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Franklin Field

Markers: Sarasota History

Location: 2959 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Franklin Field photo

When Tony Jannus landed his airboat on Sarasota Bay near the Sarasota Yacht Club on North Gulfstream Avenue in April 1914, the local newspaper expressed hope that his arrival would spawn the beginning of a scheduled airline connection with Tampa. It was not until World War I, however, that serious attention was given to establishing an airport in Sarasota.

The U.S. Army Air Service had two bases near Arcadia, and once the United States had entered the war in 1917, community leaders approached local congressmen and War Department representatives about establishing an auxiliary field in the Sarasota area. Requirement for the field were minimal: a level tract of land 1000 x 3000 feet without stumps or roots, a building to store oil, water for radiators, and a pole for flag and tell tale (wind sock). To identify the landing field from the air, a sandy area in the shape of a large cross would be cleared of vegetation.

The selected site was north of Fruitville Road and east of Tuttle Avenue. Mayor George W. Franklin called a community service day for citizens to help prepare a field that would serve as a landing site for the Arcadia Army pilots.

Army pilots-in-training began flying from Arcadia to the new Franklin Field in May 1918. During that summer, the local press carried numerous articles about the soldiers who flew into Sarasota not only for training purposes, but also for recreation. Baseball teams from the Arcadia fields flew into Franklin Field for games in Sarasota and Bradenton.

After the war ended on November 11, 1918, the Army had less use for Franklin Field. In 1922 Matthew Dixon purchased an Army surplus "Jenny" and on July 29 John B. Browning flew it from Arcadia to Franklin Field. The newly formed Dixon-Browning Company planned to offer sightseeing and passenger service from that landing strip.

Within two years, Franklin Field ceased to exist. In 1924 the landing strip became part of the new Avion subdivision. Eager to keep Sarasota on the list of available sites for occasional Army flight training, Mayor E.J. Bacon offered the beaches of Siesta Key as "ideal landing places." Not until 1929 did Sarasota build a more permanent municipal airport, located west of Oriente Avenue (now Beneva Road) and north of Fruitville Road.

Dedicated in 2001 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission

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