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This Week Newsletter - January 11, 2012_copy

Sarasota History Alive! Where history happens every day.

Just Jane!

Just about the longest trip you can make and still stay within the borders of the USA’s “lower 48” is what I did recently, flying from Sarasota to Seattle. I’d normally make this trip to visit my son’s family at Ft. Lewis-McChord in the sunnier months, but babysitting necessities prevailed.

I’m always in total awe crossing this huge country filled with every imaginable kind of topography, seen from 30,000 feet. From one coast to the other, over green hills, then drab brown flatlands carving the countryside into a patchwork quilt of winter fields that gradually morph into snowcapped Rocky Mountains and finally the Cascade Mountains. The huge majesty of Mt. Ranier then royally announces our arrival at the chilly coastal waters of the Pacific North West. Read more...


Drive By Gems

When was the last time you took the time to go for a ‘Sunday drive?’ If it’s been awhile we are pleased to help show off some of Sarasota’s beautiful neighborhoods; and you don’t have to even get in the car.

Each week we will feature a charming home, commercial structure of historical significance, or public art that represents what interesting things you can find in Sarasota.

(Note: We only provide addresses of homes that are historically designated, and are listed in public records)

This lovely home is in the Harbor Acres neighborhood, and I have it on good authority that Betty Hutton stayed there while she was in town filming “The Greatest Show on Earth.” On the outside, it has not changed too much since that time, and it is so nice to have a piece of history that is beautifully maintained, in an ever-changing neighborhood.  

Be sure to have a look at our Vintage Properties listings, new homes are always being added. Your dream house may be one of them.


Ain't Life Grand?

Your editor spends a great deal of time at the Sarasota County History Center finding interesting information for you to ponder. While there, he also comes across many photos that depict life at an earlier time in history. With that in mind, check out this week's image.

Oh, those crazy college kids! I can’t figure out if they’re chomping on a Twinkie or a Chinese egg-roll. Back in those days, Twinkie’s weren’t even invented, but egg-rolls have been around for a long, long time. Anyhow, it looks like they’re having fun, even if they are chillin' in those fancy duds. 

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Letters to the Editor

We are accepting letters-to-the-editor, so please Click here to submit your comments, experiences, ideas, and general information. Thanks for continuing to keep Sarasota’s history alive!

Dear Editor:

Well do I remember in Sarasota in the 50's riding on a floats and freezing our tails off (I think it was January or February) in bathing suits while cheerfully smiling and waving at the crowds. Also, on Main Street near Five Points there was a circus wagon called the monkey cage where men not wearing Spanish costume were thrown in - I don't know for how long...

I think this was all part of a tourist event based on some dubious legend claiming that Sarasota was named after Hernando DeSoto's daughter Sara. She fell in love with Seminole Indian chief Osceola, but since Daddy Hernando said no to their union, bereft Osceola tragically jumped in Sarasota Bay and drowned himself.

In those days every Florida tourist town tried to have some similar attraction - Tampa had Gasparilla Day celebrating (I think) pirate Jose Gaspar.  

At some point when a local vociferous Scotsman named ‘Mac-Something’ made a fuss claiming that our town was really founded instead by Scotsmen like Gillespie (eponymous Park), settlers who had maybe even played here the very first game of golf in this country. So for awhile the pageant tried being Scottish but the costumes were pretty dull. Instead of an ornate Spanish ball gown, the queen of the pageant (one year it was my good friend Sandy Montressor) was dressed in a plain white debutante-style formal gown decorated only with a plaid sash across her chest.  B-O-R-I-N-G. 

Having moved away to college in New Orleans and New York soon afterward, I have no idea when this old pageant died. Perhaps in the dumb doldrums around the same time as when the fabulous Lido Beach Casino was allowed to deteriorate and be torn down. Sigh.

Jill Spelman

Dear Editor:

I grew up in Sarasota, one of my brothers still lives there. When we were in grade school, Philippi Shores, there was a week dedicated to our Scotish heritage. It was a fun week which also had a wonderful parade. Of course back then the circus also participated in the parade as well. 

Later, in the mid 60's I believe, this was replaced with the "King Neptune" theme. This was more a time for "Parties and drinking" and not for parades and promoting the city.

I think a resurrecting of a Pageant like the Sara De Sota Pageant would be well received by many in Sarasota.

Neil Stich

Dear Editor:

As usual I enjoyed today's edition of Sarasota History Alive--especially the story about street names. Growth in the metropolitan Sarasota area was putting a burden on the Post Office because of the duplication of street names. Mosby’s work preparing new property maps presented an opportunity to correct the street-naming problem. The Post Master, Gordon Higel asked the County to help him straighten out the mess that existed and to allow him to control the naming of new streets. I was asked to work with him. There were duplications and inconsistencies in numbering that also needed correcting. We devised the following plan: 

  • East-West thoroughfares would be renamed 'Streets'
  • North-South thoroughfares would be renamed Avenues
  • 7th became 1st Street
  • The old 5th became State Street
  • Roads would remain Roads

There were complaints. “Avenue” sounded classy, while "Street" sounded ordinary. “Why should I have to change my street name from 12th to 6th Street?” "Why should I have to change my address from 2604 to 1804?”

The Postmaster prevailed, the changes were made, and all new developments followed the new method of naming new streets.

Another major change had to do with the requirement of naming any through road that lined up with existing roads to use the same name, even though miles might separate the two. An example was Beneva Road which had stretches and gaps and was called Oriente north of Fruitville Road. Starting at 17th Street (which used to be 23rd Street) Beneva was the name down to U.S. 41 at Vamo Road. An exception was made for Swift Road. It was allowed to remain even though it lined up with Tuttle Avenue. There was confusion for a while but eventually everyone got used to the new system.

Don Smally


Southside School

During the Great Depression, Southside Elementary and the rest of the city's schools were closed for lack of money. Only those students who could afford tuition were allowed to return. Enterprising students developed money-making schemes. Coat hangers and cola bottles were collected, and odd jobs were sought. Luckily, the school system is currently not in those dire straits. To appreciate what it was like then, Click Here to view the video.


Summer Festival of the Arts

The Sarasota Summer Festival of the Arts was Sarasota's bid for the package-trip trade that had proven to be successful in bringing summer tourists to the Miami Beach area in the early 1950s.

The Sarasota Foundation Inc., with Kent S. McKinley as its president, began work in January 1953 to develop a month-long summer arts festival that would begin June 29 and end July 26. With the festival, the city hoped to bring in thousands of tourists for the various lectures, concerts, workshops and exhibitions being planned.

Kent S. McKinley, interviewed by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in March 1953, said, "Sarasota has everything as a potential cultural center of the South. Our Foundation is making its appeal to those who are interested in the arts, not to the fanatical fringe but to the average, middle-of-the-road wage earner."

The foundation was located in an office adjoining the Palm Tree Playhouse box office on First Street. To help attract artists from all over the nation, G.O. Shepherd, the foundation's director, planned three major festival shows. The art show, directed by Andrew Sanders, would offer cash prizes of $2,000. The craft show, directed by Kenneth Hiliiard, would offer cash prizes of $750. Local photographer Joseph Steinmetz would direct the photo show, which offered cash prizes of $500. Read more...

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)



The word, ‘ephemera’ has such a unique sound to it; wouldn’t you agree? At the Sarasota County History Center, there is quite a bit of it on hand and it is being made into a collection for easier reference. There are so many interesting brochures, flyers, menus, pamphlets, and other materials that bring a smile to your face and jog your memory bank. The History Center is open from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday for research hours.

When was the last time you bought a supply of celluloid starch? I guess it was right before ‘wash and wear’ came onto the scene. Hey, Uncle Sam endorsed this product and you can save the trademarks for premium prizes! I wonder if this was a precursor to S & H Green Stamps.

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Yesterday's Sarasota Calendar

Every day of the year we highlight what took place in Sarasota's history, thanks to Whit Rylee and Tom Payne's extensive research and sense of humor. Frequently check our website's homepage to find out what occured today.

Whit Rylee, Sarasota native, long time Sarasota historian and creator of the Yesterday’s Sarasota Calendar has started a new organic family farm in Marshall, North Carolina. It is named, Riddle Farm. Along with his best friend Jessica Thistlegrove and their children, Whit is restoring the 99 year-old farm house. He also has a collection of interesting out buildings, such as a smoke house and milk parlor. Visit Whit's Web site at www.riddlefarm.net

This Friday in 1910, Dr. Joseph (Doc Joe) Halton moved into his concrete mansion, built by E.C. Maus. Dr. Halton was one of the pioneer physicians in Sarasota. His home, on the northeast corner of Cocoanut Avenue and Fruitville Road still stands today and now houses the law offices of Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni & Walsh.

New Pics on Facebook

Each week, your editor posts photos on our Sarasota History Alive! Facebook page for your enjoyment and comments. He especially likes to create "Then and Now" comparisons for you to ponder.

From a livery stable to a spice store and pastry shop, things have come a long way on the south side of Main Street near Lemon Avenue. While you’re sitting outside at Pastry Art, enjoying your coffee and treat, try to imagine horses being shoed and lodged just behind you in the late 1800s. If the city digs up the sidewalk to replace it with brick, perhaps you might find a horseshoe. Good luck!

('Then' photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Postcard of the Week

Who doesn't love to receive a vintage postcard in their in-box? A short message, a quick 'hello," a reminder, a love note, or anything you want to use our free service for is certainly worth it. See our Mobile Web-app to access these classy collectibles to send to your friends and loved ones. You can't beat the price!

This is one of my favorite postcards taken in downtown Sarasota. I am so happy that this building has been preserved. I wonder what ever happened to the 'Orange Blossom' sign - I sure would love to have it, but I bet Greg Best would beat me to it if it ever surfaced. Does anyone out there remember the Aztec Room there?

Contact us if you have some fond memories of the grand hotel in its heyday.

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


The Smack

When I posted this photo on Facebook, I was thrilled with the number of people who remembered this icon of drive-ins. Seems like most people thought they had the best onion rings – ever! I wish we could read the menu next to the speaker the woman is using to place her order. Note the spotlight on the driver’s side of her Ford. There's lot’s of speculation why that was there; any ideas? 


Warm Mineral Springs

For hundreds of years Warm Mineral Springs has been helping people rejuvenate not only their well being, but their spirit as well. This 81-acre property is a historical, recreational and environmental treasure that continues to attract people from around the world to North Port.

In order to ensure that this property continues to benefit the residents of North Port and the surrounding communities, the City of North Port and Sarasota County purchased Warm Mineral Springs in 2010. Now leaders in city and county government want to know what your vision is for Warm Mineral Springs. It is easy to let them know your vision for Warm Mineral Springs.

City and county staff will be on hand at several public events this month to answer your questions and tell you about the spring’s natural resources, historical significance, recreational opportunities and the possibilities for economic development.

If you would like to attend one of the three events, or participate online, please contact Sarasota County at 941-861-5000 for more information.


History Wherever You Go

Checkout the Sarasota History Alive! Mobile Web App. Local history is now available in the palm of your hand via your favorite Web-enabled smart phone or other hand held Web-ready device.

Site Features:

  • Historic Buildings and Homes
  • Historical Markers
  • Send over 100 Vintage Postcards
  • Photos of old Sarasota
  • Public Art
  • Video History
  • County Parks and Beach locations
  • Dining and Entertainment listings
  • Shopping and Hotel listings
  • and more

Learn More...