Joseph H. Lord was a man looking for a good investment. He arrived in Florida in the late 1880s to buy phosphate lands for himself and his associates He first visited the Sarasota area in 1890.
With the coming of the railroad to Sarasota in 1903, Lord turned his focus on purchasing sites around the downtown area.
By 1904, Lord owned four of the five corners at Five Points and eventually 200 town lots and more than 70,000 acres up and down the coast in inland. Lord had a vision of making the City of Sarasota into a modern city.
During the 1920s, Lord began his most ambitious project. He tore down the Sarasota House hotel and built First Bank and Trust Company, the city’s first skyscraper, and the Lord’s Arcade building on the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue.
The Sarasota Times reported on March 6, 1924, that “plans were submitted for the building by M. Leo Elliott, a well-known Tampa architect. The building will be constructed of steel framework, hollow tile and stucco finish. The main building will be seven stories while the Arcade building will house seven store buildings facing Central Avenue and nine store buildings facing Main Street. Each store will be finished in individual Spanish design while the main bank building will be an elaborate and clean cut business structure. The entire building including stores will be fireproof.”
However, Lord’s good fortune ran out in 1929 as the state comptroller closed his bank. The great Florida Land Boom was over and Lord was forced to begin disposing of his properties. The Palmer National Bank & Trust Company bought the main building in the 1930s. Lord moved to Chicago in 1930 and died in 1936. Lord’s Arcade continued to be owned and operated by his estate until 1944. In June of 1944, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune announced that “in the largest single cash real estate transaction since the Florida boom, the entirety of the downtown business property known as Lord’s Arcade was purchased by five merchants for $106,000. Acting as trustee for the J.H. Lord estate, M.L. Townsend made the sale of the Lord holdings available to businessmen exclusively. J.E. Moore, Cosmo Williams, Harold Gray, W.E. Ebaugh and M.L. Townsend purchased the property. Lord’s Arcade was the last help property by the Lord estate.
Lord’s Arcade housed a variety of small businesses over the years. Businesses like the Powder Puff Beauty Shoppe, Sturgis Music Shop, and Tucker Sporting Goods occupied the spaces. In the 1950s, the Palmer Bank took over the Central side of Lord’s Arcade for office expansion. The Main Street side housed the Williams Stationary Company from the late 1950s until 1976. Lord’s Arcade was renamed Palmer Bank Arcade in 1972 and continued to be called that until the sale of the Palmer Bank in 1976. In 1999, both the remains of Lord’s bank and arcade were torn down to make way for what stands there now, the Plaza at Five Points building.
Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!