Get Social With Us

like watch follow


Receive Email Updates

Sign up today and receive our newsletter and more directly to your inbox.


Search Sarasota History

contact us follow us newsletter sign up search this site

Newsletter June 1, 2016

Published Wednesday, June 1, 2016 9:00 am
by Larry Kelleher

Drive By Gem

Seems I just can’t stop driving around neighborhoods ‘East of the Trail’; which is a good thing it turns out to be. I stumbled upon this home which looked so cozy and inviting. I can only wonder what sort of Christmas lights the owner might use during the holiday season. Take some time on a Sunday and go for a ride and see what you discover. Better yet, go by peddle or foot and see things from a different perspective.


Ain't Life Grand?

“I vant to be alone…” Hardly! This Army Air Baseman, stationed here in 1944 took it upon himself to give Gretta Garbo her due justice. OK – I guess the paper eyelashes and paper hair are a bit over the top, but he really got the eyebrows right. Do you know she once stayed at the Mira Mar Hotel that used to face Palm Avenue? Oh, wait – could this be Marlene Dietrich instead of Gretta? Is this man still with us to ask? Why is drag so hard?

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Postcard of the Week

I chose this postcard of Jungle Gardens, not because of all the beautiful colors, but as a reminder that my garden is getting jungle-like and it needs a trim and some “TLC.” All I need is more time and cooler weather. Tall order!

(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Just Jane

You say you like Nooks and Crannies? Oh my, do we have the perfect house for you! Right in the gorgeous, historic McClellan Park neighborhood, at 2202 McClellan Pkwy, but…actually, the driveway is on Wewa Lane, a curious, hilly and winding, adorably tiny street (not to be confused with Wawa, the trendy convenience store).

A perfect family home with 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, TWO fireplaces and all the French doors and windows you’d expect in a 1927 home, but wait! It has been impeccably restored for you within the last ten years, with new everything, while retaining the original pine floors, glass knobs on the doors and many other vintage keepsakes.

Did I mention it has a two bedroom cottage out back, when your in-laws descend upon you this coming January? The home had me at “Hello,” when I stepped inside the incredible “mud room,” but there are so many rooms, for so many uses downstairs, while the master bedroom suite upstairs has been enlarged with a huge bathroom featuring a spa tub and walk in shower, a closet you’ll get lost in, and that second fireplace; it’s in the bedroom!

Lovely, quiet backyard for birthday parties and siestas, but you’re also within walking distance of Southside Village, restaurants galore and even downtown. Check out our Vintage Real Estate, for more information. Hurry, this one is not going to stay on the market long.

That lovely green home with the walk in wine room, on Ohio Place already sold, last week. And I hear that a wonderful British couple has purchased our featured home on Fiesta Drive. Welcome to Sarasota and Happy Summer.



When I was a kid, I used to love when my parents took me to the Dutch Pantry for dinner. The huge stone fireplace fascinated me, though my favorite thing there was the fresh-made apple butter that accompanied the basket of bread. Other businesses occupied the building over the years, and in the end it became a festive gay bar called Gillespie’s. Pictured here is one of the restaurant's match book covers.

(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


A Special Young Man

While cruising around last Saturday looking for a "Drive by Gem" to post in this newsletter, I happened upon this home with a large sign out front. I discovered a young man (Miles Gomis) and his neighbors who were instrumental in assisting a 90 year-old widow fix up her place and clean the yard so she would not continue to be fined by the City of Sarasota. I am so glad the media was there to cover this endearing story. This lends new meaning to a "Drive by Gem." If you have not read the article, or seen the video, please Click Here. 


Pretty as a Picture

Being born and raised here, I grew up in a semi-tropical paradise and loved everything about old Florida. There were times when I even daydreamed about living in the early part of the 20th century. Can you imagine when downtown looked like this? If we had it to do over again, I wonder if we would choose the same path. Think about it. If you would like to share your thoughts, Click Here.

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


The Sarasota Opera House

(Editor's note: This article was received from Patricia Glenn, a guest contributor)

My husband and I toured the state of Florida in March 1962, beginning in Jacksonville, down the East Coast to Key West, across Alligator Alley to Naples and up the Gulf Coast. After spending the night in Punta Gorda, we arrived in Sarasota in the early morning and found what seemed close to paradise. The city was clean, refreshing and just right for us.

In January, 1963, my husband, G. Dwain Glenn, moved to Sarasota and opened Radio Engineering Institute (REI). The school's first classes were held in rented space on the second floor of the then - City Hall. After two months we needed a larger space, and rented the triangular building on Pineapple from Ernest Smith Insurance Agency. This was home to the business for one year.

In January, 1964, we relocated to lower Main Street, next door to a ladies' dress shop. One night not long after moving in, the dress shop was destroyed by fire; this gave us the opportunity to enlarge our facility to occupy the corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue. As the business grew, we added night classes and employed instructors; also, we expanded to Kansas City, KS, Fredericksburg, VA; and Glendale, CA.

Our students came to the school from all over the country, and as well as other countries. Since the students required living quarters, we found them through Ed McCallum who owned a motel at the corner of U.S. 41 and 14th Street.

By the fall of 1972 it was apparent that a larger building was needed to house the school, so we purchased land on Clark Road with plans to build a facility. Before breaking ground, Ed McCallam came to my husband with news that the Florida Theatre building had been left to St Martha Catholic Church. One of the parishioners owned the building, and when he died left it to the church (Ed came by this knowledge as a member of the church). The building was in dire need of repair work and somewhat of an eyesore, having been abandoned/closed for a while.

Dwain contacted St. Martha's to have a walk-through and made the church an offer to buy the building; they agreed on the sale price in November 1972. These negotiations took place two days prior to a wrecking ball demolishing the Theatre with plans for a downtown parking lot.

By early 1973 we were operating our business on the site. The first floor space on the right was our new offices, the space on the left was occupied/ leased to a florist, Plants and Things, which remained with us for several years. On the second floor, classrooms were constructed, as well as a mock-up broadcast studio to train disc jockeys. The third floor, which had housed mini-apartments for traveling entertainers in the days of vaudeville, became our dormitories. Ed McCallum sold his motel and moved into the building as "House Father" and caretaker.

The Theatre, after much concentrated cleaning by many, was turned into a place of Christian entertainment, showing family-oriented movies and live plays by the young adults.

In the fall of 1979, Dwain was approached by a woman representing the Asolo Opera Guild with an offer to buy the building. He agreed to the sale with the condition that REI could remain for three years. In 1982 the theater was turned over to the Opera Guild, thus the building was saved as the home of the Sarasota Opera House.

Visionaries had Eye on County's Future

Over the course of Sarasota County history, the visions of many dreamers have shaped the physical development and cultural components of our communities.
There is great variety among the selected dreamers. Two of them have been called “fathers” of their domains. Arthur Britton Edwards, who was born in Sarasota before the colonists from Scotland arrived, was referred in his later years as the “Father of Sarasota.” A cattleman in his youth, Edwards influenced the development of Sarasota in many ways, including a real estate salesman, city mayor, leader in the Chamber of Commerce, and driver of the moved to form Sarasota County.

In the middle of the 20th century, Ralph Twitchell came to be called the “father of Sarasota architecture.” The modern buildings that he and a number of other architects designed in the post-World War II period brought international recognition to this region.

Rose Wilson (pictured) of Sarasota and Josephine Cortes of Englewood were newspaper publishers who used the press as a vehicle for advocating the betterment of their respective communities. In the 1910s, Wilson took over publication of the Sarasota Times after her husband’s death and became a spokeswoman for improved public education, better roads and women’s right to vote. She covered extensively the movement to form Sarasota County from Manatee in 1920-21, and changed the name of her newspaper to the Sarasota County Times after the vote for separation passed. Read more...

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Yesterday's Sarasota Calendar

Today in 1899, Mr. and Mrs. C.V.S. Wilson started the first newspaper in town – the Sarasota Times. Mr. Wilson published it until his death in 1910. His widow continued the paper until 1923.

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Who am I?

The winner of our last contest was Rusty Glendinning. Congratulations! Please email me your mailing address, so I can send you your prize. My email address is: editor@floridahistoryalive.com.

I hope you don’t think I’m asking you to name the prominent hotel and real estate business next door; that is way too easy. However, your task is to name the street in front of us. Now don’t say U.S. 41, or even Broadway, because that is not what I’m looking for. Instead, what was the street’s original name? Who am I?

Click here to submit your answer for this week's 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?


Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor: I always enjoy reading your informative newsletters containing such detailed historical information. I commend your research and writing skills, for the newsletters are not only informative, but entertaining as well. This letter is in response to a letter to the editor in your last newsletter.

In many older Florida cities such as Sarasota and Fort Myers, we are seeing the negative and ugly impact "McMansions" have when they replace older historic homes from the early and mid 20th century. The homes being demolished by the "wrecking ball" reflected warmth, individuality and the architectural influence of the time.

The homes replacing them reflect none of these traits. They are most often cold uninviting monoliths made of cement block and stucco with Styrofoam "gingerbread" details. There is barely a side set-back, so the home appears to go from property line to property line...no room for landscaping of any type let alone trees to shade and add ambiance to the home. And even the landscaping is that adorns the front yard is "cold" and so manicured by a maintenance team that it almost looks artificial.

The traditional front porches kept cool by large oaks and other trees where neighbors would gather to share stories of joy or provide comfort at times of sadness are gone. The McMansions are no longer part of a neighborhood. They are an island of privacy and secrecy with metal security fences and gates kept closed except for those given permission to enter.

Regretfully too few elected officials have adequate respect for the past. They instead want to increase the tax base to generate more revenue to feed the monster of government, and those with respect for history are drowned out by the roar of those with the financial resources to buy a home and then destroy it.

I don't have a solution, but I know there are those in the historic community who do. I would hope that we would start electing representatives who are strong leaders with a keen understanding of the importance of preserving our history and the courage to stand up to those who do not.

Earl Smith,
Punta Gorda & Ft. Myers


Alliance Annual Meeting

On May 25, 2016, the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation held its annual meeting at the recently restored Coleman home on Bay Shore Drive. The new owner, Robin Thomas was on hand to tell the audience about the home's history and about the circus family who lived there in there in the 1920s. Joyce Hart, the president of the Alliance is pictured at the podium conducting the meeting and introducing speakers and guests. She also announced three new board members - Michael Ayres, Ruthmary Williams and Robin Thomas. All guests and members were treated to a delightful meal catered by Zest, and a tour of the home and its beautiful furnishings and art works. 


Roth Cigar Factory and the DeMarcay Hotel

The Roth Cigar Factory and the DeMarcay Hotel are to be demolished in the very near future, though the hotel's facade should remain in tact. It will be 'attached' to the new 18-story condo that will rise up on this very small piece of property. As a tribute to the continued loss of our landmark historic buildings being razed, the Plein Aire Painters were out in force on May 21, 2016, sketching and painting the two buildings for posterity's sake. They have expressed an interest in learning about other threatened buildings, so they can make arrangements to organize the artists to capture the essence of the places that will be razed. If you have suggestions for subject properties to paint, please Contact us Here.


Newtown 100-year History Report

A research report that traces the 100-year history of Sarasota’s African American community is completed. The Newtown Conservation Historic District (NCHD) team will make a presentation about the report on Monday June 6, at 2:30 p.m. during a Sarasota City Commission meeting at City Hall. Their 338-page report contains data from primary and secondary sources, archival photographs from private collections and Sarasota County Historical Resources, excerpts from oral history interviews with community residents, maps of Newtown’s historic boundaries, and details about its architecture. 

For more information, please call (941) 962-8761.