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City Waterworks Building

Articles: Sarasota History

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

Sarasota History - City Waterworks Building photo

Imagine the delight with which today's government officials would receive news of the unanimous approval of a bond issue for public improvements. Such was the case in January 1925, when a $150,000 bond issue for the improvement and extension of the City of Sarasota's water system was approved by Sarasota voters. Part of this funding was used to construct the City Waterworks Building, set back from the northwest corner of Orange Avenue and 10th Street at 1015 North Orange Avenue.

According to Karl Grismer in "The Story of Sarasota," construction of the City Waterworks Building was a major step forward in Sarasota's struggle for an adequate water supply. When the town of Sarasota was incorporated in 1902, it did not have an authorized water system. Water was provided by wells or water cisterns. A successful bond issue providing for the building of a water works and sewage system was passed in a referendum April 4, 1909, and subsequently a contract was awarded for the drilling of an artesian well and the laying of both sewage and water mains. However, the need for further improvements to the water system soon became apparent. More water was needed not only for consumption, but also to provide adequate water pressure to fight fires, such as the major fire that destroyed many commercial buildings on lower Main Street in March, 1915.

Built in 1926, the City Waterworks Building is divided into two parts: the easternmost, two-story part having been used as the office for the city waterworks system and the westernmost, one story portion, serving as the industrial pumping station. On the ground floor of the two-story section, there are round and elliptically arched door and window openings. Raised concrete slab balconies have wrought-iron railings designed with both twisted and straight members. At the center of each railing, in a diamond-shaped slat, appear the letters SWW, proudly signifying Sarasota Water Works.

At the top of the hipped roof, a multi-sided copper lantern still remains from the original construction. The lantern looks like it belongs on a carriage house from the late 1800s. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the building's red brick and concrete construction in the Mediterranean Revival Style is unusual for Sarasota, the normal construction material being stucco.

The City Waterworks Building was once part of a larger industrial complex that included the city's Electric Light and Power Plant at 1025 North Orange Avenue. Deemed eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, this building was demolished in 1993.

Today the City Waterworks Building is restored and has had some minor adjustments to its original appearance. The two-story section of the building houses a software development company called Method Factory. The staff looks very much at home doing high-tech work in what was a high-tech service back in the Roaring Twenties. Sarasota History Alive! congratulates companies that preserve our heritage and find new and prosperous uses for well-constructed timeless structures.