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Sarasota is a city located in Sarasota Countymarker on the southwestern coast of the state of Floridamarker in the United Statesmarker. Its current official limits include Sarasota Baymarker and several barrier islands between the bay and the Gulf of Mexicomarker.

These islands separating Sarasota Bay from the gulf near the city, known as keysmarker, include Lido Key and Siesta Keymarker, which are famous worldwide for the quality of their sandy beaches.

Today the keys that are included in the boundary of Sarasota are Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Otter Key, Coon Key, Bird Keymarker, and portions of Longboat Keymarker and Siesta Keymarker. Previously, Siesta Key was named Sarasota Key. At one time, it and all of Longboat Key were considered part of Sarasota and confusing contemporaneous references may be found discussing them.

Longboat Key is the largest key separating the bay from the gulf, but it now is evenly divided by the new county line of 1921. Most of the portion of the key that parallels the Sarasota city boundary (at that county line) along the bay front of the mainland was removed from the city boundaries at the request of John Ringling in the mid-1920s, to avoid taxation of his new developments at the southern tip of the key.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Sarasota had a population of 52,488 in 2007. In 1986 it became designated as a certified local government. Sarasota is a principal city of the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is the seat of Sarasota County.

It is among the communities included in a two-county federally-mandated Metropolitan Planning Organization that includes all of Sarasota and Manatee counties and the chairs of the three elements of that organization belong to the eight-county regional planning organization for western central Florida.


Prehistorical data

Gulf of Mexico in 3-D - note the shallow shelf extending one hundred miles to the west of Sarasota (red dot) that was above water fifteen thousand years ago when humans began occupation of Florida; the ancient shoreline that existed fifteen thousand years ago is depicted in light blue
Fifteen thousand years ago, when humans first settled in Florida, the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexicomarker was one hundred miles farther to the west. In this era, hunting and gathering was the primary means of subsistence. This was only possible in areas where water sources existed for hunter and prey alike. Deep spring and catchment basins, such as Warm Mineral Springsmarker, were close enough to the Sarasota area to provide camp sites, but too far away for permanent settlements.

As the Pleistocene glaciers slowly melted, a more temperate climate began to advance southward. Sea levels began rising; they ultimately rose another , resulting in the Florida shoreline of today, which provided attractive locations for human settlements.

Archaeological research in Sarasota documents more than ten thousand years of seasonal occupation by native peoples.

For five thousand years while the current sea level existed, fishing in Sarasota Baymarker was the primary source of protein and large mounds of discarded shells and fish bones attest to the prehistoric human settlements that existed in Sarasota and were sustained by the bounty of its bay.

Early historical records

European first explored the area in the early 1500s. The first recorded contact was in 1513, when a Spanish expedition landed at Charlotte Harbor, just to the south. When the natives encountered the Spaniards, they insulted them in Spanish before a preemptive attack. Apparently, some natives had made previous contact with the Spaniards ‚ÄĒ enough to learn a few words and much suspicion.

Having been identified on maps by the mid-1700s as Zara Zote, perhaps from an indigenous name, the sheltered bay and its harbor attracted fish and marine traders. Soon there were fishing camps, called ranchos, along the bay that were established by both Americans and Cubans who traded fish and turtles with merchants in Havana. Florida changed hands among the Spanish, the English, and the Spanish again.

After the 1819 acquisition of Florida as a territory by the United States and five years before it became a state in 1845, the army established Fort Armistead in Sarasota along the bay.

The fort is thought to have been located in the Indian Beach area, and research continues there. The army established the fort at a rancho operated by Louis Pacheco, an African slave working for his Cuban-American owner. Drawings of the fort give a clue to the location as well, showing a significant landmark point that still exists at Indian Beach. Shortly before the fort was abandoned because of severe epidemics, the chiefs of the Seminole Indians gathered to discuss their impending forced march to the Oklahoma Territory. These were Native Americans who had moved into Florida during the Spanish occupation. Most of the indigenous natives of Florida, such as the Tocobaga and the Caloosa, had perished from epidemics carried by the Spanish. They mostly had maintained permanent settlements that were used from late Fall through Spring, moving to settlements farther north during the Summer.

Soon the remaining Seminole Indians were forced south into the Big Cypress Swampmarker and in 1842 the lands in Sarasota, which then were held by the federal government, were among those opened to private ownership by those of European descent via the Armed Occupation Act passed by the Congress of the United States. Even Louis Pacheco had been deported with the Indians to Oklahoma.

Pioneer families

The Browning and Whitaker pioneer families, gathered for a photograph in Sarasota, Florida during 1886 - Sarasota County History Center
European settlers arrived in significant numbers in the late 1840s. The area already had a Spanish name‚ÄĒ'Zara Zote'‚ÄĒon maps dating back to the early 1700s and it was retained as, Sara Sota. The initial settlers were attracted by the climate and bounty of Sarasota Baymarker.

William Whitaker, born in Savannah, Georgia in 1821, was the first documented pioneer of European descent to settle permanently in what became the city of Sarasota. Before his arrival, both Cuban and American fishermen had built fish camps or ranchos along Sarasota Bay, but these were not used throughout the year. After time spent along the Manatee River at the village of Manatee, Whitaker built upon Yellow Bluffs, just north of present day Eleventh Street. He sold dried fish and roe to Cuban traders working the coast. In 1847, he began a cattle business.

In 1851, Whitaker married Mary Jane Wyatt, a member of a pioneer family who had settled the village of Manatee, that was about thirteen miles (19 km) to the northeast along the river of the same name. They raised eleven children on Yellow Bluffs despite the hardships faced by solitary pioneers.

Historical marker dedicated to Mary Jane Wyatt Whitaker near her pioneer residence and tomb
This included a raid that destroyed their home. The raid was made by a formerly-friendly Seminole chief, Holata Micco, dubbed Billy Bowlegs, after whom Bowlees Creek may have been named. They were not injured, but the house was burnt to the ground.

The Whitakers rebuilt and prospered. Unfortunately, their homestead site has not been preserved, having been developed in the 1980s. Their family cemetery remains, however. In the 1930s the Whitaker family gave the cemetery to the Daughters of the American Revolution on the understanding that any lineal descendents of William and Mary Whitaker and their spouses could be buried there as long as space remained. There are 85 plots in all, with 39 taken to date.

In 1867, the Webb family from Utica, New Yorkmarker, came to Florida looking for a place to settle. After arriving in Key West, the pioneer family met a Spanish trader. He told them about a high bluff of land on Sarasota Bay that would make a good location for a homestead. When the Webbs arrived in the Sarasota looking for the bluff, they described it to Bill Whitaker. He led them right to it because of the description. The site was several miles south of the settlement of the Whitakers. After settling, the Webbs named their homestead Spanish Point, in honor of the trader.

The Webbs had to travel quite a distance for their mail for nearly twenty years. In 1884, John Webb finally petitioned for a separate postal address for Spanish Point. They chose Ospreymarker as their postal address, since federal regulations required the use of only one word for the new address. A separate town eventually grew around that postal address. Although there is no similar documentation regarding the name of Sarasota, that federal one-word rule for postal designations may be the reason that Zara Zota or Sara Sota became Sarasota.

Sarasota has been governed by several different American counties, depending upon the era. Not becoming a state until 1845 Florida was acquired by the United States as a territory in 1819. Hillsborough Countymarker was created from Alachua and Monroe counties in 1834 and many early land titles cite it as the county governing Sarasota. Hillsborough was divided in 1855, placing Sarasota under the governance of Manatee County until 1921, when three new counties were carved out of portions of Manatee. One of those new counties was called, Sarasota, and the city was made its seat. The boundary of the community once extended to Bowlees Creek, but that was redrawn to an arbitrary line in order to divide the airport so its oversight could include both counties. Street addresses north of that new county line and south of the creek, however, remain as "Sarasota" due to established postal designations, although they remain governed by Manatee County.

To recover from the debt the state incurred through defeat in the Civil War, the central portions of Florida were drained and sold internationally to developers in the North and abroad during the 1880s.

In 1885 a Scots colony was established in Sarasota that related it as a tropical paradise that had been built into a thriving town. A town had been platted and surveyed before the parcels were sold by the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company. When the astonished investors in the "Ormiston Colony" arrived by ship in December they had to wade ashore, only to find that their primitive settlement lacked the homes, stores, and streets promised. They were even more disturbed by the snowfall that occurred a few weeks later.

Only a few Scots, such as the Browning family, remained in Sarasota along with a determined member of the developer's family, John Hamilton Gillespie. He was a manager for the original company and began to develop Sarasota following the plan for the failed colony. He eventually built a hotel and a course for his favorite pastime, golf. Eventually tourists arrived at a dock built on the bay.

Rose Phillips Wilson and her husband C. V. S. Wilson founded The Sarasota Times newspaper in 1899. It was the first newspaper published in Sarasota and Rose Wilson continued publication of the paper alone until 1923 after her husband died in 1910. She participated in the leadership of the community through many organizations and provided editorial opinions on most early issues.

Well respected among her peers in journalism, the Tarpon Springs Leader ranked the Times under her ownership, as "the best weekly paper in the state" and after the state legislature passed a bill to create Sarasota County, it was to Rose Wilson that the telegram was sent to announce it. When a referendum endorsed the split from Manatee locally, Wilson changed the name of her newspaper to The Sarasota County Times.

She lived through the World War I period, the 1920s boom period, the depression, World War II, and Sarasota’s second boom period in the 1950s. After her retirement from publishing in 1923 Wilson continued her community work with many local organizations, including the influential Woman’s Club in Sarasota, into the 1940s. She devoted much of her time as teacher and mentor for youth at First Presbyterian Church and lived to be 88 years old, when she died in 1964.

Twentieth century development

The village of Sarasota was incorporated for local government as a town under state guidelines in 1902 with John Hamilton Gillespie as mayor. It was re-platted in 1912 and its government then was incorporated as a city in 1913.

Owen Burns

Owen Burns had come to Sarasota for its famed fishing and remained for the rest of his life. He married Vernona, a woman he met in Sarasota and courted as she was returning home by rail. They raised their children in the community, building a large home near the harbor. Not only did he become the largest landowner in the city, but he founded a bank, promoted the development of other businesses, built its bridges, landmark buildings, and mansions. He dredged the harbor and created new bay front points with reclaimed soils. He created novel developments such as Burns Court to attract tourists and built commercial establishments to generate additional impetus to the growing community, such as Burns Square that was on First Street before new street numbering was introduced, and the Times Building on what is now First Street. He built Saint Martha's Church. Its complex including a school, was named for the patron saint of his mother.

In 1925 he built the El Vernona Hotelmarker, naming it after his wife. This was during the time that he went into a business partnership with John Ringling, a fateful decision that bankrupted him when his partner failed to live up to commitments on development agreements for the barrier islands (keys). Shortly after the opening of the hotel, the land boom crash in Florida struck a fatal blow to his finances because of the unfulfilled partnership agreement. Ironically, it was the same former partner, John Ringling, who took advantage of the situation and purchased the hotel for a portion of its value, although several years later, Ringling would follow Burns into financial ruin.

Besides the landmarks, bridges, and developments Burns contributed to the attraction of many around the country to Sarasota he also raised the most important historian for the community, his daughter, Lillian G. Burns.

Bertha Palmer

Bertha Honoré Palmer - the largest landholder, rancher, farmer, and developer of the area at the turn of the twentieth century, who made Sarasota a winter destination for wealthy families and revolutionized the farm and cattle business in the state - Sarasota County History Center
Bertha Palmer (Bertha Honoré Palmer) was the region's largest landholder, rancher, and developer after the turn of the twentieth century, where she purchased more than of property. She was attracted to Sarasota by an advertisement placed in a Chicago newspaper by A. B. Edwards. They would maintain a business relationship for the rest of her life.

In 1914, she bought 16,000 acres (65 km¬≤) of land as an exclusive hunting preserve in what is now Temple Terrace, Floridamarker, near Tampa in Hillsborough County, which she called Riverhills Ranch.

Bertha Palmer also owned a large tract of land that is now Myakka State Parkmarker. During this period this land was operated as a ranch. She developed and promoted many innovative practices that enabled the raising of cattle to become a large-scale reality in Florida. Palmer's foreman on the ranch was Eugene B. Sweeting and several of his children were born in what now is the state park. Gerald E. "Buck" Sweeting, who was born in the Park, still lives in Sarasota.

At her "Meadowsweet Farms", Palmer also pioneered large-scale farming and dairy in the area and made significant contributions to practices that enabled the development of crops that could be shipped to markets in other parts of the country. Her experimentation was coordinated with the state department of agriculture.

As war in Europe threatened, Bertha Palmer touted the beauty of Sarasota and its advantages to replace the typical foreign destinations of her social peers. Palmer made her winter residence on the land which the Webb family had homesteaded. She built a resort that would appeal to these new visitors to the area. She quickly established Sarasota as a fashionable location for winter retreats of the wealthy and as a vacation destination for tourists, which endured beyond the war years and blossomed for the new wealth that developed more broadly in the United States during the 1920s and, after the Second World War as well.

In her early publicity, Palmer compared the beauty of Sarasota Bay to the Bay of Naples, and also touted its sports fishing. As the century advanced, the bounty of the bay continued to attract visitors, until overfishing depleted its marine life.

Palmer retained most of the original Webb Family structures and greatly expanded the settlement. The pioneer site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Historic Spanish Point and is open to the public for a fee. Her tourist accommodations at The Oaks have not been preserved, however.

Owen Burns had preceded Bertha Palmer to Sarasota and had become the largest landholder within what now is the city, therefore many of the huge Sarasota properties she owned are in what now is Sarasota County. Many of its roads bear the names she put on the trails she established. She did participate, however, in speculation in the city along with others, purchasing undeveloped land in great quantities, and many parcels bear her name or that of her sons among those in abstracts.

Her sons continued her enterprises and remained as investors and donors in Sarasota after the death of Bertha Palmer in 1918. The enormous state park on her former property is her greatest legacy.

Other developments and early history

Other communities in the area were incorporated or began to grow into distinctive towns that were quite distinct from the bay front community whose plat ended at what is now Tenth Street. They have been absorbed as Sarasota grew, but some have retained their names and are recognized today as neighborhoods. Some communities, such as Overtownmarker, Bay Havenmarker, Indian Beachmarker, Shell Beach, Bee Ridgemarker, and Fruitvillemarker have all but faded from the memory of most living there now. Overtown expanded to include what is now designated as the historic Rosemary Districtmarker and the boundaries of Newtown now merge with that. The Ringling College of Art and Design includes for its administration building, a hotel developed for the community of Bay Haven when Old Bradenton Road was the main thoroughfare north to the Manatee River. That route avoided having to cross the broadest portion of Bowless Creek. Tamiami Trail was developed in the mid-1920s and a bridge across the creek eliminated it as a natural barrier limiting development. Shell Beach became the location where the grand estates would be built on the highest land along the bay as well as where the Sapphire Shores and The Uplands developments are today.

Two McClellan sisters were significant developers during this period. They created the McClellan Park subdivision, which is one of the most significant and successful residential neighborhood south of downtown. Women have played a significant role in the development of Sarasota, or at least, contrary to many communities, the history of Sarasota has documented their roles very publicly. Bertha Palmer was not so unusual here, Many other examples may be found by exploring the county records at the Sarasota History Center.

The region also attracted many of the Ringling brothers who had created their wealth as circus magnates at the turn of the century. The Ringling Brothers Circus had not yet consolidated as a single entity.

Mary Louise and Charles N. Thompson platted Shell Beach in 1895. The Thompson home was the first residence on the property. It extended from what is now Sun Circle almost to Bowlees Creek. From 1911 Mable and John Ringling spent their winter stays in that house and eventually, they would purchase a large parcel of it for their permanent winter quarters in Sarasota. Along with being a land developer, Thompson was a manager with another circus. He attracted several members of the Ringling family to Sarasota as a winter retreat as well as for investments in land.

First, the Alf T. Ringling family settled in the Whitfield Estates area with extensive land holdings. The families of Charles and John Ringling followed, living farther to the south. Soon, children and members of the extended family increased the presence of the Ringling family in Sarasota. Ringling Brothers Circus established its winter home in Sarasota during 1919 following the death of Alf T., when Charles Ringling assumed many of his duties.

Charles Thompson had joined the staff of the Ringling Brothers Circus when it began to purchase smaller or failing circuses, and to operate them separately. In 1919, these holdings were consolidated into one huge circus, billed as "the greatest show on Earth". Only two of the original five founding brothers now survived, but other members of their families continued to participate in the business or serve on its board of directors. Performers and staff members began to settle in Sarasota, and established the Ringling Circus as part of the Sarasota community.

Following the end of World War I, an economic boom began in Sarasota. The city was flooded with new people seeking jobs, investment, and the chic social milieu that had been created by earlier developers.

On adjacent parcels of Shell Beach where Ellen and Ralph Caples built their winter retreat, Mable and John Ringling built their compound. It would soon include the museum. Edith and Charles Ringling built a compound that included a home for their daughter, Hester Ringling Landcaster Sandford.

The next large Shell Beach parcel, immediately to the north, passed between Ellen Caples, Mable and John Ringling, and a few others several times without development until 1947. It was then developed as The Uplandsmarker. Some other historic names associated with that parcel are Bertha Potter Palmer, her sons Lockwood and Honore, and A. B. Edwards, whose names are featured as familiar street names in Sarasota.

The tract abutting that parcel was re-platted in 1925 as Seagate, where Gwendolyn and Powel Crosley built their winter retreat in 1929. All of these historic homes and the museum have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The now-historic neighborhood of Indian Beach Sapphire Shores grew immediately to the south of the area where these grand homes were built on the bay. Sapphire Shores provided homes to the professionals and retirees who wished to be, or were, closely associated with these wealthiest residents of the community. Indian Beach, which had been a separate community at one time, contained pioneer homes that survived among the fashionable new homes built in the boom era of the 1920s.

Charles Ringling as developer

Charles Ringling invested in land, developed property and founded a bank. He participated in Sarasota's civic life and gave advice to other entrepreneurs starting new businesses in Sarasota. He founded a bank and loaned money to fledgling businesses. He donated land to the newly formed county‚ÄĒupon which he also built its government offices and courthouse as a gift to the community.

Ringling Boulevard was named for Charles Ringling. It is a winding road leading east from Tamiami Trail toward the winter circus headquarters. It crosses Washington Boulevard where Charles Ringling built the Sarasota Terrace Hotel, a high-rise in the Chicago style of architecture, opposite the site which Ringling would donate for the county seat.

Charles Ringling and his wife, Edith, began building their bay front residence in the early 1920s. Charles Ringling died in 1926, just after it was completed. For decades Edith Ringling remained there and continued her role in the administration of the circus and her cultural activities in the community. Her daughter, Hester, and her sons also were active in Sarasota's theatrical and musical venues. What came to be known internationally as the Edith Ringling Estate is now the center of the campus of New College of Floridamarker.

John Ringling in partnership with Owen Burns

John Ringling invested heavily in the barrier islands, known as keysmarker, which separate the shallow bay from the Gulf of Mexicomarker. Although he had several corporations and development projects in Sarasota, he worked in partnership with Owen Burns to develop the keys through a corporation named, Ringling Isles Estates. To facilitate development of these holdings a bridge was built to the islands by his partner, Owen Burns. Eventually Ringling donated it to the city for the government to maintain. They named that route, John Ringling Boulevard. The center of Saint Armand key contains Harding Circle and the streets surrounding it are named for other U. S. presidents. Dredge and fill by Owen Burns created even more dry land to develop, including Bird Key. Winter residents, called snowbirds, flocked to purchase these seasonal homes marketed to the well-to-do.

Leading edge of the 1920s crash

The Roaring Twenties ended early for Sarasota. Florida was the first area in the United Statesmarker to be affected by the financial problems that led to the Great Depression. In 1926 development speculation began to collapse with bank failures on the eastern coast of Florida, much earlier than most parts of the country. The financial difficulties spread throughout Florida. John Ringling initially profited from the economic crash. Ringling had put his partner, Owen Burns, into bankruptcy by using money from the treasury of their corporation for use on another Ringling project that was failing. He later purchased the landmark El Vernona Hotelmarker from Burns at a fraction of its worth. John Ringling, too, however, lost most of his fortune. Shortly after the June 1929 death of his wife, Mable, his reversal began because his stock investments were affected.

Just before the market crashed, Ringling had purchased several other circuses with hopes of combining them with the existing circus and selling shares on the stock exchange. The crash ended that plan. While Ringling continued to invest in expensive artwork, he left grand projects unfinished, such as a Ritz hotel on one of the barrier islands. He abandoned plans for an art school as an adjunct to the museum. Ringling did lend his name to an art school established by others in Sarasota, however reluctantly.

The board of the circus, which included Edith Ringling and other members of the family, removed John Ringling and placed another director, Samuel Gumpertz, in charge of the corporation. By the time of his death in 1936, John Ringling was close to bankruptcy. His estate was saved only because he had willed it, together with his art collection, to the state. His nephew, John Ringling North, struggled for years to keep that legacy intact.

A new city plan

Sarasota - from her mainland showing much of downtown (from Burns Square to Main Street in the extreme foreground) and the bay front from Marie Selby Botanical Gardens to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, as well as Sarasota Bay, portions of her keys, and the Gulf of Mexico in the distance
In 1925 John Nolan, a professional planner, was hired to develop a plan for the downtown of the city. He laid out the streets to follow the arch of the bay front with a grid beyond, that extended north to what is now Tenth Street and south to Mound. This followed more closely the way the city was developing at the time.

The names and numbers of the downtown streets were changed to the current ones. At that time the numbered streets began at Burns Square and the triangular building separating the intersection of Orange and Pineapple Avenues, was on First Street. He shifted the existing numbered streets to the north, beginning above what now is Main Street. The city hall, situated in the Hover Arcade at the foot of Main Street, was on the waterfront and the city dock extended from it. It was the hub of the new city. Vehicles and materials could pass through the arcade and railroad tracks led directly to the terminus. The new plan accentuated that city hall on the bay front, was the nexus of the city. Broadway, the road that connected the downtown bay front with the northern parts of the city along the bay had become part of the new Tamiami Trail.

This plan was abandoned in the 1960s when pressure to increase speeds on Tamiami Trail drove the demolition of the city hall and redirecting the route past the bay front, severing the community from the waterfront. By the last decade of the century automobile traffic had become so dominant that intersections beyond human-scale barred all but the most adventurous from attempting crossings on foot. At community design charrettes, designs began to circulate that called for the reunification of the downtown to the bay front and removal of the designation of the bay front road as a highway. New Urbanism concepts focused upon restoring Sarasota to a walkable community and taking the greatest advantage of its most beautiful asset. Roundabouts were discussed as traffic calming devices that could be integrated into gracious designs for safe and efficient movement of automobiles among increased use by bicyclists and pedestrians, along with reduction of pollution.

Twenty-first century

In January 2006, Sarasota made national news when the National Coalition for the Homeless named it the country's "meanest city". The city's 2005 ordinance banned persons' sleeping outside on public or private property without permission.. In December 2006 members of a local Food Not Bombs chapter along with members of the city's homeless population staged a "sleep-in" protest marching from Sarasota's 5-points park to the steps of the county courthouse where they set up camp for the night

In 2008, Sarasota county's Pine View School for the Gifted was named the sixth best high school in the United States of America. According to the U. S. News report, Pine View School students have a rating of 99.3 percent on the college readiness index.

Another speculation crash

The boom of the 1950s failed to end in a crash, but almost a hundred years after the first speculation crash that affected her so badly in the mid-1920s, Sarasota became identified as the epicenter of the 2008 real estate crash. It followed financial credit problems that began with poorly-financed mortgages failing because of massive real estate speculation that began in the late 1990s and escalated dramatically during the early 2000s. Once the values of the properties began to fall the mortgages purchased with consideration of "equity value" derived from the rapid increases in property values due to speculation, became problematic. The properties were no longer worth the value of the mortgages, some by great differences. The rate of foreclosures is increasing as the values remain low and governments are losing taxes to support services because of the decline in values. This has become almost a nation-wide problem and is occurring in other countries as well. Although not over yet, it is likely to be labeled as another boom period-crash, not in undeveloped land and not just in Florida, but this time in equity-based home mortgages.


In 1926, A. B. Edwards built a theater that could be adapted for either vaudeville performances or movie screenings. It is situated at the intersection of Pineapple Avenue and Second Street, having been restored and used for operas. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sarasota is the home of Sarasota Orchestra, which was founded by Ruth Cotton Butler in 1949 and known for years as the Florida West Coast Symphony. It holds a three-week Sarasota Music Festival that is recognized internationally and attracts renowned teachers and the finest students of chamber music. Starting in 2009 Sarasota starts the annual Ringling International Arts Festival, also recognized internationally.

In the early 1950s, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Artmarker purchased a historic Italian theater, the Asolo (now called The Historic Asolo Theater) A. Everett "Chick" Austin, the museum's first director, arranged the purchase and reassembly of the theater for performances of plays and opera. The theater was built in 1798 and disassembled during the 1930s. Adolph Loewi, a Venetian collector and dealer, had purchased the theater and stored its parts until the purchase and shipment to Sarasota for the museum. Later the theater was used for a foreign film club. When the club expanded, it built its own theater at Burns Court near Burns Square in downtown Sarasota.

Later, Stuart Barger designed and oversaw the construction of another Asolo Theater, housed in the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts. It is a multi-theater complex, located farther east on the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art property, being placed between Bay Shore Road and Tamiami Trail, and facing Ringling Plaza. It was built around a rococo, historic Scottish theater, which had been shipped to Florida. The new complex also provides venues and facilities for students of Florida State Universitymarker's MFA Acting program, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. This was the administrative home of the Sarasota French Film Festival for several years. Venues around the city were used for films and events that focused upon French films and their stars.

In the 1960s the Van Wezels enabled the city to build a performing arts hall on the bay front. The auditorium, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's successor firm, Taliesin Associated Architects team under the direction of William Wesley Peters. Wright's widow, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, selected its purple color.

Other cultural attractions include the Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, the Sarasota Players, the Banyan Theater Company, and many other musical, dance, artistic, and theatrical venues. Since 1998, the city has hosted the Sarasota Film Festival annually. The festival attracts independent films from around the world. It claims to be one of Florida's largest film festivals.

Sarasota is home to Mote Marine Laboratorymarker, a marine rescue, research facility, and aquarium; Marie Selby Botanical Gardensmarker; G-Wiz Museum, a science museum; and Sarasota Jungle Gardens, which carries on early tourist attraction traditions. It also has many historic sites and neighborhoods.

Colleges in Sarasota include New College of Floridamarker, a public liberal arts college; Keiser College of Sarasota, a private college; FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training (Florida State Universitymarker's MFA Acting Conservatory in conjunction with the Asolo Repertory Theatre); Ringling College of Art and Design, a school of visual arts and design; and satellite campuses of Eckerd Collegemarker, based in St. Petersburg, Floridamarker; a commuter branch of the University of South Floridamarker, based in Tampa, Floridamarker; and Florida State University College of Medicine, based in Tallahassee, Floridamarker. Community colleges include Sarasota County Technical Institute and Manatee Community College, recently reaccredited and renamed State College of Florida East West College of Natural Medicine, an accredited college of acupuncture & Chinese medicine is also located in Sarasota.

March 2007, Riverview High School
The Sarasota School of Architecture has developed as a variant of mid-century modernist architecture. It incorporates elements of both the Bauhaus and Frank Lloyd Wright's "organic" architecture. The style developed as an adaptation to the area's sub-tropical climate and used newly emerging materials manufactured or implemented following World War II. Philip Hiss was the driving force of this movement.

Fellow architects creating new adaptive designs were Paul Rudolph and Ralph Twitchell. The second generation of the school includes Gene Leedy, Jack West, Victor Lundy, Mark Hampton, James Holiday, Ralph Zimmerman, as well as several who still practice in the community: William Zimmerman; Carl Abbott, Edward J. "Tim" Seibert, and Frank Folsom Smith.

Rudolph's Florida houses attracted attention in the architectural community around the world. He started receiving commissions for larger works, such as the Jewett Art Center at Wellesley Collegemarker. In 1958 Rudolph was selected as director of the School of Architecture at Yalemarker, shortly after designing the school's building. He led the school for six years before returning to private practice.

Historic sites

By the end of the twentieth century, many of Sarasota's more modest historical structures had been lost to the wrecking ball. Condominium development erased all evidence of the Whitaker settlement along the bay. To the east of Tamiami Trail, however, their family cemetery remains on property owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, adjacent to the city-owned Pioneer Park. Recently, two historic buildings, the Crocker Church and the Bidwell-Wood House (the oldest remaining structure in the city), first restored by Veronica Morgan and members of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, became city property. The Sarasota County Historical Society facilitated the move. These structures were relocated to this park, despite protests from residents who objected to the loss of park area. Restoration is needed again for deterioration that occurred during the last decade.

In the late 1970s, Sarasota County purchased the Terrace Hotel that was built by Charles Ringling and renovated it for use as a county government office building. That structure and the adjacent courthouse that he donated to the new county in 1921 have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the next decade the landmark hotel built by Owen Burns, the El Vernona, which had been turned into apartments became endangered. By then it was called the John Ringling Towers and was purchased by a phosphate miner, Gardiner, who wanted to turn it into his corporate headquarters. All of the tenants were turned out and plans were made for the restoration of the building. The city commissioners supported the plan initially, but lobbying to undermine the project began and one of the commissioners changed her vote, and the project was denied at the final hearing. The enraged miner abandoned the city and subsequent owners, seeking to demolish it, made garish changes to the building to make it unappealing before finally leaving it open for vagrants to invade and pilfer.

A community campaign began to preserve the building complex that included the realty office of Owen Burns that had been renovated for use as a home by Karl Bickel. A historic preservation organization, the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, was founded by Veronica Morgan to save the buildings and to promote historic preservation throughout the community. Through their efforts, combined with the help of many architects in the community, a hotel development group with a history of restoring historic hotels bought the property and both structures on the property were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it soon was sued by another developer who had made a bid for the property also. The buildings were subjected to a legal battle that was lost by the historic hotel developers. Eventually both buildings fell under the wrecking ball.

Most of the luxurious historic residences from the 1920s boom period along the northern shore of Sarasota Bay have survived. This string of homes, built on large parcels of elevated land along the widest point of the bay, is anchored by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art at its center. Among them is Cà d'Zan, the home of Mable and John Ringling, which was restored recently under the direction of Bill Puig.

Many significant structures from the comparatively recent "Sarasota School of Architecture" period of the mid-twentieth century, however, have not survived. Since they do not qualify under the age criteria set for historic preservation nominations their historic aspect often escapes public recognition. Others frequently are threatened by demolition plans for new development without consideration of their historic importance to the community instead of motivating the implementation of plans to retain the buildings and integrate them into new plans.

March 2007 photograph of Riverview High School, a Paul Rudolph design built in 1958
In 2006, the Sarasota County School Board slated one of Paul Rudolph's largest Sarasota projects, Riverview High School, for demolition. The board arrived at the decision despite protests by many members of the community, including architects, historic preservationists, and urban planners. Others support the demolition as they believe the structure is no longer functional. The issue was divisive. The World Monuments Fund included the school on its 2008 Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the category Main Street Modern.

Although the community of Sarasota is divided on the worth of Rudolph's structure, the international arts community is not. New urbanist planner and architect Andres Duany has strongly supported retention of the school. When asked about the project by a historic preservation leader at a public meeting in January 2007 in Sarasota, Duany stated that Sarasota would lose its international stature as an arts center if it allowed the demolition. The historic building is the main structure in the school complex and includes a planetarium. Plans existed to nominate Riverview High School to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of the most endangered historic structures in the United States, America's Most Endangered Places.

Following a March 2007 charrette led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a proposal was advanced to renovate and preserve Rudolph's buildings. The school board decided to allow a year to consider implementation of the innovative plan proposed to preserve the buildings, that would include building a parking garage with playing fields above it rather than demolishing the structures.

In early June 2008 the school board announced that the school would be demolished and that a parking lot will replace it. Riverview was demolished in June 2009.


A group enjoys a game of golf in 1905 Sarasota - collection of Sarasota History Center
The warm climate helped the Sarasota area become a popular golf destination, a sport brought to America by the Scots. One of them was John Hamilton Gillespie, an early pioneer of the game in Sarasota. The Sara Bay course in the Whitfield area was designed by golf architect Donald Ross. Bobby Jones was associated with the community course in Sarasota. Many courses dot the area, including the one originally laid out for the hotel John Ringling planned on the southern tip of Longboat Keymarker.

Sarasota also is home to Ed Smith Stadiummarker, where the Baltimore Orioles will conduct spring training camp starting in 2010. The Orioles also have minor league facilities at Twin Lakes Park. Both facilities will undergo major upgrades after spring training in 2010. The agreement with the Orioles also places a Cal Ripken Youth Baseball Academy in Sarasota.

Previously, Ed Smith Stadiummarker was the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds and the minor league Sarasota Reds. However, along with many other teams, the Cincinnati Reds will move their spring training location to Goodyear, Arizonamarker. It was recently announced that starting in 2010, the Baltimore Orioles will replace the Reds. With their arrival will come a complete renovation of Ed Smith Stadium. Before 1997, the city had a long association with the Chicago White Sox; both through spring training and through Sarasota's minor-league team, which was once known as the Sarasota White Sox. This predates the construction of Ed Smith Stadium in 1989.

The area Young Man's Christian Association (YMCA) is the largest and best-funded in Florida. Within the YMCA's three branches is one of the state's more proficient swim teams, the Sarasota YMCA Sharks which has won numerous state titles. Swim teams from around the nation come every summer to practice at the facilities and compete against the Sharks.

Sarasota also is the site of the annual UPA Ultimate Club Championships.

The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball player, John-Ford Griffin, was born in Sarasota.

The Sarasota Marathon started in 2005 and happens spring each year. The start and finish is near the John and Mable Ringling Museum.

Ringling Redskins

Ringling Redskins is a Youth Sports league located in Sarasota, Florida United States. The Ringling Redskins comprises 4 separate divisions and 28 teams.Ringling Redskins has had several players go in to NCAA schools over 28 players pick by Professional Teams.


Ringling Redskins was officially established on September 3, 1960 and became Ringling, Inc. It is the oldest continuous youth sports programs in the state of Florida.There were four teams playing in two set of uniforms on a sand lot, where the Girls Club now stands. In 1962, the organization went to Roybal Homes, Roy Black to build a clubhouse on the location they now play on.In 1976, the old quartz lights were changed to mercury vapor. In 1978, they started what is now known as ‚ÄúB‚ÄĚ Squad Games. In 1986, they introduced their Flagg Division.


Early transportation from and to Sarasota was by boat, buckboard, and cart‚ÄĒif not by foot and horseback‚ÄĒand the ground routes were rugged. Barges and boats of shallow draft provided the easiest transportation for people as well as goods because of the thickets. Creeks and bayous drained toward the bay creating some daunting crossings. There was Hog Creek just north of what now is Tenth Street and Whitaker Bayou less than a mile farther north. Bowlees Creek, five miles (8 km) north from Main Street, was a natural barrier to roads and the main route north to the Manatee River and its communities was inland to avoid it. Boats arrived from Cuba, Key West, Boca Grande, communities along the Manatee River and Tampa Bay as well as Cedar Key and eastern Florida. Freight and passengers from the eastern seaboard north of the long peninsula of Florida usually arrived at Cedar Key by train, continuing the trip south on boats.

The first effort to open the Sarasota area for commerce and development with rail transportation began in 1892 when a leg of a line planned between the deep water access at Boca Grande and Lakeland was constructed between Sarasota and the cargo docks in Bradenton. The tracks were placed with a very close gauge, however, and although using the railroad reduced the duration of the three-hour wagon trip there by two hours, the line became nicknamed, The Slow and Wobbly.

The nickname was derived from the train’s instability and inclination to tip over and reports were that it was a most unpleasant ride for passengers. The resulting low use lent to unpredictability as well, and no fixed schedule developed. Soon its tracks were pulled up to pay for the debt of the great venture.

In 1903 new rails carried the United States and West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company trains into Sarasota. Outfitted with a day coach, a Pullman sleeper, and a baggage car, the train had a wood-burning engine. The line later became a portion of Seaboard Air Line railway. A depot was built among the pine trees along what now isFirst Street. As the line prospered, a passenger and freight station was built at Lemon Avenue just north of where it intersects Main Street. A portion of the line was extended to the end of the dock extending from city hall on the bay front, its cars passing through the building, the Hoover Arcade, to facilitate transfer. Personal train cars used by the Ringling family as they traveled with the circus were parked there between trips, just a few steps from their yachts at anchor in the basin.

The Atlantic Coast Line was the second railroad to make a success of serving Sarasota. It built a passenger station valued at a hundred thousand dollars at the eastern end of Main Street in 1925, near the Terrace Hotel that Charles Ringling built to accommodate tourists.

A reduction in rail service began for passengers and freight following the Second World War following the development of interstate highways that carried tourists in their own vehicles and trucks laden with the products of the booming nation. Air lines provided freight handling and connections for long distance travelers to the newly expanded airport that benefited from military facilities left behind. By 1967 the two rail lines merged into the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, however, by the beginning of the next decade all rail passenger transportation to Sarasota ceased. The Main Street station metamorphosed into a popular restaurant that eventually languished as well until it was demolished overnight in January 1986 to avoid the mistaken notion that it would become protected by a newly drafted historic preservation ordinance that was approved in the next week.

The city has had several airports, mostly landing strips in various parts of the city, but the current airport, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airportmarker (also known by its IATA designation, SRQ) serves both Manatee and Sarasota counties and both governments participate in its oversight. It remains classified as a secondary airport because it is within fifty miles of the major airport at Tampa.

It grew almost to its current size during World War II when it was used by the Army Air Corps. As the old terminal became outdated and its main runway too short for the heavy planes wanted for travel to more distant destinations thoughts toward expansion resulted. Resistance from some nearby bay front neighborhoods that had existed long before jet aircraft, objected due to the increase in noise associated with the new planes. A commitment for land to be set aside was made and the Sarasota public voted for moving the airport to what now is Lakewood Ranch by a county-wide referendum, but the commissioners of Manatee County declined to agree to the move. Later, homes in the Manatee neighborhoods affected most by the noise associated with the main runway were insulated from the sound and required to agree to easements or, purchased outright for demolition. Extension of the main runway has driven the only expansion since that time and the older terminal was replaced with the current one.

The cachet associated with the designation for Sarasota was adopted by SRQ Magazine, SRQ Dance Studios, and by SRQ Racing, a local automotive community, and it is sometimes used by people who wish to identify with the city and area.

A debate in the community raged for years regarding the bridge from downtown to the keys west of downtown. Lovers of tradition supported retention of the low bascule bridge with side railings that allowed drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists to have a constant vista of the bay while crossing to and from the keys and which provided an occasional opportunity to stop and enjoy the beauty of the bay at close hand for a few minutes as they waited for boats with high masts to pass. They expressed concerns that the designs for a new bridge overwhelmed the unique bay front by being out of proportion to the community and noted that the new bridge had an incline that prevented access by the disabled. Supporters of changing the bridge rather than repairing the old, many living outside of the city on Longboat Key, cited displeasure at waiting for the opening and closing of the bridge and fears that the bridge might become stuck open when they had an urgent need to get to the mainland. Finally, the old bridge was torn down and replaced by a high fixed-span bridge that is exempted from legal requirements for ADA standards for wheelchair access by the disabled.



Sarasota is part of the Nielsen-designated Tampa-Saint Petersburg-Sarasota television market. The local television stations are ABC-affiliate WWSBmarker and SNN Local News 6, a continuous local cable news operation run by Comcast and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. WWSB is the only network station with studios in Sarasota. Other network and public television programming serving the community is offered by Fort Myersmarker and Tampa television stations.


Arbitron has identified the Sarasota-Bradenton radio market as the seventy-third largest market in the country,, and the sixth largest in the state of Florida. There are eight radio stations in the city: WSMRmarker (89.1FM/Christian), WSLRmarker (96.5FM/Variety-Talk), WKZMmarker (104.3FM/Religious), WCTQmarker (106.5FM/Country), WSRZmarker (107.9FM/Oldies), WLSS (930AM/Talk), WSRQ (1220AM/Talk), WTMYmarker (1280AM/Talk-Business-Health), WTZB (105.9FM/Rock-Alternative Rock;commonly known as The Buzz) and WSDV (1450AM-Standards). The community also is served by WUSFmarker (89.7FM/classical music, NPR news and programs) which is broadcast from Tampa and WMNF (88.1FM variety).


The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is the city's daily newspaper and a version for Manatee County is published as well as the Manatee AM; the Bradenton Herald from neighboring Bradenton also is distributed in the area.

Additional local publications include SRQ Magazine, Positive Change, Sarasota Observer, Gulf Coast Business Review, Pelican Press, Sarasota Magazine, Sarasota Magazine's Biz941, Longboat Observer, Creative Loafing, Sarasota Downtown and Beyond, and BlaK&WitE Magazine.


The Sarasota school system is recognized as one of the best in the state. Pine View School (technically located in Osprey, Floridamarker) in 2009 was ranked as the 11th best high school in the country by U.S. News. New College of Floridamarker is also a highly ranked and respected liberal arts college that resides in the city. University of South Floridamarker also has a campus in Sarasota, as does the Ringling College of Art and Design.

Sister cities


Sarasota is located at (27.337273, -82.535318).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.9 mi¬≤ (67.2 km¬≤). 14.9 mi¬≤ ( 38.6 km¬≤) of it is land and 11.0 mi¬≤ (28.6 km¬≤) of it is water. The total area is 42.58% water.

The naturally occurring sand of Lido Beach is very fine and pure white. It has won contests for being among the best in the world. Unfortunately, the city government once chose to replace some of it lost in a storm with sand shipped in from other locations that was of a different color and texture. Public reaction against that is likely to prevent any similar substitution efforts in the future and sand from offshore was used in the next replacement.teresa murphy


As of the census of 2000, there were 52,715 people, 23,427 households, and 12,064 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,539.8/mi² (1,366.9/km²). There were 26,898 housing units at an average density of 1,806.2/mi² (697.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 76.91% White, 16.02% African American, 0.35% Native American, 1.02% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.74% from other races, and 1.91% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.92% of the population.

There were 23,427 households out of which 19.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.3% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female head of household with no husband present, and 48.5% were non-families. 38.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the city the population was spread out with 18.4% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 22.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 94.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,077 and the median income for a family was $40,398. About 12.4% of families and 16.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.5% of those under age 18 and 7.7% of those age 65 or over.

The per capita income for residents of the city was $23,197. Females had a median income of $23,510 versus $26,604 males.


  5. Burnett Gene M. (1986) Florida's Past: People and Events that Shaped the State. Pineapple Press Inc., Sarasota, FL
  10. (January 13, 2006), Report: Sarasota, Fla., the 'Meanest City'. CBS News. Retrieved on December 28, 2007.
  11. USA Today (January 13, 2006). Sarasota, Fla. named meanest city for homeless. Retrieved on December 28, 2007.
  12. Brady Dennis (January 30, 2006), Tough on the homeless, city deemed heartless: Sarasota defends its no-camping ordinance that won it the top spot on a national "mean list." St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved on December 28, 2007.
  13. Creative Loafing Dislodged: The homeless community fights the anti-lodging ordinance.
  20. Jennings, David, A Tale of Two Commissions, Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, Inc. Newsletter, February 2005, volume twenty, number two, Box 1754, Sarasota, Florida 34230 - with illustrations of Crocker Church and Bidwell-Wood House by Kafi Benz
  21. LaHurd, Jeff, Sarasota, A History, The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina, IBSSN 1-59629-119-2
  22. Rudolph's Riverview High School Demolished
  23. Baltimore Sun: Orioles reach deal for spring training set for Sarasota
  26. Muldowney, Lorrie, Slow, Wobbly Trains Ride into Paradise, Sarasota History Center

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