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Newsletter June 24, 2015

Published Wednesday, June 24, 2015 9:00 am
by Larry Kelleher

More About SHA

When we launched our new website, we also switched servers. You now can reach us at: editor@floridahistoryalive.com with your recollections, comments, musings, or just to say hello. 

Drive By Gem

I pass this home on my way to work on a daily basis. For the longest time it was pretty drab-looking and then it was finally for sale. I don't know if the new owners painted it and spruced things up, or if the sellers did that. In any event, it now looks 100% better. This home is in South Gate, and qualifies to be historic according to Sarasota standards.


Pretty as a Picture

What an idyllic scene. Can you guess where this early 1930s photo was taken? No? It was on Siesta Key at the Out-of-Door School (as it was called then). I wonder who these two students were. Did they realize they were living and learning in paradise? One can only hope so.

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources, Mikki Hartig Collection)


Just Jane

Congratulations to Realtor, Betsy De Manio, on the recent sale of that adorable expanded cottage on Prospect Street that was listed in our Vintage Real Estate section. I was always sure that one day, the perfect family would find it and fall in love at first site. The location was so great. Now, let’s get those Orange Blossom condos sold for Betsy’s clients!

The more I travel to historic places the more great ideas I get for all the possible historic renovations that could be done in our own waterfront town. I just spent several days in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where I only took 200 photos of that well-planned, hugely successful renovation. I’m full of 'steal-able' ideas that we should be thinking about, when the Bayfront 20-20 planning committee meets again. 

Since this community relied on water transportation back in the 1800’s, I think it’s time to rethink that mode, and get water taxi service, linking restaurants, Mote Aquarium, condos, the Van Wezel and more, for all of our water-loving residents. Wouldn’t it be much more fun to leave your downtown residence by water taxi and arrive at the dock at Ophelia’s for dinner on your anniversary, instead of fighting the Trail’s seasonal traffic?

Stepped down apartment buildings, waterfront restaurants, where everyone has a water view, were what Baltimore had to offer, with plenty of parking, to boot. If you’d like to see more photos, just let me know.  I’m going to send them all to the Bayfront 20-20 committee before their next meeting.

Ain't Life Grand?

What a cool and talented pooch! With his budding talent, he will be outside the backyard fence in no time flat. Meet him on the Legacy Trail, and be prepared to race. Don’t let his tricycle fool you; it’s all in the paw-peddling action.

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Speaking of contacting SHA!, I received a most engaging Letter-to-the-Editor last week. The writer elaborated on his memories about working at the Trail Drive-in Theater, after he noticed our "Pretty as a Picture" image. I am happy to share this with you. 

Dear Editor:

Boy did the memories flood back when I saw the picture of the theater. I spent my teen years working at The Trail, sort of “growing up” out there as I followed in the footsteps of an older brother.

The fence is beautiful, but it sure didn’t seem so when I painted it (along with others) one hot summer. The days were long when you worked all day in the hot sun painting the fence or the speaker bases and posts, then cleaned up and did your normal evening’s work. Some of those same days, I picked up all the trash on the field prior to painting. 

I began there as a “field boy” and in that capacity drove the little train around the screen tower thousands of laps. That was fun when I was 13 and 14 and in between train laps I would operate the merry-go-round. Some of it was not fun though, as all of these things required maintenance. Just behind the short fence on the west side (by the exit) was a very large aerator that our well pumped into. I remember following a bleach schedule on that that required me to get inside periodically and scrub it with bleach. Our water there was of high quality, and people often remarked how good it was. Then there was the marquee to update, speakers to be repaired on the work bench, spraying for mosquitos, and the many other things “behind the scene” that kept that wonderful institution alive and pleasurable seven nights each week.

I was more than an employee though; I was also a customer on my nights off and late at night when my work was done. I have the same memories that so many others have from their weekend visits, but for me the fun was seven nights a week. I was also part of “The Family,” because there was a special bond that existed between the owners and all the employees. The owners there actually cared about us. We were treated well, we had parties at their compound on Siesta Key, we were taken out for late night pizza at Vince’s and Biffano’s. We were given more responsibility than most young men and women our ages and allowed to feel good about ourselves for proving our abilities. 

Yes, The Trail Drive In Theatre was a special place. Now, in my senior years my nostalgic moments periodically return there. Both as a former employee and a young man seeking fun and excitement as he grew up, the Drive in was a large part of my life. 

Jack Fordham'
Swainsboro, GA

Dear Editor: I was born in Sarasota in 1949, my parents had moved to Siesta Key to get away from the Ohio winters. I lived on the Key until I went to college, got my first job, then married. Lived in Sarasota for another 10 years. Moved to SC, and finally CT. My cousin signed me up for the newsletter, knowing I would love to read about the history, part of some is mine. Love your new format, EXCEPT the type is so faded compared to the original one.  Is it my computer or your new type ?? I want to read future newsletters, but I won't be able to. Help ! Keep up the good work.

Jenny Mapes
Riverton, CT

Mrs. George Prime

Kate Prime, as was typical for her generation, was publicly known by her husband’s name, but she made a name for herself in the role she played to bring a community hospital to Sarasota. In the 1910s Dr. Joseph Halton had a small private hospital that could serve 21 patients. By the early 1920s, however, it became apparent that the growing community, with a ballooning winter population, needed a more adequate medical facility.

For several years the Woman’s Club had talked of the need for a hospital and begun to raise funds for land. By 1922 the Sarasota County Welfare Association, formed as a coalition of various organizations concerned with charitable community activities, took on the responsibility for building a hospital and the following year the Woman’s Club turned over their $1,135.25 hospital fund to the Association.  

Early in 1924 the need for a hospital became critical, and Kate Prime, President of the Welfare Association and member of the Woman’s Club, hosted a series of public meetings at her home to launch the building program. It was decided to raise the funds by public subscription because it would take too long for the county to issue bonds for it. Jean Smith headed the hospital finance committee and George Thacker chaired the building committee. Dr. A.O. Morton and Louis Combs donated four lots on Hawthorne Street, which were outside the Sarasota City limits. Martin Studios provided the architectural services.  Read more...

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Yesterday's Sarasota Calendar

Tonight in 1926, the Sarasota Terrace Hotel opened officially with a gala party attended by Charles Ringling (the builder), Prince Cantacuzene, Owen Burns, and band leader Jules Brazil, among hundreds of others. 

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Where Was I?

The winner of our last contest was Pamela McLeod. Congratulations!

Let’s see; I am either tricky or easy-as-pie (whoever said pie was easy?). This photo of me was taken in 1965 and I am nearing completion. Note - I am mostly constructed from cinder block and was designed by ‘studio’ architects who were trained by their famous leader. I have been revamped over the years, but am still going strong. 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?

Postcard of the Week

We travel south this week visit Ft. Myers old shrimp fleet docks. I don’t know what year this image was produced, but nevertheless this is certainly a picturesque scene. Simplicity at its best; the name of the boat is “Pixie.” 

(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)



This is a page from the 1937 Peninsular Telephone Company phone book. My, we have come a long way. It says:
Do you mind being alone? Well, I can’t say I’m frightfully keen about it, but there are worse things, you know…Exactly, one is never out of reach of one’s friends with a telephone near…When Grant is away on one of these trips, he seldom fails to call me every evening by long distance…My dear, it’s the best sort of tonic – just hearing his voice…No, I’m not a bit uneasy at night any more. It was his idea that we have an extension put in the bedroom, and you can imagine what a comfort it is, and besides it gives me such a complete sense of security. My telephone is my most convenient necessity. [To be without a telephone in the home these days is to suffer the inconvenience of a darker Age – while its presence assures the utmost in expediency, comfort and protection]
(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


In Memoriam

We would like to extend our condolences to the families and friends of the innocent people murdered at Charleston’s Historic African Methodist Episcopal Church last week. We too, had a historic AME church (pictured) at the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street in the Rosemary District that burned decades ago. Out of the ruins the building was brought it back to life due to its historic significance; however it is no longer a church. The victim’s lives cannot be brought back by architects and contractors who specialize in historic preservation, but we hope they will remain alive in our memories. Will hate crimes in our country ever cease?  

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)