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The Crisp Building

Buildings: Sarasota History

Source: City of Sarasota public records
Location: 1970 Main Street, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - The Crisp Building photo

In 1901, cattle and hogs roamed Sarasota's streets at their pleasure, and there were no sanitary sewers or public water system. A silverware salesman from Connecticut who visited Tampa Bay in 1904 made the observation that he thought Sarasota was similar to the cowboy towns portrayed in the Western movies. According to Karl Grismer in "The Story of Sarasota", "the cattlemen and their friends, plus the fishermen, just about ruled the town." These groups objected to improvements that would allow the town to grow because they realized growth would jeopardize their interests, so they fought progressive measures. So, it was not until 1902, that the Town of Sarasota was established as this area's first form of government. In addition, the rail transportation brought a larger variety of manufactured goods and building materials not previously available in Sarasota. Markets for Sarasota's fishing, citrus and agricultural industries were expanded and commerce began to increase. Tourist and settlers were then growing in numbers, and developers were determined to make Sarasota into a destination.

One of those visionaries was Charles Ringling, one of the Ringling Brothers associated with circus fame. He purchased a sizeable piece of land from the 9-hole golf course holdings on and near Main Street, founded by Col. John Hamilton Gillespie.

Charles Ringling formed the Court House Subdivision with plans to have office space and housing for the growing community. He oversaw the construction of the Sarasota Terrace Hotel in 1926, directly south of the Sarasota County Courthouse that was also within the subdivision, and a retail and office building on Ringling Boulevard, which housed his office. The construction of these buildings greatly helped spur development along what is today referred to as upper Main Street.

On August 29, 1925 the T.H. Crisp Company purchased two pieces of property from the Charles Ringling Company in the Court House Subdivision. A portion of the larger site was to become the future site of both the Crisp and Archibald buildings. I.G. Archibald was a prominent local furniture and hardware merchant, businessman and investor.

By late February, 1926, the Crisp Building was completed. A photograph of both buildings, appeared in the Sarasota Herald with a headline above "Archibald-Crisp Building" but clearly shows two distinct buildings side by side. The accompanying newspaper article also included a photograph of the Archibald Furniture Store Building and Charles Ringling's Office Building, both on Ringling Boulevard, immediately to the south of the Crisp and Archibald buildings. The newspaper account went on to give T.H. Crisp, along with I.G. Archibald and Charles Ringling, credit for stimulating development on the east end of Main Street and transforming that section of what was then "East Sarasota" into one of the "finest and fastest growing developments in the city" and for providing easy access to both the Sarasota County Courthouse and Charles Ringling's Sarasota Terrace Hotel, by then a social center for the city.

The Crisp Building is historically significant because of its association with events that have made a contribution to the broad patterns of local history. Construction of the building played an important role in the expansion of Sarasota's historic downtown to the east. The building has continuously provided commercial and retail space for generations of Sarasotans and served as the home of the Royal Order of the Moose, Sarasota Chapter, during the late 1920s up until 1938. The building has ties to early commerce and fraternal activity and the Florida Land Boom.

Additionally, the building also has historical significance for its architecture. It was constructed during Sarasota's greatest period of development, and is one of the best surviving examples of Mediterranean Revival commercial architecture still present in Sarasota from this period and in this section of downtown.


Thomas H. Crisp

Thomas H. Crisp came to Sarasota in ca. 1924. Although earlier biographical information on Thomas Crisp could not be located, "T.H." Crisp immediately became active in local construction and development activity upon his arrival in Sarasota under the auspices of his company, T.H. Crisp and Company. His strong development and construction activity is evidenced by numerous real estate transactions in the public records of Sarasota County from 1925 until the 1940s.

He served as the contractor for the carpentry for the 55,000 square foot Archibald Furniture Store and the Crisp building. A few other Crisp building projects in Sarasota during the 1920s-1940s included the Carlton and Sally Teate house on Hawthorne Street, the first home of A. Edson and Mabel Hall, completed in 1924 on McClellan Parkway, a two-part commercial block, with retail space on the first floor and apartments above in 1925 on 6th Street (now State Street) near Lemon Avenue for Frank Dillinger and George Prime, and a clothing mercantile building on upper Main Street for Phil Levy.

In 1936, Crisp purchased all of Block B in Pine Grove Subdivision, originally platted in 1926, and re-subdivided the property. He then proceeded to construct numerous homes in that block just west of the Tamiami Trail, bounded by the Tamiami Trail, Waldemere and Floyd Streets, and Osprey Avenue. Crisp also constructed a number of homes in Hillcrest Subdivision within the city during the 1920s and 1930s and several homes in McClellan Park in the 1940s.

 

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