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Land Emerged as Prime Real Estate

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Ann A. Shank, former County Historian
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center
Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Sarasota History - Land Emerged as Prime Real Estate photo

Early residents of Sarasota called it Cedar Point. Today it includes Golden Gate Point and Sunset Park. The original 1886 plat of Sarasota did not include Cedar Point. It was a T-shaped piece of land extending west from the southern end of Banana Avenue (now North Tamiami Trail), and much of it was swampy or under water part of the time. The cross bar of the "T" lay in a north-south direction at the western edge of the point.

In 1899, Cedar Point was platted and added to the town of Sarasota. Some of the lots contained more water than dry land. By 1905, the Town Council proposed erecting sea walls around the platted lots so that sand could be pumped in to raise the elevation.

Cedar Point initially was not a residential development. In "The Story of Sarasota," Karl Grismer describes a short-lived export business that operated out of a two-story fish house on a pier near the northern end of Cedar Point. The business sold dried fish roe under the name of "Gatzago." Just off the point, fishermen spread their nets to dry on "netspreads." Cedar Point also housed the town's first jail (pictured above). W.F. Rigby offered to build it for $105, and a 1905 plat locates the "lockup" just north of the high water mark of the west side of Banana Avenue.

A sawmill and boathouse with machine shop also moved onto Cedar Point. K.M. Hebb and S.D. McKean, both originally from Canada, came to Sarasota around 1900 and built the sawmill, which helped provide lumber for the development that followed the arrival of the railroad in 1903. George Roberts operated a boathouse on the point with 300 feet of track to pull boats in from the water. The Sarasota Times reported in 1912 that he planned to add a machinist to his four-man operation so he could expand his work to include auto and gasoline engine repairs.

While George Roberts was building and repairing boats, the Sarasota Yacht and Automobile Club purchased a lot on Cedar Point for a clubhouse. Construction began in the spring of 1912, and it marked the beginning of the end for industrial dominance of Cedar Point. Not long after, The Times reported that dredging had begun to fill in the area. The following year, The Town Council extended Gulfstream Avenue westward to the Yacht and Automobile Club. In 1914, Owen Burns platted the Sunset Park subdivision just to the west of the club on the northern portion of the "T" and surrounding land that was created by dredge and fill.

John Ringling's purchase in 1917 of the Yacht and Automobile Club and neighboring properties brought more change to Cedar Point. At the clubhouse dock Ringling began to anchor his yachts and his wife, Mable, oversaw the conversion of the clubhouse to an apartment building. Ringling contracted with Owen Burns to build additional seawalls and, by dredging and filling, to extend the size of Cedar Point. In the southern section of the "T," Cedar Point was approximately doubled in width and length, thus providing the land for the new Golden Gate Point subdivision in 1925.

Off the southwestern edge of Golden Gate Point, construction began in early 1925 on the causeway that would connect the mainland with the properties being readied by John Ringling Estates, Inc. on St. Armands and Lido Keys. When the public drove across the causeway a year later, the former Cedar Point had become the gateway to a widely promoted paradise on the Gulf.

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