Granada's Bonita Park Fountain
Buildings: Sarasota History
Granada's Bonita Park Fountain is located within a small circular park at the intersection of Camino Real and Fortuna Street, in the Granada Subdivision close to the southern boundaries of the City of Sarasota.
The small park is landscaped with flowers and foliage which makes for a very peaceful setting for the fountain. Original sidewalks from the street approach the fountain from two sides. Although the park was maintained for many years by the City of Sarasota, it is now cared for by Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, since the consolidation of services in 1991.
This unique fountain is the centerpiece and focal point of not only the park, but for the entire neighborhood. The main construction material is brick although portions of the structure have a rough stucco exterior finish. A masonry cap tops the fountain with a decorative finial in the center of the cap. Identical lion masks adorn two of the four sides. The mouths of these masks house the tubing for streaming water circulated by the fountain pump, when operational. Below each mask are elaborately decorated semi-circle masonry bowls attached to the wall that serve to catch the flowing water and allow for re-circulation.
Granada Subdivision was platted in 1924 within Sarasota County. Single family dwellings with various styles of architecture including, Spanish and wood frame bungalows suited the subdivision's name, as well as the street names of the neighborhood; Flores, Fortuna, Jacinto, Bonita and Camino Real. The entire plan was all part of the romantic Spanish Revival theme that was popular throughout Florida and California during the boom era of the 1920s.
The subdivision was founded and developed by Charles "Charley" Tyson. Tyson came to Sarasota from Tennessee in 1924 and bought acreage amid the cabbage scrub palmetto along Siesta Boulevard, between Osprey Avenue and the Siesta Key bridge, and called it "Granada." Many people doubted the future of the project knowing Tyson had paid a substantial amount of money for property.
Ignoring skeptics, "...he kept on sawing wood and developing, until Granada was a bee hive of energy, a picture of artistic merit, with a score or so of beautiful homes and broad boulevards in the making."
When Granada's original plans were drawn they included wide streets with a park identified on the original play as "Bonita Park" at the center of the development. The construction of the park and its landscaping were one of the first improvements to be completed. This park was planned and executed as a focal point for the subdivision. Laid out with a circular plan, the park was laid out in a circle and at its center a decorative masonry fountain/marker was erected. Newspaper advertisements for "The Lodge" located "Overlooking Granada Fountain Park" identified the park with another name.
From 1925-1950s, the Sarasota Herald newspaper accounts regularly and frequently included news items referring to new homes being completed in Granada and continuing to mention social gatherings that took place there over the later years. For many years, the neighborhood had an active garden circle and bridge club whose resident members were of high social standings. A neighborhood association was created which still exists today. Several prominent winter visitors and local residents chose Granada as their place of residence. Granada boasted several physicians as residents including one of the only pediatrician's in the city. He operated an office out of his home on Fortuna Street. Among many others, some of the residents included, Floyd Ziegler, City Councilman, Frances Walpole, manager of the popular Walpole's Pharmacy, the Conciellos, famous aerialists with the Ringling Circus and architect Thomas Reed Martin, recognized as one of Sarasota's most important architects during the 1920s and 30s. Martin is believed to be responsible for the design of several of Granada's Spanish Eclectic Style bungalows. Martin's wife, Sadie W. Martin was a charter member of both the Granada League, a women's civic organization, and the first garden circle in Granada.
Leadly Ogden, a builder who is responsible for the construction of numerous boom time buildings in Sarasota was also active in the building of homes in Granada. The possibility exists that Martin designed the fountain and Ogden's firm constructed it, although this cannot be verified.
Following the collapse of the Florida Land Boom, Tyson's continued plans for Granada floundered just as development in many of the other Boom Time subdivisions, but the push for completion of the planned community continued.
An advertisement in the Sarasota Herald in the 1930s read:
"Let me suggest that you visit GRANADA, the socially approved South Side residential district near the lower bay and south beaches. All owner occupied homes. Visit VINELAND, residence of Thomas Reed Martin, local architect and see a natural tropical garden - one of Sarasota's outstanding private estates Mr. Martin will be pleased to show you a beautiful home site adjoining VINELAND."
Martin's VINELAND was located at the corner of Camino Real and Bay Road just two blocks from Bonita Park. His residence still stands.
A minimum number of houses were constructed in Granada in the late 1920s and during the following depression years. During World War II, Granada had its own Red Cross Work Center building, although its location is not known. It was not until after WWII that the incomplete subdivision was the site of many new homes. By the mid-1950s, the subdivision was, for the most part, fully developed.
Since the time of development, Granada has continued to be a vital and well-planned neighborhood. With only a few exceptions, it is completely owner occupied. Residents today are comprised of a good mix of family units ranging from single professionals, young and middle-age families, and retired long time resident owners. The neighborhood enjoys a pleasant atmosphere. Homeowner Association meetings are held at least once a year and annual neighborhood events, which are voluntary, include group Christmas caroling, a Halloween parade and Easter egg hunt.
Although a number of new subdivisions were platted in 1925 such as Granada, few other developments actually provided neighborhood "amenities." Some subdivisions such as Sapphire Shores, in the extreme north of the city, and Cherokee Park, near what was then the southern limits of the city, and Gillespie Park provided pocket parks that have survived, but none were endowed with a fountain as a centerpiece. Granada's Bonita Park serves as a central meeting point for participants of the events. All residents are familiar with the "park" or "circle" and appreciate and enjoy it as a unique neighborhood enhancement and distinct point of pride for the neighborhood.
The Granada Bonita Park Fountain was historically designated by the City of Sarasota in 1994.
Research and narrative, courtesy of Mikki Hartig - Historical and Architectural Research Services