Journals of Yesteryear

Amish and Mennonite Communities

Author: Ann Shank, former Sarasota County Historian
Source: Sarasota County History Center
Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center

Newcomers to Sarasota are often surprised to find a substantial Amish and Mennonite community in Sarasota. The historical core of this community is south of Bahia Vista Street and west of Phillippi Creek. An explanation for the small lots in the original section lies in the earliest subdivision recorded for that parcel, the Sarasota National Tourist Camp.

Laid out in early 1925, the camp included 454 lots that each measured 40 by 40 feet. The following year Earl S. and Mary K. Craft platted Pinecraft. They added lots east and west of Phillippi Creek, to cover the area now between Lockwood Ridge Road and Kaufman Avenue. They reserved land along the creek for a park and noted the location for a community house and water tank. The lots that had been drawn for the Tourist Camp remained the same size; those west of the creek were larger.

In 1926, First National Company of Sarasota laid out the neighboring subdivision of Homecroft. It covered the land between the Tourist Camp and Beneva Road, from (now) Hacienda to Schrock Street. The Pinecraft name is used informally for the general area in which these subdivisions are located.

The earliest Amish and Mennonite visitors to this area were attracted not only by the weather, a welcome change from winters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but also by the opportunities offered for winter farming. The first families of record, according to a history by Mrs. Myron Yoder, grew vegetables on land in the Palmer Farms, which were in Fruitville. A few families purchased land and became permanent residents; many farmed during the summer in the north and in Sarasota during the winter.

Not until 1945 was there a year-round permanent church within this religious community. By the early 1930s, the winter population had grown too large for worshiping in members homes. Amish and Mennonites together used the Tatum Ridge School until 1936 when a storm blew it off its foundation. The old Fruitville School became the next location for Sunday school and worship until the 1944 hurricane damaged it. A group of Mennonite residents organized a permanent church in 1945 and were given five lots along Bay Shore Road. Volunteers from the community and from the Civilian Public Service Camp (an alternative to military service for pacifists) in Mulberry provided most of the labor to build the first Bayshore Mennonite Church structure.

In Pinecraft itself, religious services were held at times outdoors, for a couple of years in a former Presbyterian chapel, and finally in a former bakery on the south side of Bahia Vista. This congregation is often called the Tourist Church. Another congregation formed the Tuttle Avenue Mennonite Church in the 1950s.

A small business district gradually emerged on Bahia Vista. The Pinecraft Elementary School met in former Sarasota Army Air Base barracks that had been moved to land just east of Beneva Avenue. The Pinecraft EatíN House, Pinecraft Hardware, Pinecraft IGA Grocery (pictured), and the Pinecraft branch of the U.S. Post Office were operated by and served the seasonal and year-round residents of the area. While Amish and Mennonite restaurants and churches have spread into the county, Pinecraft is still considered the heart of this special community.

Rate This Article

Total Votes: 9 Avg Vote: 5

Comments

Thank you for your comments!

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

advertisement

Sarasota County History and Preservation Organizations

 

Get Our Free Weekly Newsletter

sign up

Featured Journals

Venice Survived Boom and Bust Times

The City of Venice celebrates its 88th anniversary this coming April. Venice has come a long way since its beginning. The Knight family first homesteaded in the area in 1869, along with other pioneer families. The community that grew up in the region of Dona Bay became known as Horse and Chaise. Others began to come into the area in the late 1880s. Among them the Higel and J.H. Lord families, who purchased land and began experimenting with citrus and honey making.

Read More »
The Innovative Palm Tree Playhouse

Beginning in 1951, “Comedie” and “Tradgedie,” the traditional masks of theatre, adorned the façade of the building on First Street, which housed the Palm Tree Playhouse, Sarasota’s professional theater.

Read More »
My Life in Sarasota as an Actor at the Palm Tree Playhouse

I began my Sarasota experience in 1957 when I was hired in New York City by Stuart Lancaster, the owner of the Palm Tree Playhouse to work for him as an Intern/actor position.  We were put up locally and I stayed in the home of Mason Baldwin on Second Street.

Read More »
close
User ID :
Password :
Log In

Wrong user name or password!