Owen Burns was one of Sarasota's most distinguished citizens and connected with virtually every early development of the city. He first came to Sarasota on vacation from Chicago in 1910 and decided to make it his home. He purchased more than 75% of the land area of the city, making him the largest landowner.
Burns helped organize the Sarasota Board of Trade in 1911, was instrumental in founding the first locally owned bank, and was a leader in the push to divide Sarasota County from Manatee County in 1921.
His other activities included the effort to have the city's first streets paved and the construction of Sarasota's first seawalls. He oversaw the development of the bayfront subdivisions of Cedar Point and Sunset Park and of Washington Park, just east of this site. His Burns Construction Company built the Ringling causeways connecting Sarasota to St. Armands Key, and Lido Key. At one time, he owned all of Lido Key. He was initially involved with John Ringling in the development of St. Armands and John Ringling Estates. During the 1920s, his construction firm was responsible for the construction of some of Sarasota's most notable buildings, including John and Mable Ringling's home, Ca'd'Zan.
Burns Court Herald Square
In 1925, Owen Burns had Sarasota's finest and most beautiful Boom Time hotel, the El Vernona, and the Burns Real Estate Office, adjacent to the hotel, constructed. That same year, he developed and built the charming Burns Court subdivision, designed by local architect Thomas Reed Martin. It is located one to three blocks to the northwest of this site. He also built the adjacent triangular-shaped Burns Building which was designed by New York and Sarasota society architect, Dwight James Baum. The surrounding area then became known as Herald Square after the Sarasota Herald building was completed across Orange Avenue that same year.
Burns and his wife raised five children together in Sarasota. He continued to maintain his home and remain active in the city until his death in 1937. Owen Burns was a remarkable and distinguished entrepreneur who chose Sarasota as his home and a place to raise his family. He devoted his civic and professional life to the city's improvement and held a never ending vision for Sarasota's future. He made great efforts and contributions towards turning Sarasota from a small fishing village into the great city that it is today. In honor of his distinguished character and the mark he left on Sarasota, this small square was dedicated to him by the Sarasota City Commission in 2001.
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