre, Inc. and The Florida Department of State
The fragile lands surrounding this pass were settled thousands of years ago by prehistoric Indians. Over time, storms and currents changed the land, and the original Floridians' villages were lost. The 1851 U.S. Coast and Geodetic chart labelled Casey's Pass. Later, a military map slipped the name onto the island to the north, and it remains Casey Key. These place names honor John Charles Casey, U.S. Army captain and Indian agent. A graduate of West Point, he came to Florida in 1835 and aided in the removal of Seminoles. He built a spirit of trust with Billy Bowlegs (Holata Micco), a chief of Florida Seminoles.
For years, Casey negotiated a fragile peace between chiefs and settlers until his health failed. In 1855, the Third Seminole War erupted. In 1858, Bowlegs was deported West on the same steamer that carried Casey's body to Philadelphia. After the Civil War, homesteaders settled the land and sailed the bays in shallow draft boats. During the 1920s real estate boom, dredges altered channels and filled shores. The pass, which had migrated naturally for centuries, was restructured again under the 1935 River and Harbor Act. In the 1960s, as Venice Inlet, the pass became part of the new Intracoastal Waterway system.
Sarasota County Historical Commission, 1988
John Nolen, world-renowned city planner from Philadephia, created the overall design for the City of Venice. Venezia Park Subdivision helped illustrate Nolen's concept for a model city.
Dr. Fred Albee, early developer, commissioned Nolen's original plan for the area, which included a golf course. When the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, a Cleveland based union, bought Albee's undeveloped property in 1925 as part of a $4 million real estate investment, the golf course was moved to the east and the land replatted as a residential area.
Nolen's concept was implemented in the new use for the area and typifies his idea that physical, social, economic, and political facets should come together in a harmonious comprehensive plan to allow optimum opportunities for working, playing, and living. He believed that ample open green space promoted community activity and aesthetic beauty.
The union builders retained as common areas the present-day pentagonal park, also called Venezia Park, and a large section to its north. A proposed school, playground and tennis courts were built elsewhere.
John Nolen designed Venezia Park Subdivision for higher priced homes and to reflect the Mediterranean theme of the city. Noted landscape architect Prentiss French created the park-like atmosphere along public streets.
Young professionals associated with the Venice project occupied some of the homes in the Venezia Park Subdivision. The project collapsed in the late 1920s, along with rest of the Florida real estate boom. A few families continued to reside in the homes during the economic hard times that lasted until the mid-1930s. Civic and business leaders, as well as retirees, later bought houses in Venezia Park.
After World War II, significant construction resumed in the Venezia Park Subdivision. A section of Venezia Park was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The northern portion is a hub of community activities. It contains an expansive park area, which includes a library, community center, and art center. The city archives are housed in the rehabilitated Triangle Inn.
Sarasota County Historical Commission - 1996
The Edson Keith Estate
The Edson Keith estate on the south bank of Phillippi Creek, typical of the grand estate houses erected by the extensive Chicago coterie of friends in Sarasota, reflects much of Sarasota's venerable history. The estate encompasses prehistoric Indian sites and lies near the "rancho", or seasonal fishing camp, on the creek named for Felipe Bermudez. This rancho was first recorded by government survey in 1847. The Sarasota area was dotted with the early 1800s during Spain's rule.
Part of public lands ceded to the state by the federal government upon admission to the Union, the Phillippi parcel was a tiny portion of the 4,000,000 acres purchased by Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia in 1881 for $1,000,000. This purchase helped rescue Florida from bankruptcy after the Civil War.
In 1883, farmer and bee-keeper W.J. Drumwright purchased 40 acres of the parcel from Disston for $50, selling that and additional land in 1910 to George H. and C. Woodburn Matheny, who subdivided the property and named it "Phillippi Park." In 1911, Chicago socialite Mabel Linn purchased eight lots from the Mathenys and began development of a homesite.
Miss Mabel Linn sold the property in 1915 for $7,000 to Edson Keith, Jr., president of a large millinery business and a member of Sarasota's "Chicago Colony" which included the Field, Palmer, and other prominent families. In the summer of 1916, the Keiths began construction of their Italian Renaissance style home on Phillippi Creek. The architects were William A. Otis and Edwin H. Clark of Chicago. Original out-buildings included a two-story servants' home, garden shed, garage, water tower, chauffeur's house, and various sheds for farm and citrus grove activities.
Keith died in the home in 1939 and his widow sold the property to Chicago doll clothing designer Mae Hansen Prodie, whose husband operated the home as a luxury inn in the 1950s. Mrs. Prodie retired to the home in the 1960s and upon her death in 1986, Sarasota County acquired the property as a park site through a bond referendum.
This property is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Sarasota County Historical Commission 1990
Harding Circle Historic District
In 1923 circus magnate John N. Ringling (1866-1936) purchased St. Armands Key, an uninhabited, 150-acre, oval-shaped island. He planned a community of fine residences with a central circle park surrounded by shops. The park was named in memory of his friend, President Warren Harding (1865-1923). The landscape plan for the island consisting of the central park, boulevards and medians, was designed by a prominent landscape architect, John J. Watson (1876-1950). The development work was done by Ringling's partner, Owen Burns (1869-1937). The grand opening of St. Armands occurred in 1928 when the bridge to the mainland was completed. Lots were sold and subsequently a few homes of Mediterranean and Spanish architecture were built. Although the Depression (1929-1941) halted the progress of his plan, John Ringling's vision was realized with the development of the residential area, beaches and shopping district since 1945. On January 16, 2001, Harding Circle, with its associated medians and boulevards, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its unique early community planning and development.
A Florida Heritage Landmark
Sponsored by the City of Sarasota, The St. Armands Residents Association and the Florida Department of State
Historic Spanish Point