Bee Ridge Community
Articles: Sarasota History
Construction of the Bee Ridge Hotel in 1914 symbolized the growth of the Bee Ridge Community in the second decade of the 20th Century. Pioneer families had been living in the area since the Civil War, but it was not until 1912, with the platting of the “Town of Bee Ridge,” that the area was promoted for speedy development.
In 1910, Bertha Palmer and members of her family visited Sarasota from Chicago. Her reputation as an international socialite, patron of the arts and wealthy widow of Potter Palmer preceded her. Local Realtors eagerly showed her area property. She liked what she saw and ultimately purchased nearly 90,000 acres along the Southwest Florida coast. To help develop the property, family members formed the Sarasota-Venice Company and soon focused on the Bee Ridge area.
Bee Ridge stretched from Phillippi Creek to Cow Pen Slough, bounded now by Bee Ridge and Clark Roads. Early settlers named it Bee Ridge because of the number of bees found along that relatively high, dry ridge of land. When Bee Ridge Road was first built, it extended eastward from Bay Road only to Sawyer Road, at which point it turned south and then east again along the road now called Proctor. The unincorporated town of Bee Ridge centered on the intersection of Mackintosh and the old Bee Ridge (now Proctor) Roads.
The year 1912 was significant for the development of Bee Ridge for several reasons. Not only did the Sarasota-Venice Company plat the town, but the Seaboard Air Line Railway extended its tracks from Fruitville to Venice, and the community gained a post office. The railroad and post office put Bee Ridge on the map. The Sarasota-Venice Company promoted Bee Ridge as the place to live for those wanting to make their fortune in agriculture. A combination of vegetable and citrus crops was advertised as the best way to take advantage of the good soil. The railroad offered quick access to northern markets and the canning company established in 1916 provided a way to sell produce that was too ripe to ship fresh and would otherwise rot in the fields.
A 1914 promotional booklet displayed photographs of strawberries, pineapples, citrus, beans, celery, corn, watermelon, cauliflower, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, peppers and cucumbers growing in Bee Ridge fields. Special train tickets, available two days a week, enticed visitors from Chicago for $42.94 or from Washington, D.C. for $25.00. A new hotel was available for visitors while they shopped for land.
With a growing population, Bee Ridge soon boasted a variety of Community organizations and services. Forerunner to the Woman's Club was the Get-Together Society, which met monthly in the hotel until they built a clubhouse in 1922. The Bee Ridge Growers' Association helped growers package and market their produce. After worshipping for a number of years in the local school, the Bee Ridge Baptists organized a church in 1916. The Presbyterians followed the next year. A store, barbershop, dairy and sawmill rounded out the commercial development. Bee Ridge did not grow to the size of its neighboring Sarasota, however, so if you wanted to take advantage of what the city had to offer, it was only 15 cents away by train.
Special Thanks to Ann A. Shank, County Historian, Sarasota County History Center for her research and time devoted to writing this article.
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Under this heading on the editorial page of Tuesday The Tampa Times pays a well merited tribute to the lady whose choice of our portion of Florida has proved its greatest factor for good. Having her home and by far her largest landed interests in Manatee County, it is sincere pleasure for The Sarasota Times, on behalf of our people, to heartily concur in the gracious suggestions from Tampa, and to bespeak a share in whatever testimonial may be undertaken to evidence our good will and good wishes for Mrs. Palmer.