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Newsletter August 18, 2008

Published Thursday, September 18, 2008

This Week

"Stormy Weather" was not just a dazzling song sung by Judy Garland, but it is a reality on this coast during hurricane season. Why even today we have a storm heading our way. Be sure and check out Lee's take on hurricanes, while you still have power to your computer. Click here to learn about this the 'big one' of 1921.

If you missed last week's webisode on the St. Armands Key or want to browse through our video archive, click the link below to catch up on what you've missed.

Video archive »


Architect's Corner - The Art Moderene Style 1930-1945

The Art Moderne style, like the Art Deco and International styles, broke from the past. The style gained favor in the United States shortly after 1930, when industrial designs began to exhibit streamlined shapes. The idea of rounded corners to make automobiles and airplanes more aerodynamic was applied to kitchen appliances, jewelry, and many other products where function was less popular than form.

Like Art Deco, Art Moderne buildings in Florida were located in coastal communities where tourism remained popular during the Great Depression. Art Moderne was usually applied to commercial and apartment buildings. Private residences exhibiting the Art Moderne style were less common.

Buildings with Art Moderne styling have flat roofs, smooth exterior surfaces, glass blocks, horizontal grooves, cantilevered overhangs, and rounded corners to emphasize a streamline effect. They typically have an irregular plan of one to three stories. Their foundations are made of continuous concrete. The roofs were often flat with raised parapet.

Most of the local examples of the Art Moderne style are public buildings constructed in the 1930s. These buildings include the City of Sarasota's first library, the Chidsey library, located on the North Tamiami Trail, and the city's former fire station located on Fruitville Road. Pictured above is Sarasota's Art Moderne Municipal Auditorium (pictured above). Its sloping semicircular roof in not typical of the style.

(Source: Sarasota County Design Guidelines For Historic Properties manual.)


A Gleaming Landmark Church

Religion has always played an important part in the development of Sarasota. Even though the population was small, several denominations were organized in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

The First Baptist Church was organized on March 23, 1902, with five charter members: the Rev. Henry Messer, James Bates, Nathan Hayman, Mrs. Kiziah Messer, and Patsy Dancy. The Rev. P.O. Miller was the first regularly elected pastor and James Bates was the first clerk.

In December 1903, the Rev. H.H. Norris was elected pastor, and the Sunday school was organized in July 1904. For the first two years of the church's existence, the small congregation met in the old Methodist Church at Five Points on Sunday afternoons.

The First Baptist Church was erected on Eight Street (now, Second Street), near Central Avenue in 1904. It was a simple frame building. The pastorium was built on an adjoining lot in 1912. The church immediately began its outreach into the community. Two examples would be the Baptist Young Peoples Union, organized in November 1915, and the Woman's Missionary Union, organized in 1916 to succeed the Ladies Aid Society, which was founded in 1904.

By 1920, the congregation had grown to a point that a larger building was needed. In December 1920, two lots at Adelia and Main Street were purchased for $2,500. By October 1923, a building committee was appointed, and work soon began on the new site. Plans for the new building were done by nationally renowned church architect George Washington Kramer of New York.

The new church was completed in December 1924, costing an estimated $30,000. The property on Eight Street was sold, and the buildings were moved. The bell from the old church was presented to the Bethlehem Baptist Church on Central Avenue.

Click here to learn more.


Positive Things Happening at the Preservation Board

At last week's Historic Preservation Board meeting some positive things were discussed that affect all of us interested in heralding our past.

Ernest Ritz proposed a Founders' Memorial be estabished in the middle of Five Points, when a roundabout is constructed there in the future. At first, he and other history devotees, wanted to return the original World War I Memorial that used to be there to its home. Currently, the memorial is at the foot of lower Main Street in J.D. Hamel park.

However, they met with opposition from Veteran's groups. The Preservation Board raised concerns about pedestrian safety and crosswalks, yet are interested in Mr. Ritz's proposal. Further study and recommendations are in order from the city engineers. We'll keep you posted on this interesting project.

The historic Belle Haven office building (pictured right) is going to be moved and "mothballed". Bruce Franklin (The ADP Group), Michael Furen, and Chris Hanlon presented the Board with plans to move the National Register of Historic Places building from its present location to the north somewhat, to allow for raising the building up 7 feet, and adjusting it to fit within the Bay Side development. The building must be raised due to it being in a flood plain. The Board had some concerns with how long this beauty will be "mothballed", and left up in the air, so to speak. As with many major projects recently, it all depends on when the economy improves and the developer can break ground.

Tales of Sarasota

Last week, Pete and Diane both blogged about the Commercial Court building, but this week they are world's apart in their stories. In fact Pete tells us of a Civil War holiday and Diane reminds us about the Woman's Club. What do they have in common? Nothing we suppose, yet it is always great to learn about their perspective on local lore and more. 


Preserve America Award Event

On Friday, September 19th, the White House Preserve America Award will be presented to the City of Sarasota by Mr. John L. Nau, III, Chairman of the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and Dr. Jan Matthews, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The event will be held at the historic Federal Building on South Orange Avenue. Local promoters of historic preservation have been invited to attend.


Think Green!

Sarasota experienced unparalleled growth during the land boom years of the 1920s.

The city's population went from 2,150 in 1922 to more than 8,000 by 1926. This massive growth put a strain on the city's power plant. Power would be shut off when the demand peaked, leaving the city in the dark. Also, there was no gas system in the city and people used kerosene and wood for cooking and heating. Although the city eventually sold its power plant to the Florida Power and Light Co., problems continued to exist.

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)

James B. Green had been hearing complaints from customers regarding the lack of dependable fuel in Sarasota since he came to Sarasota in 1924 as a partner in the Ambrose Plumbing Co. Although these complaints were not directed at him, Green conceived of the idea of a fuel that would be dependable and affordable. Green knew that hydrocarbon gases were being wasted daily in the oil fields, and he realized what a valuable source of fuel this could be. He began work on the formula that would convert these gases into a usable fuel.

To learn more about Green's Fuel and how an untapped resource revolutionized our power needs in Sarasota, Click here.


Yesterday's Sarasota Calendar

Every day of the year we highlight what took place in Sarasota's history, thanks to Whit Rylee and Tom Payne's extensive research and sense of humor. Frequently check our website's homepage to find out what occured today.

For example, this Friday in 1955, good fortune often strikes more than once. Betsy Booth, a former Miss Sarasota (some of the beauties pictured in the photo), became the one millionth person to cross the Sunshine Skyway bridge, for which she received a free dinner and flowers. (She still had to pay the toll!) The more you know...

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Where Am I?

I am attached to a building that is quite important to all of us in Sarasota County. The name in the photo of this cornerstone is known to many who appreciate architecure of the 1920s. Let 'justice' prevail when you guess my location, and look for me in person the next time you visit me.