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Sarasota Senior High School

Buildings: Sarasota History

Credit: Sarasota County History Center
Location: 1001 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Sarasota Senior High School photo

Sarasota Senior High School, located at 1001 South Tamiami Trail is a brick and glazed terra cotta, Late Gothic Revival three-story with a 4 ˝ -story entrance tower building designed by Tampa and St. Petersburg architect M. Leo Elliott. The graduating class of 1928 was the first class to graduate from the new school which was designed in 1926.

The construction of the school was part of the county-wide program which included the erection of Southside and Bay Haven Elementary Schools. The school expansion program coincided with the land “Boom” upward rise of real estate prices; as a result, the high school site was purchased for $317,000 in 1927. In “The Story of Sarasota,” author Karl Grismer commented that the “tract upon which the school was located cost more than the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company, Ltd., paid for the entire site of Sarasota – and 50,000 acres beside…in 1885! Bond issues in excess of $1,500,000 were used to float the land acquisition, construction and operating costs required by the school expansion program. The construction of the three schools was indicative of the anticipated rise in the school-age population and was recommended by the Cambridge, Massachusetts planner, John Nolen, in his Comprehensive Plan for the City of Sarasota which was published in 1925.

The architect of record, M. Leo Elliott was also responsible for the designs of the Bay Haven and Southside Elementary Schools in 1926. Mr. Elliott was a remarkably eclectic designer and was equally as adept working in the Mediterranean Revival style used for the elementary schools as in the use of the Late Gothic Revival (or “Collegiate Gothic”) in his Sarasota High School design. Executed in red brick and ornamental glazed terra cotta, the school is a prominent landmark in the City of Sarasota. Primary design emphasis was placed on terra cotta tracery, spandrels and crockets. Even the industrial banks of windows located at the wings which flank the central tower are embellished with narrow label lintels, and quatrefoil spandrels. In addition to the school design, Mr. Elliott was also responsible for the design of the second skyscraper in the city, the former First National company building on Main Street and Palm Avenue, subsequently, the Orange Blossom Hotel.

Sarasota Senior High School, the significant red brick and glazed terra cotta structure has been somewhat maintained and is noteworthy in architectural terms and its integrity. Currently, the building is being internally retrofitted to house a modern art museum.  At the southeast edge of the high school site is Sarasota School of Architecture addition which was built by the architect, Paul Rudolph.