Hazzard Fountain Returns Home
Articles: Sarasota History
On December 12, 1940, Mr. and Mrs. Robert P. Hazzard formally presented to the city the electrically lit fountain in front of the Municipal Auditorium. A reception hosted by the Recreation Club and a dance in the auditorium followed the lighting ceremony. Designed by architect Frank Martin, the Art Deco style fountain added an impressive component to the developing Civic Center.
The Civic Center was a depression-era project for the City of Sarasota, partially funded by the federal W.P.A. It created a public recreation area on the last sizeable parcel of bayfront property in the city, between 6th and 10th Streets from the Tamiami Trail to the Bay. The Municipal Auditorium was the first building in the Center and opened with the annual Sara de Soto Pageant ball in February 1938. To the north and west of the auditorium were courts for shuffleboard, tennis and badminton, and greens for lawn bowling and croquet.
The Hazzard's became Sarasota winter residents in 1936. R.P. Hazzard was a retired shoe manufacturer from Gardner, Maine, and built their Sarasota home in the Indian Beach area. An item in the Sarasota Herald at the time described it as the first house in Sarasota to be built of fabricated asbestos sections. It contained the second air conditioning unit in the city. A Mason, honorary Rotarian and member of the Anglers Club, Hazzard was active in community affairs.
The Hazzard Fountain has been in a variety of settings. The need for additional parking space led to the removal of the fountain from the Civic Center. The 1971 remodeling of the Auditorium gave it a more modern look, with an aluminum facade covering the Art Deco glass blocks. No longer did the fountain's style complement that of the Auditorium.
For a while the fountain was on the entrance mall to the Ringling Museum of Art, but renovations there led to the fountain's removal to storage.
Over past years the City of Sarasota restored much of the Municipal Auditorium to its original design. Part of the restoration project was to expidite the return of the Hazzard Fountain. Fortunately that did occur and the fountain's lights are turned on again for our enjoyment.
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Students of Sarasota architecture quickly come to know the familiar name and distinctive designs of architect Thomas Reed Martin. Credited in local news accounts with having designed more than 500 buildings in Sarasota during the span of his nearly 40-year career, Martin was encouraged to come to Sarasota from Chicago in 1910, by Mrs. Bertha Palmer. His first commission here was the renovation of her home, The Oaks, on Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey.
In the 1880s and early 1890s, Sarasota was primarily a small fishing village. Any outside travel was done on horseback or by schooner to Tampa Bay. Tourism was hardly flourishing in Sarasota before the turn of the century. The main hotel, the De Soto, was empty and boarded up most of the time. Sarasota's fortune began to change in 1895 when the steamer Mistletoe began service to Sarasota from Tampa. This provided a reliable means of transportation to the outside world. By the end of 1899, Sarasota was beginning to emerge from its rundown image and investors began coming into the area.