A Little Sarasota History

Thu, May 29, 2014


 Some rights reserved by CS_McMahonWhether you are new to Sarasota, or a long-time resident, there is plenty to learn about Sarasota’s history. In addition, there are many places to visit so you can immerse yourself in its varied history. In fact, we will discuss some of Sarasota’s history through its many attractions.

First, let’s discuss some of Sarasota’s early history. Sarasota County was created from Manatee County in July 1921. One of the earliest buildings built for Sarasota was its courthouse. This has a Ringling connection, as much of Sarasota does, in that Charles Ringling helped procure an architect—Mr. Dwight Baum. You can visit this area in Sarasota’s downtown.

Sarasota is often associated with its circus history and the Ringling family. The winter quarters of the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus was once located here. For many, seeing circus performers was commonplace in Sarasota’s history. This exciting culture attracted many unique people to the Sarasota area. It also helped establish Sarasota as an art locale, in part because John Ringling established his residence here. As many of you know, his home became today’s Ringling museum.

The Ringling museum is a fascinating combination of local history, circus history, and art history. You can stroll the main halls and see beautiful specimens of both traditional and contemporary art. Then you can venture over to the Circus museum to learn more about one of Sarasota’s most unique attributes. On display, you’ll find costumes, posters, tools, wagons, memorabilia,and more. Lastly, a visit to the Ca’ d’Zan brings more understanding to the vast wealth that the circus industry could bring. The construction on the “House of John” began in 1925 and the home was modeled after many sketches and photos that Mable Ringling had saved over the years. In 2002, it was carefully restored to its original splendor. There are tours at various times of the day, but you can usually step onto the back terrace to catch a glimpse (unless there is a private party). The view of the bay from the home is also wonderful and you can sit on a bench or take a stroll near the bay for a nature break from all the culture. All aspects of the Ringling museum are sure to fascinate visitors and residents alike.

To learn more about history that pre-dates Sarasota’s circus history, be sure to visit Historic Spanish Point. They have divided the site into four P’s: Prehistoric, Pioneer, Palmer, and Plants. You can visit some of the homes of this area’s pioneer families and get an idea of how prehistoric peoples lived in our area. Mrs. Potter Palmer lived there, and you will notice how important she is in our local history, as her name and related names will come up throughout the Sarasota area. In addition, it is a beautiful place just to enjoy the outdoors.

There are many other smaller historical sites to visit. A great website that details these is sarasotahistoryalive.com. There you can find historical markers and historical buildings to visit. A visit to the Sarasota County Historical Resources Center is also a great way to learn more about Sarasota’s history. It will hopefully be reopening to visitors in June 2014 and holds historical artifacts and documents perfect for the true history buff.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith is a Lakewood Ranch, Florida attorney with SmithLaw Attorneys. He concentrates in bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. Call 941-907-4774 to learn more and to ask about our free consultations.

Image: Some rights reserved by CS_McMahon


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