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Newsletter February 24, 2016

Published Wednesday, February 24, 2016 6:00 am
by Larry Kelleher

26th Annual Homes Tour

The Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation presents their Twenty-Sixth Annual Historic Homes Tour on St. Armand’s Key this March 6, 2016. The hours are from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., rain or shine. Every year the Alliance draws sell-out crowds of people who are thrilled to see inside Sarasota’s historic homes that are well preserved and tastefully decorated. This year’s tour showcases four beautifully designed homes, and one amazing garden. The tour begins at 96 South Washington Drive, St. Armand’s Key, where tickets are being sold the day of the event. Tickets are also available at Davidson Drugs, Sarasota Architectural Salvage I & II, Historical Society of Sarasota County, and Main Street Traders. Tickets are $25.00. For further information, call: 941-953-8727.


What Happened to Me?

Ah…the elusive Golden Buddha. I have heard many a tale about how this popular icon was stolen from its second restaurant location on North Tamiami Trail (the first location was across from the airport). How many of you rubbed his belly for good luck? If you have any idea where the Buddha is now, please let us know. It would be great to get a current photo of him. If you know his whereabouts, Click Here.  


Just Jane

Some of my friends fill wonderful volunteer positions, providing diapers to needy babies, food to the homeless, special care to hospice patients, while I carry the guilt of just fighting for the preservation of Sarasota’s history.

On a daily basis, it’s getting more difficult to battle the bulldozers and blazers who want to wipe our historic slate bare, to build something fresh, new and boringly alike in design. I look around at all of the cranes scattered around downtown, and worry that our history is being gobbled up right under our noses. Remember one of the arguments against the preservation of the John Ringling Towers edifice, - “it’s too close to the road.” Look at the monstrosity that now hangs over the sidewalk at the busiest corner in town.

Tear down the iconic Van Wezel clam shell? What are they thinking? When you see a picture of the Eiffel Tower, you immediately think Paris. You see the Empire State Building… NYC pops into your mind, the Sydney Opera House… Australia.  We can’t take the traffic on the Trail now, so what’s it going to be like if they double the size of a replacement for the Van Wezel? Let’s bite the bullet and build a convention center, complete with a large performance hall, hotels, meeting spaces of all dimensions and plenty of parking, convenient to I-75, out on Fruitville Road behind Robart’s Sports Arena. 

Leave the Van Wezel alone! It’s our “Sarasota Instant Identifier.” 


Ain't Life Grand?

I was looking at some shots of the senior Joie Chitwood at Historical Resources and came across a man doing laps at the Mana-Sota Speedway. I’d say a big “Oops” is in order. Note the tire flying up in the air, probably moments before the driver loses control and his vehicle comes to rest on the shoulder, hopefully unscathed. Oh, pit crew – where are you?

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Postcard of the Week

As you know, the Siesta Key Beach Pavilion re-opened this past Saturday to much fanfare. This postcard is how the beach looked at a much earlier time, when cars parked close to the water, and there was no pavilion. At the time it was called Sarasota Beach. Times sure have changed, but the brilliant white sand is still with us, despite cars driving on it almost 100 years ago.

(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)



You know the evasive expression, “the check’s in the mail” – well, this check has held up very well since its issue date in 1925, and it doesn’t look any worse for wear. The Bank of Sarasota is pictured in the upper left hand corner, and many of you might recall this as the Liggett Rexall drugstore at Five Points. It was a great-looking flatiron building in its early life, of which not many still exist today. It met an unfortunate demise due to what some called a ‘suspicious fire.’ Hmmm...

(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Eagle Point Club Community

One hundred years have passed since the renowned Bertha Honoré Palmer founded Camp Eagle Point on the shore of Roberts Bay in Venice. Until redevelopment in the early 1990s, the Old-Florida-style rustic winter resort operated continuously as an exclusive club that featured hunting, fishing, boating, beach access and other amenities. Today, Eagle Point Club is a 24-acre gated community of private homes and lush landscaping that contains a historic district with structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Venice Museum & Archives (VMA) has partnered with Eagle Point Club to celebrate the centennial of this unique historic site. The exhibit “Historic Eagle Point: A Legacy of ‘Old Florida’ in Venice, 1916-2016” will be on display at the museum from March 1 to July 27. The VMA is open free to the public year round on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10am to 4pm and the first and third Saturdays from 11am to 3pm from October through April.

Advance tickets are limited and currently available for purchase ($25 each) at the Venice Museum & Archives. Directions to Eagle Point Club and parking information will be provided with ticket purchase. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the museum. For more information contact the VMA at 941-486-2487.

Brookside Addressed Physical, Educational Needs of Students

As with other civic architecture, the design of public schools provides a measure of community values that extends beyond mere function.

In Sarasota County, several waves of school construction have occurred, spurred by population booms and accompanying increases in the school-age population. Schools from each of these eras create a snapshot of prevailing architectural style, from the earlies wood frame vernacular school houses of the teens, to the fanciful Mediterranean Revival buildings of the 1920s, to the sleek, modern schools of the 1950s.

During World War II, the Sarasota County School Board was confronted with the pressing need for new schools county-wide. Student population increased more than 30 percent during the time between the 1940 and 1947 academic years.

In the 1946 school year, selected schools experienced a 20 percent increase in membership. Most of the schools in operation in Sarasota County in the 1950s had been constructed during the previous building boom of the 1920s, and several, such as the Miakka School, predated even this time. According to Tampa architect John Howey, in his book “The Sarasota School of Architecture”: “Before Brookside School was designed, a lengthy study was made of existing Sarasota schools. They were found to be badly oriented, cold in winter, hot in summer, and poorly ventilated.” Read more...

(photo credit: Courtesy of Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Yesterday's Sarasota Calendar

Today in 1929, Sarasota’s first permanent County Court House was formally opened. It was built in 2 years, 9 months by the Stephenson and Cameron Company of New York, and was designed by Dwight James Baum, an architect also from New York. (Why don’t they ever hire a local guy?)

(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Who am I?

The winner of our last contest was Vicky Matthias. Congratulations!

With the strange weather we have been having the last few months, I am curious if we will have a busy hurricane season in 2016. The washout in the photo is typical how roads are affected during storm surges on the keys. You job is to name this street; “Who am I?”

Click here to submit your answer for this weeks quiz, click here to view the last challenge and correct answer.

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Your award this week is the book, John Hamilton Gillespie - The Scot Who Saved Sarasota by Jeff LaHurd. The Friend's of the Sarasota County History Center generously provided this prize. Please consider becoming a member of the Friends; they have some exciting programs coming up soon. Visit them here.

If you would like to be a sponsor of our "Where Am I?" quiz, please call us at (941) 951-7727. It only cost $25 per week for us to set up your ad, and then you only have to provide a prize for the winner. What could be easier?


Pretty as a Picture

Mama, no one would dare call your baby “Ugly.” I’m sure you can see why; even if you don’t like to see confined quarters for wild animals. Mom sure looks proud of her young long-legged child. Now for a name. 

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Our County Treasures

This fire extinguisher is one of my favorite objects stored at Sarasota County Historical Resources; it belonged to Bertha Palmer to help protect The Oaks, where she lived. I daresay, it would be difficult to get it to the source of the fire when seconds count. Even when it is empty it is extremely heavy and unwieldly; so I can only imagine what it would be like to move in when it is fully charged.