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Change Marked Sarasota in Post-War Years

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Mark D. Smith
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - Change Marked Sarasota in Post-War Years photo

With the end of World War II in August 1945, Sarasota County emerged from the collapse of the land boom, the Great Depression and the rigors of war with a new outlook to the future. The war had brought thousands of military personnel to the area and the Army had built two air bases, in Sarasota and Venice. In late 1945 and into 1946, the Army closed the bases and turned them over to the local governments. Both Sarasota and Venice had modern airfields by the end of 1946.

The City of Sarasota decided that a change was needed in their city government to better provide for the great changes that they were sure would come to their community. A movement was begun to change the city's form of government from an elected mayor to a city manager form of government.

On November 5, 1945, an election was held to change the city charter. With a vote of 1,499 for and 405 against, Sarasota voted to change its charter. The new charter became effective on December 7, 1945. On January 19, 1946, Ross E. Windom was hired and took office on February 1, 1946, as Sarasota's first city manager.

Changes were happening all over Sarasota County in 1945 and 1946. Myakka River State Park, which was dedicated in February 1941, had not bee finished by the outbreak of World War II. In 1946, plans to resume work in the park were announced.

In South County, Warm Mineral Springs, located just north of what is today the city of North Port, was sold. F.W. Wagner paid $60,000 for the springs and surrounding land. They announced plans to build a "Healthorium" in the springs.

In the Venice-Nokomis area, a syndicate of businessmen headed by Robert S. Baynard purchased much of the holdings of Dr. Fred Albee from his widow. It is reported that 14,000 acres were acquired that included large portions of the City of Venice, Nokomis and parts of the residential developments of Bay Point and Treasure Island and 12,000 acres of farmland.

With these new developments came a growth in population. Sarasota County grew from 16,106 in 1940 to 28, 287 in 1950, a 43 % increase. The City of Sarasota's population went from 11,141 in 1940 to 18,896 in 1950, a 40% increase.

Demands were being made for additional basic services, such as water and electric power. In February 1946, the City of Sarasota began to expand its water system with new water lines and plans to double the capacity of the soft water plant. Florida Power and Light, in the summer of 1945, began construction on a new 18,000 kwh steam turbine plant at Payne Terminal (10the Street and the Tamiami Trail today). It went on line in January 1946 and served the area for nearly 20 years. To make Sarasota County a more pleasant place to live, and to increase tourism and business, spraying for mosquitoes began in 1946-47 throughout the county.

One of the major events in the late 1940s was the acceptance of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art by the State of Florida. Ten years after the death of John Ringling and countless legal battles, the museum opened to the public with great fanfare. Also, in 1948, after 20 years without having a permanent home, The Sarasota County Fair Association moved to its new home on Ringling Boulevard. The post-war years brought Sarasota County into a new building boom that continues today.