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Venice Train Depot

Markers: Sarasota History

Location: 303 East Venice Avenue, Venice, FL

Sarasota History - Venice Train Depot photo

The first successful railroad into what is now Sarasota County came when a the United States and West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company, a subsidiary of the Seaboard Air Line Railway (SAL), brought its first train into Sarasota in 1903. Two years later the tracks were extended to Fruitville.

The railroad came to Venice at the request of Mrs. Potter (Bertha) Palmer. She and family members had visited the Sarasota Bay area in 1910 and soon purchased thousands of acres, some of which lay south of Roberts Bay. The SAL extended the line from Fruitville through Bee Ridge, where the Palmers' Sarasota-Venice Company was developing land, to the Palmers' Venice properties. The early depot was located at the junction of (now) Tampa and Nokomis Avenues.

In 1918 the Manasota Lumber Compay constructed a four story sawmill and surrounding town of Woodmere south of Venice. The Gulf Coast Railway built a 7.9-mile rail line from Woodmere to Venice, so lumber could be transported to a Tampa shipyard.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) began work on the new City of Venice in 1925. City Planner John Nolen had the SAL tracks moved eastward to the industrial section.

In keeping with the architectural style adopted for the city, the New York architectural firm of Walker and Gillette designed a new Mediterranean Revival style terminal. Built of stucco-covered hollow clay tile with barrel roof tile, the $47,500 depot included segregated waiting rooms and ticket windows, baggage and freight rooms, and a 400-foot long roofed platform. Trains began using the new station March 27, 1927.

During the next four decades the depot served many people and institutions who contributed to the development of the city. In January 1933, Kentucky Military Institute students, faculty, and staff arrived by train for the first of nearly forty years of winter terms in Venice. When the U.S. Army established a World War II air base in Venice in 1942, the railroad became the primary route of entry for material and personnel. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus depended on the rail line when it moved to Venice in 1960.

With the launching of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) on May 1, 1971, passenger service to southwest Florida ceased. In 1998 Sarasota County Government acquired the depot, the last one in the county.

Dedicated in 2003 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission

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