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Sarasota County Courthouse

Markers: Sarasota History

Location: 2000 Main Street, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota History - Sarasota County Courthouse photo

On July 1, 1921, Sarasota County came into existence. Interest in breaking away from Manatee County had led to a series of public meetings the previous summer. Lack of good roads, inadequate representation in Tallahassee, and subjection to isolation by other sections of the county were among the grievances cited by the citizens.

For nearly five years, the new county government operated out of the Hover Arcade, a building at the foot of Sarasota's Main Street that also housed Sarasota City Hall. County officials used a temporary building on Oak Street for another year before moving into the courthouse.

By late 1924, the Board of County Commissioners began steps to construct a county courthouse. Charles and Edith Ringling conveyed land for the building. In March 1925, the Commissioners hired nationally renowned architect Dwight James Baum to be the supervising architect for the courthouse and in June they approved the preliminary drawings. In September they awarded the construction contract to Stevenson & Cameron, Inc., of New York. By February 1927 county officials completed their move into the new building.

The Spanish/Mediterranean Revival architectural style of the courthouse was very popular in Florida during the 1920s. The H-shaped structure consisted of two two-story rectangular buildings that were connected to a central tower by an arcade. Stucco covered the hollow clay tile and masonry construction. Barrel tiles for the roof came from Spain. Samuel Yellin, nationally known wrought iron artist, created many of the decorative grills and railings. Polychromed glazed terra cotta tile and cast stone adorned the entranceways, windows, and tower. A green-tiled reflecting pool, since drained and landscaped, was on the Main Street side of the building.

The judicial portion of the building, on the east, contained a courtroom, a jail, and accommodations for the jailer and the sheriff. Separate jail cells, restrooms, and witness rooms were labeled for "colored" and "white." The west section of the building included space for the county commissioners, tax collector and clerk, farm and kitchen demonstration, public health, and public instruction.

Two additions to the courthouse in 1955 and 1965 covered the original courthouse façade along Ringling Boulevard.

Dedicated in 2002 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission