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The Sarasota Terrace Hotel

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Mark D. Smith, former County Archivist
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - The Sarasota Terrace Hotel photo

The Sarasota Terrace Hotel, as it was originally known, was constructed in 1925 by Charles Ringling, president of the Sarasota Terrace Hotel Company. It was the first in a series of buildings that would make Ringling's Courthouse Subdivision an extension of downtown. The Hotel was built on the site of the Number One green on the old Gillespie golf course. At 11 stories, 125 rooms, and a construction cost of nearly $750,000, the Sarasota Terrace Hotel was touted as one of the finest in Florida.

According to the 1928 Sarasota Visitor's Guide, the Sarasota Terrace Hotel was the city's leading tourist and commercial hotel. With its fireproof construction and private bath in each room, it provided both safety and comfort. Reviews stated that "the Sarasota Terrace Hotel has wonderful views of beautiful Sarasota Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the glorious sunsets - from the Roof Garden - indescribable. Near enough to in to be convenient, far enough out to be pleasant". The daily rates ranged from $3 to $5 for a single and up to $8 for a double. Also, while you dined, there was music by the Sarasota Terrace Orchestra.

Over the next 30 years, the Sarasota Terrace Hotel continued to serve the needs of Sarasota as a downtown hotel. Although its name was changed to the New Terrace Hotel in the late 1950s, the hotel basically stayed the same since its opening. However, in 1962, its biggest change was just beginning. The hotel was bought by Arthur C. Allyn, Jr., who was a majority stockholder with the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Under his tenure, a modernization that cost nearly $100,000 was begun. During baseball's winter practice season, the White Sox players stayed at the Hotel and played at Payne Park, which was just across the street from the Hotel. Also, the minor league team, the Sarasota Sun Sox of the Florida State League, began staying at the Terrace Hotel. The many changes that Allyn made reflected a baseball motif, especially in the lounge and meeting rooms.

In 1964 and again in 1967 a motel section was constructed at the back of the hotel. With these additions a new name appeared on the Terrace Hotel. In 1965 the Sarasota Terrace became the Sarasota Motor Hotel. It continued under that title until the hotel closed its doors in 1972. However, instead of falling to the wrecker ball, the old hotel was purchased by Sarasota County in 1972 and turned the building into the County's Administration center. From 1972 to 1995, the Sarasota Terrace Hotel served the County's needs. As Sarasota County administration continued to grow, it became apparent that more space was needed. In 1994, Sarasota County purchased the vacated GTE building on Ringling Boulevard and began renovations. By late December 1995 the County's administrative offices had moved into the renovated facility. In 1996 the Board of County Commissioners renamed the Sarasota County Administration Building the Terrace Administration Building, thereby keeping the spirit of the past while preserving the building for the future.