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Buchan Led Drive for Better Roads

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Ann Shank, former Sarasota County Historian
Source: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Photo Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources

To Buchan’s Landing came the schooners that served as the life line between the pioneer Englewood community and the rest of the world before there were roads.

Will Hamlin’s Phantom (pictured) brought supplies to Peter Buchan’s store. As late as 1917, the Sarasota Times periodically reported on the Friday arrivals from Tampa of the schooner J.W. Booth, captained by W.H. Lampp. Not until that year was there a “hard” road for Englewood drivers, and writer Josephine Cortes gives much of the credit for that development to the “father of Englewood roads,” Peter E. Buchan.

Buchan first appeared in the Lemon Bay area in 1902, worked awhile for one of the founders of Englewood, H.K. Nichols, and left. In 1912, he returned and purchased Nichols’ general store, including a post office and the entire store’s merchandise, for $315. Four years later, Buchan moved his business complex a few blocks south to a two-story building on present Dearborn Street. The family lived on the second floor.

As with many early general store-post office combinations, Buchan’s store served as a multi-faceted community center. When Mrs. Stanley Lampp photographed the tree removal that preceded road construction, Buchan displayed her photos in his store. The Times reported in May 1917 that Buchan “installed a public pay station of the telephone in his store, for the convenience of his customers. All points north, including Tampa, can be communicated with at reasonable rates.” The store also served as the voting place for the Englewood precinct.

In a Sarasota Herald-Tribune nearly 55 years ago, Cortes related a story about the condition of Englewood roads, as told by Buchan. The ruts in the graded road between Englewood and Manasota were so deep that a wagon or truck could “guide itself.” One day, a truck from Venice collided with a mule and wagon from Englewood, each “guiding itself” along the ruts and into each other.

In 1914, Buchan began to work for decent roads in the community. He met with leaders of the “good roads” group in the southern portion of (then) Manatee County, and when the voters cast their votes on a road project from Sarasota to Punta Gorda, all eleven registered voters in Englewood said, “Yes.” The hard road of crushed rock finally came through in 1917.

The delays and inadequacies of public roads were some of the issues that brought a number of people together on June 16, 1920, to discuss the desirability of separating from Manatee County. P.E. Buchan and a carload of other residents from Englewood were there, urging division. Buchan was one of a 25-member general committee selected to oversee the study of a separate county.

A year later, Englewood citizens voted 25-0 in favor of a new county. To fill the gap before there was time to hold elections, Governor Hardee appointed the first county officers. Thereby, Buchan became the first commissioner to represent the Englewood area.
In October 1921, a major hurricane swept the southwest coast of Florida. The wind and waves moved the Buchan’s store off its foundation. Although initially thought to have been severely damaged, the building was placed back on its foundation within weeks, and the Times reported the only damage to have been lost goods. Decades later, Buchan’s daughter remembered that barrels of flour and corn meal had floated several blocks inland.

Buchan sold his store in 1924 but returned to his home in Englewood in the 1930s and served another 16 years on the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners. The Buchan family name continues to be part of Englewood’s heritage, long after the death of the Englewood pioneer.