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Charles Ringling Building

Markers: Sarasota History

Credit: Sarasota History Alive!
Location: 1927 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, Fl

Sarasota History - Charles Ringling Building photo

Charles Ringling, along with his wife Edith and their children, helped Sarasota become a dynamic, thriving West Coast community. Born in 1864, he was actively involved in the operation of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. 

In 1889 he married Edith Conway in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The Ringlings' circus and other business ventures were financially successful., and Charles and Edith established a residence in Sarasota in 1912.

Charles invested heavily in local real estate and also established the Ringling Trust and Savings Bank in downtown Sarasota. During 1924 and 1925 he bought the former Gillespie Golf Course property and laid out a business section along Ringling Boulevard.

In 1924 he commissioned the architectural firm of Clas, Shepherd & Clas, to design his and Edith's million-dollar mansion on their 25-acre estate in north Sarasota.

Clas, Shepherd & Clas also designed this two-story steel and concrete commercial building, which was constructed in 1926 by the Martin L. Wread Company, a local contractor.

Early tenants on the ground floor of this building were the Triangle Drug Store and the Clarence Saunders Grocery. The second floor was used for Charle's and others' offices and meeting rooms. In September 1926 the Sarasota Herald heaped praise upon Charles for creating a business and residential section on a formerly sandy wasteland, east of town.

In December 1926 Charles died, unexpectedly, at his home in Sarasota. Many local businesses closed so their owners and employees could attend his funeral.

In 1930 Saunders Grocery became Barth I.G.A. Grocery owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. William V. Barth. In January 1945 Edith Ringling sold the building to Dolores Barth, widow of William. Members of the Barth family continued to operate the grocery until 1953. Since then the building had been occupied by a succession of restaurants and nightclubs.

While the interior of the building has undergone several alterations and remodeling to accommodate tenants' individual needs, the owners have maintained the exterior to reflect its historically significant Spanish Mediterranean design.

Dedicated in 2002 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission.