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Municipal Auditorium, Recreation Center and Hazzard Fountain

Markers: Sarasota History

Source: Sarasota Public Records
Credit: Sarasota History Alive!
Location: 801 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

Sarasota History - Municipal Auditorium, Recreation Center and Hazzard Fountain photo

In 1936, the City of Sarasota acquired approximately 40 acres of land for a bayfront civic center.  It was located just south of (now) 10th Street and between (now) North Tamiami Trail and the bay.  Mayor E. A. Smith announced plans to construct "one of the finest recreation centers in the South” on the property.   

Sarasota architects Thomas Reed Martin and Clarence A. Martin designed the Municipal Auditorium, using elements of Art Deco and Moderne architectural styles.

Funding for the project came from the Federal Works Projects Administration (WPA), the city and several prominent Sarasota businessmen. The $100,000 Auditorium opened February 23, 1938 with the annual Sara de Soto Pageant ball.   

John and Ida Chidsey donated funding for the construction of a second floor for the Recreation Club at the western end of the Auditorium. The facility contained a lounge area, a recreation room, and a men's card room.  North of the building, shuffleboard, lawn bowling, and tennis facilities were built.  The recreation center was dedicated January 1940. 

Sarasota County Historical Commission 2003

 

(side two)

On December 12, 1940, Mr. and Mrs. Robert P. Hazzard formally presented to the City of Sarasota the electrically lit Art Deco style fountain that was built in front of the Auditorium.  It was designed by architect Frank Martin, the son of Thomas Reed Martin.

During World War II, the Auditorium served as the Army and Navy Club. Home of the Florida West Coast Symphony, the Auditorium also hosted dances, graduations, banquets, seminars, conventions, and various special interest exhibits.

Renamed the Civic Center Exhibition Hall in 1969, the Auditorium was remodeled in 1971.  Changes included placing an aluminum façade over the block glass in the front and adding a canopy over the front entrance.   

In 1992, an extensive rehabilitation of the Exhibition Hall began.  In addition to major interior work, the aluminum façade and cantilevered canopy of the 1970s rehabilitation were removed.  The original glass blocks were replaced and the building's Art Deco/Moderne style façade and original name were restored. The Hazzard fountain, removed from the site for several decades, was returned and reconditioned.

 

Sarasota County Historical Commission 2003