Sarasota History Alive

The Origin of the Name Sarasota

By | October 7, 2016

origin-name-sarasotaResidents of Sarasota have long speculated about the origin of the name. A plausible sounding daughter Sara was invented for explorer Hernando de Soto, who landed in the Manatee River in 1538, complete with a tragic love story to dramatize a 1916 “Sara de Soto” pageant. The pageant (scene pictured above) became an annual week-long celebration climaxed by a circus parade, and declined when the Barnum & Bailey winter camp was moved to Venice in 1960. But Sara is not a Spanish given name, and there is no known historical basis for the story; it is probably just a pleasant myth.

A more recent speculation is that the name may have meant Point of Rocks or Place of the Dance, but there is little or no linguistic or historical basis for this hypothesis. The true story is more interesting.

The Original Form “Zarazote”

An early Spanish map on sheepskin that turned up in London when Florida passed to British possession in 1763, shows the word “Zarazote” across present day Bradenton and Sarasota. When the coast was charted, the name appeared as Boca Sarazota (Sarazota Pass) between Lido and Siesta Keys, and by the 1850s the barrier islands and the bay were both labeled Sarasota on maps.

Zarazote is not a word of clearly Spanish origin like most other names on the 1763 map, and no specimen of the native Calusa language is known beyond some village names and one or two other words, which provide no basis for interpretation. But there are more likely origins of the name Zarazote.

I discovered recently that there is a neighborhood called Alta Zarazota (“High Zarazota”) in Bogotá, the capital of Columbia, which the Spanish explorers occupied just a few years before de Soto came to Florida. Clues in the Mediterranean make it likely that the explorers brought the name with them.

However, it is possible that Zarazota is a native Columbian name of the Chibcha language family, which like the Calusa language is extinct. But a manuscript Chibcha dictionary survives in the national library in Bogota, that may contain clues when typed and alphabetized, and an inquiry is underway.

Mediterranean Origins Likely

A search of maps of the Mediterranean reveals no Zarazota. There is a city Zaragoza in Spain, called Saraqustah during the Arab presence there, an interpretation of the original name CaesarAugusta when founded by the Roman emperor Augustus. So the “Sara” in Sarasota may have come from “Caesar” like the word “Czar.” Zarazota could be another Spanish-Arabic name commemorating another Caesar, but unlike “Zaragoza” there are no names of other Roman emperors likely to have become pronounced “azota.”
There are cities originally named Zara in Turkey, Iran, and Albania, which may refer to a fortress or palace, originating in the Iranian “thraya-“ (to protect). So the explorers may have known a Mediterranean Zarazota named for a fort or palace. It is conceivable that De Soto or his officers had in mind a ”Zara Soto” (Fort de Soto), but the deSoto family name itself refers to one of many towns named Soto from the Spanish “soto” (thicket or grove) from Latin “saltus” (pasture land with forest). So any Mediterranean fort or palace in a grove or a town named Soto, may have been called Zarazota, Zara Soto, or even Sara de Soto.

A Modest Proposal of Humorous Alternative Derivations

Less likely origins of the name can be derived from phrases in other languages suggesting special circumstances, but at present these are without historical basis. To provoke an indignant scholarly breakthrough, therefore, these alternative derivations of the name are offered from the languages of foreign sailors, some of whom apparently visited before the expeditions of de Leon, de Narvaez, and de Soto, and may have accompanied them here or in Columbia, because sailing ships often picked up sailors from diverse regions to replace crewmembers. They may have recorded impressions of native names, or invented their own, or they may have been asked for a local name.

A Turkish guide accompanying de Soto, for example, when asked the name of the wilderness before them, might have responded “Sora Soto!” (“Ask de Soto!”), written down as Zarazote for all posterity.

A Basque sailor may have rhapsodized that the area was “Zare zati!” (part of art), but if asked very rudely, he might have responded “Zara zata!” (thou nightjar), or perhaps even “Zara zetu!” (thou hast begot other sons).

An Italian settler might have asked for a map notation “Saro sita” (I will be located) here. If the mapmaker was Latvian, the name may have lingered from a mere notation to correct the sketch of the Braden River “Zaru soti” (branches colored in).

A Czech sailor who had seen hurricane damage here may have mentioned “Sari suti” (September rubble). A Maltese sailor may have felt that the area “Saru seta” (could become) something, or a Slovenian sailor may have been impressed that this was a place of “Zore zoto” (the dawn of a new era) or perhaps no more than “Zaru soti” (grilled peat).

An Albanian sailor may have referred to a hut where he had dallied on shore and “Zuri zute” (got caught) or even “Zuri zati!” (the roof fell down). An Indonesian botanist pursued by Calusas may have bemoaned a “Saru sita” (Cypress confiscation).

A Finnish sailor may have noted a place of “Suru sota” (mourning of war), or may have mentioned a wild sailor story here as a “Suru satu” (a sad fairy tale).

We may find that Zarazota was just another subtropical lowland recalled by the Spanish explorers, or we may be fortunate in being freed from history, to use our imaginations. Please note that these translations are provided by an online translation utility, and do not yet reflect scholarly consensus. Linguists, historians, researchers of historic Mediterranean place names and the Spanish colonial archives, and even native speakers of these and other languages are encouraged to object and offer further insights.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive and Sarasota County Historical Archives

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Casey Key Architectural Legacy

By | August 11, 2016

The natural beauty of Casey Key has attracted the attention of visitors and residents to the Gulf Coast for many years. Casey Key’s first non-native inhabitants were members of the Isaac Shumard family, originally from Missouri, who arrived around 1900. Casey Key’s earliest remaining structures date back to the first quarter of the 20th century and were quite typical of Sarasota’s Boom Time, Mediterranean Revival Style, architecture.
Miller Residence
However, as early as the late 1930s innovative architects were creating an architectural legacy on Casey Key in ways that are still being recognized for their importance. A notable example was the Miller House (pictured), located at 2209 Casey Key Road and built in 1948.

Designed by the architectural team of Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph, who worked together in Sarasota from 1941 to 1951, their stated purpose in the design “was to make unmistakably clear how each member is joined to its neighbor.” An award given by Progressive Architecture magazine in 1949, for the home’s “orderliness of design and pleasant interiors” demonstrated that the architects had achieved their stated goal.

Featured in “Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses,” a recent book by Christopher Domin and Joseph King, the home is described therein as “a large winter residence placed on a beachfront bluff that combines a sense of warmth and intimacy derived from the materials used and an openness created by the T-Shaped plan and open bay system.”

Although, additions were made to the Miller House, its plan remained remarkably intact. Originally 2,500 square feet, the home had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Constructed of Ocala block, the living room, kitchen, and loggia featured massive cypress beams. The architects made extensive use of glass, with a clerestory window in the living room and large sliding glass doors throughout the house to provide ventilation and invite the outdoors in, a hallmark of the Sarasota School of Architecture.

Important in its own right, the Miller House, now demolished, is also important as a place marker in the historic architecture of Casey Key and the dynamic careers of Twitchell and Rudolph. North of the location where the Miller House existed, at 2405 Casey Key Road, is the Joseph W. Lippincott House, built fifteen years before the Miller House, around 1935. Reportedly designed by Ralph Twitchell for this prominent publisher, the home is Mediterranean Revival in style although its rounded corners and restrained ornamentation shows that Twitchell’s work was moving towards modern as demonstrated in his Art Deco style, Lido Beach Casino of 1937 and the Miller House in 1948.

Further north on the key, at 3013 Casey Key Road, is Paul Rudolph’s last Casey Key residence, the Deering Home. Completed in 1958 this home refined many of the ideas used in the Miller House such as the creation of a design that seamlessly merged indoor and outdoor spaces and utilized native materials. In the Deering residence, architect Rudolph designed multi-level indoor-outdoor spaces within a simple cube, a hallmark of his residential work for this period.

For architects and designers seeking inspiration today, our knowledge of Casey Key’s rich architectural legacy of the mid-20th century, may provide answers.

Article Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!


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Opening Act at the Lido Casino in 1940

By | July 31, 2014

Rudy Bundy OrchestraOn Garfield Drive, not too far from the famous Lido Casino, a comfortable but unpretentious house was noted for its unique fence. Carved in wood across the length were the first five bars of home owner’s theme song, “Thrill!” Inside, one of the rooms was filled with photographs and mementos of a life in the spotlight.

For many years this was the home of Rudy Bundy, a nationally known bandleader during the big band era who brought his 12-piece orchestra to Sarasota in 1940 to be the casino’s opening act.

The Rudy Bundy Orchestra was the first big-time band to hit Sarasota since the Great Depression and they were an exciting act to listen to and watch. They had played the Palace Theater in New York and also headlined in nationally known clubs around the country. Their music was carried coast to coast on CBS and the Mutual Broadcasting System and they were recorded by RCA Victor.

Outfitted in brown slacks, tan double-breasted coats, and white and brown wing-tipped shoes, the orchestra was an impressive-looking group. As an ad for the Lido Casino put it, “On Lido Beach the nights are enchanting…it’s time to listen to Rudy Bundy’s music borne on the soft breezes of the Gulf of Mexico.” In fact, on calm evenings, Bundy’s music could be heard at his house by his wife, Katie.
Pounding out such swing-era dance music as “Begin the Beguine,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “I’ll Get By” and, of course, “Thrill!” the group wowed the revelers that festive December evening.

It was to have been a limited engagement, but shortly after the celebratory opening, Bundy returned, built his home on Garfield Avenue, and stayed to become one of Sarasota’s most popular performers.

One of Bundy’s fans who would become a lifelong friend was circus boss and would-be musician (he played the sax), John Ringling North, president of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. North, who loved to party into the wee hours, hit on the idea of opening an upscale nightclub with Bundy as the “draw.”

As Bundy told the story, one night they went to North’s uncle John Ringling’s old real estate office on St. Armands Circle, broke into the musty place for a look-see and determined that it wasn’t large enough for their purposes. Next stop for the duo was the John Ringling Hotel, which North would imbue with the trappings of the circus. It was here he decided to open the M’Toto Room lounge, telling Bundy that if it didn’t work out, they could drink all the booze themselves. But the M’Toto Room quickly became a hit, for may years the focal point of Sarasota’s nightlife – Bundy playing his “sizzling clarinet,” occasionally accompanied by North.

Bund, who had started playing professionally in the 1920s, gave up his band – but not his clarinet or his music – in 1954 and devoted himself for quite some time to the circus; North had asked him to be his assistant and treasurer. He would later be vice president.

Always popular, a gentleman with a ready smile, Bundy continued playing music into the 1980s. He died on August 1, 2000. He was 93 years-old and had brought countless hours of listening pleasure to music lovers around the country.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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Sarasota History Alive – Webb Clearing Plow

By | July 1, 2014


webb-clearing-plow_medIn January 1917, Henry C. Webb applied for a patent on a specialized plow. The African American resident of Bradenton had devised a machine for cutting the palmetto roots that were a major impediment to road construction in this part of Florida. As described in the March 15, 1917 edition of the Sarasota Times, the plow “is coupled onto the rear of a large tractor engine, and the way that it goes through the roots is good to behold.” The clearing plow incorporated three cutting surfaces. A vertical cutting disk (#13 above) was the first instrument to cut the palmetto. It was followed by a vertical blade that cut through the above-ground plant and curved down and back (#14 and 15) just ahead of the V-shaped horizontal blade (#16) that severed the palmetto roots several inches below the ground’s surface. The roots and stems could then be easily removed and burned. The Times reported that the plow opened a path nearly five feet wide while the tractor moved at its high speed of four miles per hour. The journalist estimated that it would have taken fifty hands with axes to do the same amount of work in that time.

Webb’s invention came at the right time. Travel between communities was difficult at best. Auto and wagon wheels sank into the sand “roads” during the dry season and mired in water-logged sand in rainy periods. As a result of efforts of community leaders who advocated “good roads,” in March 1915 voters approved a $250,000 bond issue for 34 miles of hard surfaced roads. Clearing palmetto roots by hand made road construction a time-consuming process.

The U.S. Patent Office patented Webb’s clearing plow on May 15, 1917. In “One Man’s Family” A.K. Whitaker, grandson of early settler William Whitaker, recalled that his father, who had helped fund the development of the plow, purchased the first successful model and lent it for the clearing of World War I airfields in Arcadia in the spring of 1918. When that work was completed, A.K. Whitaker and a friend, both recent graduates of Manatee County High School, worked with the plow on the construction of the first paved road between Sarasota and Venice. They initially set up camp near Osprey and then moved with the project to the Nokomis area before leaving for college.

Whitaker wrote that the work was “hard, hot, dusty and dirty…. Up at five – breakfast – clean up camp – at work by seven – a sandwich for lunch – work until five – a bath in the nearby creek – supper – by dark into bed under mosquito bars to keep from being eaten alive.” He and his friend Donald Beck worked with the tractor and plow; other crews hauled dirt by mule team, set wood forms for the concrete curbs, brought hot asphalt in Model T dump trucks, and spread the asphalt by hand. Whitaker’s tractor and Webb plow were used for the duration of the road’s construction. Although the road was only nine feet wide and passing cars needed to move one set of wheels off the road to proceed, users were so impressed by the improved roadbed they nicknamed it the “Velvet Highway.”

Whitaker learned later that the Orange State Motor Company had obtained a manufacturing license from Henry Webb and sold the plow until it became obsolete with the production of large caterpillar tractors with heavy duty scraping blades.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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Floridaland was Actually 10 Theme Parks

By | June 22, 2014


FloridalandWhat tourist attraction in Sarasota County promised you “Everything under the sun?” It was called Floridaland. Floridaland West, Inc. announced on April 3, 1964, that an extensive tourist attraction center was going to be built on 50 acres just south of Blackburn Point Road, between U.S. 41 and Sarasota Bay. The promoters of the park said that more than one million dollars would be spent in initial investment and that it would be a family type tourist park. They predicted over 200,000 visitors in its first year. Floridaland opened on Christmas Day 1964 with an attendance of over 5,000 people.

Floridaland was really 10 small theme parks in one place. Its advertisements promoted 10 big attractions promoted at one admission price, $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for kids. These included a western ghost town, a billy goat mountain, porpoise shows, a deer park, Indian village, exotic gardens, Floridaland tour train, covered wagon rides and a stern-wheeled riverboat. The two main attractions were the western ghost town and the porpoise shows. As shown in the above photo, the western ghost town, complete with a saloon, bank, general store and undertaker. The 1965 Sarasota Visitor’s Guide stated that “Floridaland western ghost town is the wildest in the South. Hourly shows are held in the Golden Nugget Saloon with pretty can-can girls stepping high. In the streets, the sheriff thwarts a bank holdup and bravely makes desperados bite the dust.”

The Porpoise Pool attraction was located near the intercoastal water way. The pool had trained porpoises and sea lions that performed in shows throughout the day. The porpoises had become favorites of the pubic and to take advantage of this, Floridaland arranged a long distance call between two porpoises. The Herald-Tribune reported on May 14, 1965, that the world’s first “porpoise to porpoise” long distance call was made by Moby Dick, star of the porpoise show at Floridaland called Keki, one of the performing porpoises as Sea Life Park in Hawaii. Moby Dick “talked,” in high pitched tones, for five minutes to Keki over a specially designed phone. Other attractions were the miniature tour trains taking visitors through 40 acres of tropical gardens, through Deer Park and Billy Goat Mountain. At Deer Park you could stop and feed the tame deer and look at performing animals. Ducks played drums, chickens played baseball and a bunny-kissed his girlfriend “until she blushed.” Billy Goat Mountain had Rock Mountain goats and sheep roaming over high bridges. 

In July 1967, Holiday Inn opened a 100-room hotel complex at Floridaland. Holiday Inn was supposed to spearhead further commercial development of Floridaland. Although Floridaland continued to promote itself as the perfect family attraction, by late 1968, attendance was beginning to drop. In hopes of attracting more visitors, the New Floridaland opened in November 1968 with new rides, longer shows and a new orchid garden. The new attractions did not help. By the fall of 1970, the western ghost town was closed during off-season, the skyride had closed and the owners feared the opening the new theme park in Orlando called Disney World. Floridaland announced that its early summer schedule would run from April to July 2, 1971. It never reopened for the winter season. Floridaland was one of may tourist attractions in Florida that throughout the 1950s and 1960s advertised Florida as the perfect vacation destination.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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Burrow’s Legacy Included Oscar Scherer State Park

By | May 23, 2014

Walter Burrows

Walter BurrowsIn 1931, Waters and Elsa Burrows left New York City with their family and built a Colonial-style red brick home in Osprey, just a short distance south of the spot on Little Sarasota Bay where Bertha Palmer had established her winter home two decades earlier.

Porches across the back of both floors of the spacious house provided plenty of space from which to enjoy views of the bay.

Leaving the life of a surgeon behind, Waters Burrows, still in his early 50s, delved into other interests. He purchased the land that later became Oscar Scherer State Park and there, along the eastern side of the Tamiami Trail in Osprey, established a vegetable garden and chicken farm.

His daughter later remembered that the chickens sometimes became dinner for the alligators that ventured onto the farm from South Creek. She also recalled that her father’s attempts to grow papaya and mangoes frequently failed, for those fruits were too susceptible to periodic freezes. A large orange grove occupied land farther inland, closer to the railroad. Considered a gentleman farmer by his neighbors, Burrows cultivated the land for about 20 years.

Burrows also invested in Sarasota business. In 1939, he formed Gulf State Motors with Louis Dixon as vice president and manager. He built the Dodge-Plymouth dealership on North Pineapple, south of where the Sarasota Opera now stands. The Art Deco/Moderne-style building included columns of glass block that accentuated the vertical lines above the entrance to the auto showroom.

The last years of the Depression and the beginning of World War II were not auspicious times for the launching of a car dealership, however. Although he held onto the building, after about four years, Burrows turned over the business to LeRoy Fenne and Ray Howard, whose Fenne-Howard Motors lasted until 1946. At that time, Montgomery-Roberts purchased the building from Burrows for a reported $75,000.

After extensive renovations the Montgomery-Roberts department store moved from the Main Street location it had occupied since the mid-1930s and became a popular downtown shopping center for nearly 30 years. (In 1998, the Sarasota Opera acquired the building for its expanding programming needs).

At her death, Elsa Maria Scherer Burrows willed 515 acres, known as the South Creek Ranch (the land Waters Burrows had farmed), to the State of Florida. The Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials accepted the land as a state park when the board met at the Orange Blossom Hotel in Sarasota for its April 1955 meeting.

Elsa Burrows stipulated that the land was to be used only as a public park, for public recreation and a wildlife sanctuary. There were to be no hunting or shooting of game and no drilling for oil. Fishing under state control would be permitted. Elsa Burrows also provided the name for the park: Oscar Scherer.

Oscar Scherer, her father, had come to the United States from Germany and had made the American dream come true as he achieved great success in the leather-tanning business. Providing public access to the land was a joint county-state effort, and the park opened in the summer of 1959.

Although Waters and Elsa Burrows selected an often unnoticed site on which to live and enjoy Sarasota Bay, they left buildings and a park that would be used by successive generations.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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Early Settlers on Bee Ridge

By | April 7, 2014


early-settlers-bee-ridgeToday the name Bee Ridge generally brings to mind a seven-lane highway of vehicles speeding between U.S. 41 and I-75. It hasn’t always been that way. The original Bee Ridge was a high ridge of land bounded roughly by Phillippi Creek, Cow Pen Slough, and Bee Ridge and Clark roads. It was home to wild bees and some of Sarasota County’s earliest settlers. Two of the several families who shaped the frontier Bee Ridge community were the Rawls and Tatum families. One well-known link between these families was Luara Fedonia “Aunt Donie” Redd. Born on the Manatee River, she and her parents, the Rev. Isacc Red and Elizabeth Brown Red, moved to the Fruitville-Bee Ridge area after the Civil War. While still a teenager, she met and married Sebring Rawls.

A decade later Rawls died and his widow, left with five young children, married William Harve Tatum in 1885. After several years they moved their growing family (eventually there were 13 children) to a site off Proctor Road, behind the present Sarasota Baptist Church. By the end of the century they had a four-room, two story house with porches and detached kitchen. One bedroom upstairs housed the boys, and the other, the girls. Heat during the winter came from a wood-burning fireplace. Firewood was a daily necessity for cooking, and a Tatum daughter remembered splitting wood by moonlight. She also remembered the once-a-week floor scrubbing with washing powder and sand. The scrub brush was made from palmetto fans stuffed through holes in a board and cut to an even length. They used brush brooms made from gallberry branches tied together to sweep the yard. Preventing the accumulation of grass or other burnable material reduced the threat of fire to early homesteads.

Making a living was a time-consuming effort for all members of the Rawls/Tatum family at that time. The homestead produced much of its food after they cleared and plowed the land. A vegetable garden grew not far from the house. Cattle, fenced in next year’s corn field, fertilized and churned up the soil. Sweetening came from the yearly sugar cane crop. One of the Rawls sons later described helping grind the cane before going to school. A large pot over an outdoor fire was used to boil the syrup. Home-grown fruits included grapes from an arbor on the north side of the house, citrus, guavas, pineapple and bananas. Rice grew on the wetter land. Meat came not from a neighborhood store, but from hunted deer, turkey or wild hogs. The hogs also provided meat and casings for sausage and fat for making soap. Hunters in the family could sell alligator hides or heron and egret feathers to J.V. Turner on Main Street in Sarasota.

For staples and goods not produced at home, the Rawls/Tatum family typically shopped in the village of Manatee. Traveling by ox cart for the overnight trip, they often carried such items as potatoes, grapes and syrup to trade or essentials such as coffee, salt, and flour.

During the school year, the children learned their lessons either at home or in a one-room building on the Hawkins farm, across Proctor Road from the Tatum home. During the limited free time, a favorite swimming place was nearby Bonnet Hole Slough. Tatum daughter Agnes Lowe later described swimming in a long dress with petticoat and drawers below the knees. Bathing suits were not part of the family wardrobe when she was a child. Family tradition, which lasted for several generations, was camping in the woods or along the Myakka River around the Christmas holiday. One of Aunt Donie’s granddaughters remembers Roman candles, fireworks and tree decorations. There was no less celebration while camping than there would have been at home, and with several dozen extended family members camping, it was a family reunion as well.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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Sarasota Naval Militia

By | March 29, 2014


sarasota-naval-militiaMore than a year before the United States entered World War I; Sarasota began to organize a naval militia division. In March 1916 an announcement in the Sarasota Times invited young men to meet at the Sarasota Yacht and Automobile Club to become part of the Florida Naval Militia. By that time, the U.S. Navy Department had begun to provide equipment, uniforms, rifles, tents, and boats to states for the formation of such groups. These would provide already-trained men when and if the United States entered the European war.

Within a month nearly sixty men enlisted in the group, making Sarasota the nation’s smallest city (population approximately 2,500) to form a military unit from its own population. Warren F. Purdy, with twenty years of active and reserve military experience, commanded the group. Initially, the militia held weekly drills upstairs over Turner’s store on Main Street. In May, Governor Park Trammel approved the application for the militia and on June 16, 1916, Capt. John Bland administered the oath of allegiance to each of the members and the Third Division of the First Battalion of the Florida Naval Militia was established in Sarasota. Along with participating in weekly drills, the men underwent physical examinations and measurements for uniforms and were vaccinated for typhoid and smallpox.

The local militia increased their drills to twice a week to prepare for two weeks in July on a Navy-sponsored training cruise, but threat of war with Mexico prevented any ships from being freed for such training. In August the men’s uniforms arrived, having been sent by steamship from New York. According to the Times, each man received three white work suits, one white dress suit, one navy blue undress suit, one navy blue dress suit, jerseys, knit caps, leggings, a black silk ‘kerchief, and two white woolen blankets.

That same month the militia acquired an armory. The Sarasota Yacht and Automobile Club had fallen on financial difficulties and failed to maintain interest payments on the loan for their building. Located on the northwestern end of Gulf Stream Avenue and with a long dock into the bay, the building was made available for the militia. Its thirteen rooms and basement provided needed space for equipment, recreation, and drills. (The militia is shown in front of the Yacht club in the above photo).

On April 4, 1917 the United States entered the war. The next day the Red Cross Auxiliary of the Sarasota Woman’s Club sponsored a patriotic meeting at the Virginian Theater of Main Street in honor of Sarasota’s naval militia. Patriotic speeches and songs filled the evening. Within hours Lt. Purdy received orders for the militia to report to the Charleston Naval Yards. On Easter Sunday morning, April 8, the city’s churches met for a joint Easter service at the Virginian. The Times reported a mixture of patriotic support for the militia and the country’s war efforts and the more traditional Easter message. That afternoon, large crowds gathered in the rain to see the militia off at the Seaboard Air Line train depot on Lemon Avenue near Main Street.

For the next year and a half, the Sarasota community supported its men in the war effort. After the Armistice was signed, all but one of the more than 250 men who had enlisted returned home.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!


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24th Annual Historic Homes Tour

By | February 20, 2014

24th Annual Historic Homes Tour

24th Annual Historic Homes TourThe Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation is proud to present the 24th Annual Historic Homes Tour on Sunday, March 2nd, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the historic Laurel Park neighborhood. The public is invited to celebrate Sarasota’s rich architectural heritage by touring 10 significant yet diverse structures.

Tour-goers will learn about the unique history of each home. This year they are featuring one of the few residential properties designed by Dwight James Baum, the internationally known New York architect, along many other wonderful houses designed by Thomas Reed Martin, including one built for him and his family in the Mediterranean Revival Style so popular in the 1920’s. This year’s tour also includes a ‘hard hat’ tour of the Center for Architecture Sarasota where an installation of archival images and plans for future development will be on view.

While enjoying a self-guided walking tour through the Laurel Park neighborhood visitors will see antique cars provided by the Model “A” Restorers Club/Antique Automobile Club of America that reflect the period of the homes. Free parking will be available at the Crissy Galleries 640 South Washington Boulevard, and at the Friendship Center at 1899 Brother Geenen Way. Tickets may be purchased in advance for a donation of $20 on their Web site; ; the day of the event, or at any of the locations listed on their site.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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Sarasota Bath Houses and Beach Pavilions

By | January 25, 2014


bath-housesIn Sarasota there has always been a need for beachfront facilities to accommodate sunbathing and recreation. Sarasota’s first bathhouse was built by C.I. Archibald on Crescent Beach. Its dressing rooms were a great improvement over the bushes for changing into one’s bathing attire.

The first public bathhouse in Sarasota was built in Venice in 1925 by Dr. Fred Albee. Albee first visited Sarasota County (then Manatee County) in 1916 and became convinced that this was the place for him to invest. An early settler of Nokomis, Albee purchased land from Mrs. Potter Palmer there, as well as additional land that would later become the City of Venice.

The open design of Albee’s bathhouse embraced the Gulf of Mexico with open porches on two levels and a three story tower that provided far reaching views. Wicker chairs and rockers lined both levels of the pavilion where activities and functions were sometimes staged. The Venice Company offices were briefly located in the upstairs part of the building.

Albee’s bath pavilion was lost to a storm in 1932. It was located in Venice on the North Explanade at the west end of Ormond Street where the Sandbar Beach Resort now (2003) stands.

A new beach casino was built as a Works Progress Administration project in 1932 at a nearby location. Its barrel clay tile roofs, wooden porches and asymmetrical plan were representative of the Mediterranean Revival Style that was popular during the 1920s.

The Venice Beach Casino, later known as the Venice Bathhouse, was located at the west end of Venice Avenue, on the Gulf of Mexico. It was later replaced by the Venice Beach Pavilion, a thoroughly modern building that was dedicated in 1964. The pavilion was needed to respond to the shortage of public facilities brought on by Sarasota’s post World War II population boom.

Designed by architect Cyril T. Tucker and engineer William Lindh for the City of Venice, the pavilion’s roof was designed in the form of a hyperbolic paraboloid, a shape popularized in the country by Argentinean architect Eduardo Catalano, a founding member of the North Carolina State University School of Design. Catalano used the innovative form for the room of his own house located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Catalano house was highly publicized as “The House of the Decade” by House and Home Magazine in their August 1955 edition and later became recognized as one of the key residential buildings in the United States. Demolished in 2001 despite heroic efforts to preserve it, the building was credited with inspiring architects, students and laypeople for many years after its construction, as well as eliciting praise from Frank Lloyd Wright who wrote, “It is refreshing to see service of shelter so imaginatively and ably treated as in the house by Eduardo Catalano.”

The Venice Beach Pavilion, together with the Nokomis Beach Pavilion and Siesta Key Beach Pavilion, represent an important collection of publicly owned modern buildings here in Sarasota County. Each uniquely reflects their environment and the vision of their designer, while possessing common design elements. These elements, illustrative of the Sarasota School of Architecture, include a seamless blending of indoor and outdoor spaces, and the innovative use of materials.

On Siesta Key, Tim Seibert designed columns for his pavilion that were pre-cast on site, the hoisted into position. In Nokomis, architect Jack West enticed artist Hilton Leach to donate a mural to grace his simple yet elegant pavilion, and in Venice, Cyril Tucker and William Lindh designed Sarasota County’s only hyperbolic paraboloid for a mere $54,000.

Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!

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