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McClellan Park

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Ann A. Shank, former County Historian
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center
Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - McClellan Park photo

Sarasota's "Garden Spot" was the description used in local ads for McClellan Park in 1916. On 56 acres at the southern end of Orange Avenue, between Osprey Avenue and the Bay, the subdivision represented a new style of development for Sarasota. The developers were Katherine E. and Daisietta G. McClellan, sisters who had initially visited Sarasota around 1910. They hired landscape architects to design the park, with the result that roadways curved over the gently sloping land and every lot had a view of the bay. 

The Sarasota Times commented that Katherine McClellan, a professional photographer, was "always keeping in mind the artistic as well as the practical." Paved sidewalks, shade trees and flowering shrubs lined the shell-covered roads (Some of the original shell aggregate curbs and gutters can still be seen.) Pergolas framed the Orange Avenue entrance to the Park. (pictured above)

An Indian mound on the property inspired Katherine McClellan to use Seminole words when naming the roads and yacht basin. Early publications described the Clubhouse as "furnished in Indian effect." Along with this advertised connection with the assumed cultural tradition of the land, however, was the clear message that McClellan Park was a modern development.

Water from artesian wells, telephone and electricity were available for every lot and a septic tank was shared by every two lots. To heighten the appeal to those looking for a "high class residential section," promotional literature highlighted the recreational amenities of the park.

Space next to the clubhouse was laid out for tennis, croquet and clock golf. Dredges created a 50 foot by 150 foot yacht basin, five feet deep at low tide, for exclusive use by residents and their guests. A sandy area was reserved for swimming.

The official opening for McClellan Park took place March 6, 1916. In that week's edition, the Sarasota Times devoted nearly two front-page columns to a description of the event and the subdivision. So many players entered the opening's tennis tournaments, that the men's finals were carried over to the following weekend.

The writer described the pecky cypress clubhouse (pictured right) in detail: the first floor contained a large reception room in the center, which was open to the ceiling, and was surrounded by dressing rooms for ladies and gentlemen, a kitchen, pantry and manager's office. A two-story piazza wrapped around the entire building. The opening day's afternoon tea and evening dance introduced Sarasota to the intended program for the clubhouse - daily lunch, afternoon tea and weekend dances.

Unfortunately for the McClellan's, the subdivision did not materialize as they envisioned it in the early years. Initial lot prices ranged from $800 to $2,500. A year later, they were down to $450 to $900. Although advertised as "close in but just outside city limits", the subdivision was apparently not close in enough or at the right price for the lot-buying public.

In 1923 the Bacheller-Brewer Corp., a new development company in town, purchased the many unsold lots. After the sale, the McClellan's operated the Clubhouse tea room and later opened a gift shop downtown.

Gradually the subdivision was built out, although most lots no longer have a view of the bay. The variety of architectural styles seen there today reflects the changing tastes over the years.