Bridges Played a Role in Siesta Key Development
Articles: Sarasota History
The history of Sarasota is inextricably intertwined with the natural environment and efforts to shape the land to fit the needs of a growing community.
Over a hundred years ago, before the construction of roads and bridges throughout the county, life here was very different. Siesta Key in particular was isolated and inaccessible. Big changes began on the key when Harry Higel began to promote his development, “Siesta On The Gulf.”
Platted in 1907, the subdivision was located on the north end of the Key, two and a half miles across Sarasota Bay from the mainland. At the time it was conceived, the only access to the Key was by boat. The trip by ferry from downtown to Sarasota Key, where the development was located, took 20 minutes. According to the promotional brochure for the development, Higel spent $40,000 improving the property “…driving artesian wells, laying miles of sidewalks, dredging our canals, filling in low places, building docks, bridges, boat ways bungalows and one hotel.”
One of the development's early rustic bridges is pictured above. Documents accompanying the picture indicate that it existed by 1915 and spanned Bayou Louise. It was not until several years later, in 1917, that the first bridge was built between the Key and the mainland. Designed to open up the Key to vehicles, the usefulness of small bridges planned to serve only pedestrians diminished.
By 1927, the original Siesta Key Bridge was replaced with a more substantial structure. The first Stickney Point Bridge was built at the same time as the Blackburn Point Bridge, beginning in May, 1926.
In the 1950s, Siesta Key was experiencing increased development pressure and a number of older subdivisions were re-platted to introduce internal canals. A re-plat of the Ocean Beach subdivision, filed in 1952, was the first to show the man-made canals and small bridges that define the center of the island today.
A year later, in the Harmony Subdivision – platted just south of there – more canals were constructed. The subdivision was designed to connect to the canals immediately to the north. Spanning these canals were eight “pseudo-humpback bridges,” so named in a 1955 Sarasota Herald-Tribune article to differentiate them from the humpback bridges that spanned Hanson Bayou, Bayou Louise and the bridge over the Grand Canal.
Now (2005 - when this article was written) coming to the end of their useful lives, these pseudo-humpback bridges are slated for replacement by Sarasota County in the near future. Once completed, this project will signal just the latest chapter in the long story of bridges of Siesta Key.
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In the early years of this century, before bridges connected the keys to the mainland, a favorite place to have a picnic was "Uncle Ben" Stickney's. On the bay side of Sarasota (now Siesta) Key, south of the later Stickney Point Bridge, Stickney's homestead gained a reputation for hospitality far beyond Sarasota's borders.
The Gulf View Inn was built as the Sarasota Beach Lodge on the Gulf side of Siesta key at the beginning of 1925. The Sarasota Beach subdivision had been platted in late 1924 by the Crescent Beach Development Co. and included the area approximately bordered now by Ocean Blvd., Avenida Del Mayo and Avenida Del Mare. The use of Spanish street names reflected the Mediterranean theme in much of Sarasota's 1920s development.