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Bisphams' Dairy Served Sarasotans for 65 Years

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Lorrie Muldowney
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center
Credit: Sarasota History Alive

Sarasota History - Bisphams' Dairy Served Sarasotans for 65 Years photo

When early Sarasotan Jackson F. Bispham was granted Sarasota County's second dairy permit in 1922, he used it to establish the Bayside Dairy.

During the next 65 years, the business provided dairy products to the Sarasota community while operating in four different locations: North Orange Avenue, South Tamiami Trail, the Gulf Gate area and just south of Clark Road. The dairy was named Bayside after its Tamiami Trail location along Sarasota Bay. (In later years, the dairy cows were prevented from grazing at the water's edge because the seaweed they ate there gave the milk a bitter flavor.)

At that location, Bispham rented land in the area north of today's Landings Shopping Center to supplement the acreage he owned. According to an interview with Jackson's son, Cyrus Bispham, conducted by Jack Zilles, Sarasota County Fair Director and Chairman of the Bicentennial Committee, Bispham paid a quart of milk each day for 25 years in exchange for the use of the land.

The Bispham family lived in a wood frame vernacular-style farmhouse (pictured above) from 1927 to 1950. It stood at 4613 South Tamiami Trail on the northeast corner of Fiesta Street until 2015 when it was razed for development. Until then it was fondly referred to as "The Painted Lady" and housed a gallery and art studio.)

Frame vernacular architecture was not based on technical or academic know-how, but was the common wood frame construction practiced by self-taught builders. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination prepared by Delahaye and Associates, the use of frame vernacular construction dominated architecture in Sarasota County from the late 1800s through 1945.

Early dairies in Sarasota County were small family-run businesses without refrigeration. Milk was chilled in water coolers and then immediately delivered. Early deliveries from the Bayside Dairy were made by Jackson Bispham in his own Model T Ford.

The Bisphams milked their cows by hand twice daily until labor shortages during World War II forced the purchase of their first milking machines. According to Cy Bispham, several hired men were usually around to help with the dairy operation. These men would live with the Bisphams and be paid $1.00 a day plus room and board.

During Sarasota's land boom in the 1920s the small dairies joined together to form a cooperative dairy for milk processing. The cooperative processing plant was on Fourth Street in downtown Sarasota. The cooperative lasted only a few years before the dairies went back to bottling their own milk. By the 1930s, there were eight small dairies that bottled their own milk and delivered it in the Sarasota area. Additionally, there were two small dairies serving Venice. By the 1950s, technological developments in mild bottling pushed out the smaller dairies that were unwilling or unable to make these changes.

In 1955, brothers Cy and Jack Bispham sold their milk routes to the Hood Dairy, as did many other local dairy farmers. The Bisphams sold their land in Gulf Gate in 1957, although son Cy continued the Bayside Dairy until 1987 at a location south of Clark Road where the development Serenoa is now. A lasting reminder of the Bispham family and its Bayside Dairy is Bispham Road in the community of Gulf Gate.