Journals of Yesteryear

Sarasota's Five Points

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

Five Points, the intersection of Main, Pineapple and Central has been an anchor for downtown Sarasota for much of its existence. The building that stood at the northeast corner of Main and Central has been the focal point of many photographs over the years, often a symbol of Sarasota's commercial activity.

Soon after the colonists arrived from Scotland in late 1885, a hotel-boardinghouse was built on that corner. Even at the beginning of the settlement, it was important to have housing for visitors, construction workers and potential land buyers.

As the Florida Land Boom generated energy in 1924, real estate developer and entrepreneur Joseph H. Lord demolished the boarding house and announced the construction of Sarasota's first skyscraper, the First Bank and Trust Building. Accompanying the full-page headline in The Sarasota Times was a reproduction of architect M. Leo Elliott's design for the building.

The project anticipated a seven-story office building with Corinthian columns decorating the ground floor exterior and one-story rows of stores extending along both Main Street and Central Avenue.

In the promotional style used to report events during Sarasota's building boom, The Sarasota Times listed the special features of the new structure - steam heat for every office, drinking fountain on each floor, and "The first passenger electric hydraulic elevator in Sarasota." By the time the bank was completed, it had lost its claim to being the first skyscraper in Sarasota to the Sarasota Hotel down the street at Palm Avenue and Main.

The collapse of the Florida Land Boom by 1927 had repercussions in the local banking circles before the stock market crash in late 1929. First Bank and Trust was the second of four Sarasota banks to close. Within days, however, July 21, 1929, the Sarasota Herald announced the opening of the new Palmer National Bank. Led by members of the Palmer family, major players in Sarasota's business life, the Palmer Bank initially occupied the vacant American National Bank building (later known as the Orange Blossom Hotel), but soon moved into the empty First Bank and Trust facility at Five Points.

Palmer Bank remained solvent throughout the Depression, and with the post-World War II economic recovery, it expanded with the development of Sarasota. In 1945 GA. Miller Construction Co. of Tampa, which had built the original structure in 1924, was hired to build an annex on the east side of the bank. During 1964 the building received a new face. Any remaining decorative work, after removal of the terra cotta cornice in the 1950s, was cut away and replaced with a modern facade of marble, steel, aluminum and glass.

Palmer Bank merged with Southeast Bank in 1976 and Southeast Bank merged with First Union in 1991. Afterwards, RISCORP owned Sarasota's second skyscraper and proposed demolishing it, to make way for a new complex at the revitalized Five Points. Eventually that occurred and today it has been replaced with a multi-storied condominium, and offices, retail and restaurants on the street level. The building is now called Plaza at Five Points.

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