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Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota - beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico in the foreground across keys in Sarasota Bay to the harbor and downtown bay front in the middle ground and residential neighborhoods in the distance
Nickname(s): Paradise [1]
Location in Sarasota County and the state of Florida
Coordinates: 27°20′14″N 82°32′7″W / 27.33722°N 82.53528°W / 27.33722; -82.53528Coordinates: 27°20′14″N 82°32′7″W / 27.33722°N 82.53528°W / 27.33722; -82.53528
Country  United States
State  Florida
County  Sarasota
Zarazote 1763
Fort Armistead 1840
Sara Sota 1842
 - Type Commission-manager
 - City manager Robert J Bartolotta
Area [2]
 - City 25.93 sq mi (67.2 km2)
 - Land 14.89 sq mi (38.6 km2)
 - Water 11.04 sq mi (28.6 km2)  42.58%
Elevation [3] 16 ft (7 m)
Population (1 July 2007)[4]
 - City 52,578
 Density 3,539.8/sq mi (1,366.7/km2)
 Metro 673,035
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 34230 - 34243
Area code(s) 941
FIPS code 12-64175[5]
GNIS feature ID 0290675[6]

Sarasota is a city located in Sarasota County on the southwestern coast of the state of Florida in the United States. Its current official limits include Sarasota Bay and several barrier islands between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

These islands separating Sarasota Bay from the gulf near the city, known as keys, include Lido Key and Siesta Key, 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 Key, and portions of Siesta Key. 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.[7] 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 [8] and the chairs of the three elements of that organization belong to the eight-county regional planning organization for western central Florida.[9]




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 Mexico 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 springs and catchment basins, such as Warm Mineral Springs, 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 350 feet (110 m), 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 Bay 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

Europeans 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 — enough to learn a few words and much suspicion.

Having been identified on maps by the mid-1700s as Zara Zote,[10] 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 Swamp 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—'Zara Zote'—on 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 Bay.

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.[11] 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 descendants of William and Mary Whitaker and their spouses could be buried there as long as space remained. There are eighty-five plots in all, with thirty-nine taken to date.

In 1867, the Webb family from Utica, New York, 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 Osprey 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 County 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.[1] 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 eighty-eight years old, when she died in 1964.[2]

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, with A. B. Edwards as mayor.

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, and 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 Hotel, 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.

Beside the landmarks, bridges, and developments he built, 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 90,000 acres (360 km2) of property.[3] 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 19,000 acres (65 km²) of land as an exclusive hunting preserve in what is now Temple Terrace, Florida, near Tampa in Hillsborough County, which she called Riverhills Ranch.

Bertha Palmer also owned a large tract of land that is now Myakka State Park. 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.[4]

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 Overtown, Bay Haven, Indian Beach, Shell Beach, Bee Ridge, and Fruitville have all but faded from the memory of most living there now. Overtown expanded to include what is now designated as the historic Rosemary District 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 neighborhoods 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.

Cà d'Zan, Mable and John Ringling 1925 Sarasota residence, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places

On adjacent parcels of Thompson's Shell Beach where Ellen and Ralph Caples built their winter retreat, Mable and John Ringling built their compound. It soon would 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 Uplands. 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 with the intention of creating an entire subdivision. This is 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 during the boom era of the 1920s.

Charles Ringling as developer

Template:Seelaso 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. From his bank, he loaned money to fledgling businesses. He donated land to the newly formed county—upon 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 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 Florida.

John Ringling in partnership with Owen Burns

John Ringling invested heavily in the barrier islands, known as keys, which separate the shallow bay from the Gulf of Mexico. 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 States 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 Hotel 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 and he died just before he would have become bankrupt. A film about the estate that is shown to museum visitors, states that his bank balance was less than four hundred dollars when he died. His nephew, John Ringling North, struggled for years to keep that legacy intact.

A new city plan

Sarasota - from 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 the 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. Nolan 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 that was being created. The trail was a portion of US 41 that connected Tampa to Miami (hence the contracted name) in 1928. United with US 301 in northern Manatee County, the trail made a "dog's leg" turn toward the west at Cortez Road. In Sarasota it turned back toward the east to follow Main Street through downtown before rejoining US 301 at Washington Boulevard.

Tamiami Trail is shown as a bold dotted line running north to south and marked US 41, as it traverses Sarasota, Florida, which is shown in gold

This plan was abandoned in the 1960s when pressure to increase speeds on Tamiami Trail drove the demolition of the city hall and the redirection of 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 planning 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 being a walkable community and taking the greatest advantage of its most beautiful asset, Sarasota Bay. 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.[12][13][14]. 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 Five-point Park to the steps of the county courthouse where they set up camp for the night [15]

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,[5] Sarasota became identified as the epicenter of the 2008 real estate crash.[6] [7] 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.[8] 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 became almost a nation-wide problem and occurred 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 it began with equity-based home mortgages and has led to a major financial crisis.


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 the Sarasota Orchestra,[9] 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.

In the early 1950s, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art purchased a historic Italian theater, the Asolo (now called the Historic Asolo Theater).[10] 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 had been built in 1798 and was 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. The theater was rebuilt in a building that extended to the west of the northern wing of the museum, where John Ringling had intended his unrealized art school would be built. The new building, containing the historic theater, was separated from the museum by a small garden that featured statues of dwarfs. In the 1980s, the theater was used by a foreign film club that showed its films on Monday nights. When the club expanded, it built its own theater at Burns Court near Burns Square in downtown Sarasota.

Later a local architect, 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 south toward 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 University's MFA Acting program, the FSU and 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, who participated in the project, selected its purple color.

Other Sarasota 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. In 2009 the annual Ringling International Arts Festival, held its premier and held its closing event in the historic Asolo theater, which had been moved and rebuilt again. The historic Venetian theater now is housed in the reception building for the museum where it is used for special events as well as performances, informative purposes, and another seasonal film series hosted by the museum.

Sarasota is home to Mote Marine Laboratory, a marine rescue, research facility, and aquarium; Marie Selby Botanical Gardens; G-Wiz Museum, a museum of science and technology;[11] 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 Florida, a public liberal arts college; Keiser College of Sarasota, a private college; FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training (Florida State University'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 College, based in St. Petersburg, Florida; and Florida State University College of Medicine, based in Tallahassee, Florida. Other colleges in the city include East West College of Natural Medicine, an accredited college of acupuncture and Chinese medicine [12]

Nearby educational institutions with regional draw include Sarasota County Technical Institute and Manatee Community College, which recently was renamed State College of Florida and accredited as a four-year institution, and a commuter branch of the University of South Florida, based in Tampa, Florida.

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 College. In 1958 Rudolph was selected as director of the School of Architecture at Yale, shortly after designing the school's building. He led the school for six years before returning to private practice.

Recently a bank building designed and built by Jack West was renovated and reopened as the headquarters of Gateway Bank on Tamiami Trail at the intersection with Bahia Vista. This followed a preliminary proposal to demolish the building that met with a rapid objection from a leader of historic preservation in the community before the new project could gain approval within the city planning department.

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),[16] first restored by Veronica Morgan and members of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation that she founded, 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.[17] 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. The courthouse complex was designed by Dwight James Baum.

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. 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 cultural and 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 supported the demolition as they believed 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 was divided on the worth of Rudolph's structure, the international arts community was not. New urbanist planner and architect, Andres Duany, strongly supported retention of the school. When asked about the project by Kafi Benz, 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 was the main structure in the school complex and included 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 would replace it. One year later, in June 2009, Riverview High School was demolished.[18]


Golf being played at Sarasota in 1905 - 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 Key.

Sarasota also is home to Ed Smith Stadium, 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.[19]

Previously, Ed Smith Stadium was the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds and the minor league Sarasota Reds. Along with many other teams, however, the Cincinnati Reds will move their spring training location to Goodyear, Arizona. Starting in 2010, the Baltimore Orioles will replace the Reds and a complete renovation of Ed Smith Stadium is planned.[citation needed] 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 once was 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 Sarasota Marathon started in 2005. In 2010, declining sponsorship and marathon registration led organizers to change the event to a half marathon. The race begins and ends near the John and Mable Ringling Museum.[20]

Ringling Redskins, Inc. was established on September 3, 1960 and is a youth sports league located in the city. The Ringling Redskins comprises four separate divisions and twenty-eight teams. It has had several players go to NCAA schools and over twenty-eight players join professional teams. It is the oldest continuous youth sports programs in the state of Florida. Originally, there were four teams playing in two sets 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 current location. In 1976, the old quartz lights were changed to mercury vapor. In 1978, they started what is now known as “B” Squad Games. In 1986, they introduced their Flagg Division.[21]


Early transportation from and to Sarasota was by boat, buckboard, and cart—if not by foot and horseback—and 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.[22]

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 is First 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 Airport (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.[23] The local television stations are ABC-affiliate WWSB 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 Myers and Tampa television stations.


Arbitron has identified the Sarasota-Bradenton radio market as the seventy-third largest market in the country,[24], and the sixth largest in the state of Florida. There are eight radio stations in the city: WSMR (89.1FM/Christian), WSLR (96.5FM/Variety-Talk), WKZM (104.3FM/Religious), WCTQ (106.5FM/Country), WSRZ (107.9FM/Oldies), WLSS (930AM/Talk), WSRQ (1220AM/Talk), WTMY (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 WUSF (89.7FM/classical music, NPR news and programs) which is broadcast from Tampa and WMNF (88.1FM variety).


The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is the daily newspaper published in the city and a version for Manatee County is published as well, as the Manatee AM. Weekly newspapers include the Pelican Press and Sarasota Observer. Additional local publications include BlaK&WitE Magazine, Creative Loafing, Gulf Coast Business Review, Positive Change, Sarasota Downtown and Beyond, Sarasota Magazine, Sarasota Magazine's Biz941, and SRQ Magazine. The Bradenton Herald from neighboring Manatee County also is distributed in the area.

Sister cities

Geography & Climate

Sarasota is located at 27°20′14″N 82°32′7″W / 27.33722°N 82.53528°W / 27.33722; -82.53528 (27.337273, -82.535318).[31]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.9 mi² (67.2 km²). 14.9 mi² ( 38.6 km²) of it is land and 11.0 mi² (28.6 km²) of it is water. The total area is 42.58% water. Sarasota has a humid subtropical climate.


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1910 840
1920 2,149 155.8%
1930 8,398 290.8%
1940 11,141 32.7%
1950 18,896 69.6%
1960 34,083 80.4%
1970 40,237 18.1%
1980 48,868 21.5%
1990 50,961 4.3%
2000 52,715 3.4%
Est. 2007 52,488 −0.4%
Population 1910-2000.[32]

As of the census[5] 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.


  1. ^ LaHurd, Jeff, Come on Down! : Pitching Paradise During the Roaring 20s, Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, 1995 ISBN 9781888438000 ISBN 1888438002
  2. ^ "Florida by place Population, Housing Units, Area and Density:2000". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  3. ^ "Sarasota, United States Page". Falling Rain Genomics. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  4. ^ "Annual Estimates of the population for the Incorporated Places of Florida" (XLS). US Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  5. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Burnett Gene M. (1986) Florida's Past: People and Events that Shaped the State. Pineapple Press Inc., Sarasota, FL
  12. ^ (January 13, 2006), Report: Sarasota, Fla., the 'Meanest City'. CBS News. Retrieved on December 28, 2007.
  13. ^ USA Today (January 13, 2006). Sarasota, Fla. named meanest city for homeless. Retrieved on December 28, 2007.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Creative Loafing Dislodged: The homeless community fights the anti-lodging ordinance.
  16. ^ 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
  17. ^ LaHurd, Jeff, Sarasota, A History, The History Press, Charleston, South Carolina, IBSSN 1-59629-119-2
  18. ^ Rudolph's Riverview High School Demolished,
  19. ^ Baltimore Sun: Orioles reach deal for spring training set for Sarasota
  20. ^ "2008 Sarasota Marathon". 2008 Sarasota Marathon. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Muldowney, Lorrie, Slow, Wobbly Trains Ride into Paradise, Sarasota History Center
  23. ^ "Top 50 TV markets ranked by households". Northwestern University Media Management Center. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  24. ^ "Arbitron Radio Market Rankings: Spring 2007". Arbitron. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  25. ^ "Hamilton, Province of Ontario, Canada: 1990". Sarasota Sister Cities Association. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  26. ^ "Perpignan, Languedoc-Roussillion, France:1994". Sarasota Sister Cities Association. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  27. ^ "Tel Mond, Israel:1994". Sarasota Sister Cities Association. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  28. ^ "Vladimir, Russia:1994". Sarasota Sister Cities Association. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  29. ^ "Treviso,Italy:2007". Sarasota Sister Cities Association. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  30. ^ "Siming District, Xiamen, Fujian Province, China:Candidate City". Sarasota Sister Cities Association. Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  31. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  32. ^ "Census Of Population And Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Sarasota is a popular city on the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida and the county seat of Sarasota County. It is known for its vibrant arts community, excellent restaurants, unique shopping, and beautiful beaches. Sarasota, although a mid-sized city, is considered to be the cultural center of West Central Florida. The city has a metropolitan flavor unique to cities of its size and to cities in Florida.


The Asolo Theater, Florida West Coast Symphony, Sarasota Opera, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and frequent art shows add the the cultural theme of the city, rivaling the facilities of Florida's largest cities. Sarasota is also home to the Ringling Museum of Art, the Selby Botanical Gardens, New College (Florida's public honors college), a USF branch, and the Ringling School of Art and Design.

Sarasota's downtown comprises a true urban cityscape with offices and several upscale downtown condominiums. It is complemented by Saint Armands Circle, on Saint Armands Key, which is surrounded by Lido Key, across Sarasota Bay from downtown via the Ringling Causeway (with sweeping views of Sarasota Bay.) Saint Armands Circle is an upscale outdoor shopping area, with several cafes, reminiscent of Europe. The idea for Saint Armands was from John Ringling who also intended to build a Ritz hotel on Longboat Key. Today, Sarasota has a Ritz hotel downtown as well as the Longboat Key Club on Ringling's original site. The Longboat Key Club includes two golf courses, tennis, and all other resort facilities and is located just north of Saint Armands on Longboat Key.

The beaches are a major draw to the area. Siesta Key Beach is consistently ranked among the most beautiful beaches on Earth. Crescent Beach, Turtle Beach, Lido Beach, and the beach running the 15 mile span of Longboat Key are equally beautiful and accessible. Indeed, much of Sarasota's charm comes from the fact that the beaches are so plentiful and accessible.

  • Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport (SRQ), 6000 Airport Circle, 941-359-2777, [1]. Located on the border between Sarasota and Manatee counties.
  • Sarasota has one primary expressway, Interstate 75, which runs north to south.
  • The major roads within Sarasota include the Tamiami Trail (which is the name given to US 41 between Tampa and Miami), US Route 301, Beneva Rd., Tuttle Ave/Swift Rd., Honore Avenue and Cattleman Rd., all running north-to-south, and Clark Rd., Proctor Rd., Bee Ridge Rd., Fruitville Rd. and University Pkwy., all running east-to-west.

Get around

The city includes the mainland downtown as well as three islands, called "keys." These are Longboat Key, Lido Key, and Siesta Key. Causeways to all these keys are free and very picturesque. Downtown Sarasota is very vibrant with a healthy mix of businesses, residences, and restaurants, as well as city services.

  • Sarasota Jungle Gardens, 3701 Bay Shore Road, Phone: 941-355-5305, [2]. Daily 9AM-5PM. There are 5 shows at the gardens in addition to the grounds themselves which are filled with many interesting plants. As with most early attractions, they offer some animal shows and a chance to see some rare plants, many of which are of extraordinary size. This attraction is a rare opportunity to see what Florida was like in the tourist boom of the early 1900's.
  • The Ringling Estate, 5401 Bay Shore Road, Phone: 941-359-5700, [3]. Daily 10AM-5:30PM. The Ringling Estate has recently finished a six-year restoration and expansion phase that restored all of the existing buildings and added four new buildings to the estate. Features of the 66-acre estate include the lush grounds and landscaping including Mable’s Rose Garden, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the Circus Museum, the Cà d’Zan Mansion, the Tibbals Learning Center, and the Historic Asolo Theater located in the Visitor’s Pavilion.
    • The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, [4]. The Museum of Art, built by John Ringling to house his personal collection of masterpieces, today features the great Old Masters including Rubens, van Dyck, Velàzquez, Titian, Tintoretto, Vernonese, El Greco, Gainsborough and more. Opened in October 1931, the Museum recently opened the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing in 2007, adding an additional 30,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Museum’s 21 galleries feature internationally renowned European, American and Asian art with masterpieces from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Courtyard of the Museum of Art features casts of original statues including the towering David by Michelangelo. The Courtyard features two fountains - Fountain of Tortoises, one of three replicas from the Piazza Mattei in Rome, and the Oceanus Fountain, copied from the 16th century original by Giovanni Bologna in Florence’s Boboli Gardens.
    • Circus Museum, [5]. Established in 1948, the Ringling Museum of the American Circus was the first museum of its kind to document the rich history of the circus. The Museum has a fine collection including rare handbills, posters and art prints, circus paper, business records, wardrobe, performing props, as well as all types of circus equipment, including beautifully carved parade wagons. Located in the Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center, The Howard Bros. Circus Model is a replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 – 1938. Complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 59-car train, the model is built in ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica and occupies 3,800 square feet.
    • Cà d’Zan, [6]. The Ringlings' dazzling palatial mansion is a tribute to the American Dream and reflects the splendor and romance of Italy. Described as “the last of the Gilded Age mansions” to be built in America, Cà d’Zan has 56 incredible rooms filled with art and original furnishings. With its Venetian Gothic architecture, the mansion is a combination of the grandeur of Venice’s Doge’s Palace, combined with the gothic grace of Cà d’Oro and Sarasota Bay serves as the Grand Canal.
    • The Historic Asolo Theater, [7]. An 18th-century treasure in a 21st-century venue, the Historic Asolo Theater is a work of art in its own right. The palace playhouse was created in Asolo, Italy to honor the 15th-century exiled Queen of Cyprus. In the late 1940s, the theater was brought to the Ringling Estate and served as the first stage for many of the community’s most recognized performance organizations. Today the theater features a diverse performance schedule including theatre, dance, film, music, and lectures.
  • Sarasota Classic Car Museum, 5500 North Tamiami Trail, Phone: 941-355-6228, [8]. Daily 9AM-6PM. Adults $9.50, Seniors $7.65, ages 13-17 $5.75, ages 6-12 $4.
  • The Mote Marine Lab Aquarium, Ken Thompson Pkwy, Phone: 941-388-4441, ext. 348, [9]. Daily 10AM-5PM. Adults $15, ages 4-12 $10.
  • Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 811 South Palm Avenue, Phone: 941-366-5731, [10]. Daily 10AM-5PM. Adults $12, Children 6-11 $6.
  • Art Center Sarasota, 707 N Tamiami Trail, Phone: 941-365-2032, [11]. Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. Usually, 2 or 3 art exhibitions going on concurrently. Some pieces in gallery available for sale. Free, $3 Donation Requested.
  • Siesta Key Beach. Siesta Key Beach is among the first and foremost reasons for many visitors to come to Sarasota. The sand, which is 99% pure crystal quartz, is often cited as being the cleanest, whitest sand in the world. With an athletic area equipped with vollyball courts, a cookout area complete with grills (bring your own charcoal), and life guards on duty all day, Siesta Key Beach is a great place for families and spring breakers alike. On Sundays at sundown, there is a tourist-heavy drum circle where local hippies play and everyone dances.
  • Historic Spanish Point, 337 N. Tamiami Trail. Visit Historic Spanish Point and experience the past 5,000 years of history in Southwest Florida. Open to the general public from M-Sa, 9AM-5PM; Su noon to 5PM. Exhibits range from learning about the Florida Environment, Southwest Florida’s Maritime Heritage, Pioneer Homesteaders, Archaeology and the Bertha Palmer time period of growth in Southwest Florida. The 30 acres of land used as Historic Spanish Point was once the winter estate of Mrs. Palmer. Adults $7, ages 6-12 $3, and under 6 free.
  • Ed Smith Stadium, 2700 12th Street. The spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds. If you are in the Venice area between February and March, catch a preseason game for between $5 and $12. From April to August the Class A minor-league affiliate team of the Cincinnati Reds, the Sarasota Reds play and tickets are only $5, so bring the entire family for an evening of baseball.
  • Great World Way (Nature Tours), 8374 Market Street, Lakewood Ranch, Phone: +1 941 650-1820, [12] Beyond the beaches, but within easy driving distance of downtown Sarasota, is a vast wilderness area of more than 100,000 acres. The backbone of this wilderness is the 66 mile long Myakka River. Within it's watershed are hundreds of miles of trails. You can access this wilderness via horseback, mountain bike, canoe/kayak, and on foot accompanied by a state-certified Master Naturalist.
  • South Florida Museum and Parker Manatee Aquarium, 201 10th Street West, Bradenton, Phone: 941-746-4131, [13]. Open Jan-Apr and July M-Sa 10AM-5PM; Sun noon-5PM. Rest of the year Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM; Su noon-5PM. Home of the oldest manatee born in captivity and other wonderful aquatic animals and also includes a Native American collection and a Spanish courtyard containing replicas of 16th-century buildings. This is a great place to spend the day with the entire family. From U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) take Manatee Av. west to 10th St. W. and turn right. Admission is $9.50 adults, $7.50 seniors, $6 students with ID, $5 children 5-12, free for children 4 and under.
  • Marina Jack, Bayfront Dr. Marina Plaza on the waterfront, Phone:(941) 365-4232. Keep your feet on the land while dining at the Marina Jack Restaurant or take off for an evening around Sarasota Bay on the Marina Jack Dinner Boat. Located on Sarasota Bay, the restaurant offers theatre seating so that everyone can enjoy a view of the waterfront. There is also the Portside Patio Bar for light meals or a drink before dinner. The Dinner Boat is an hour and a half lunch cruise or a two-hour dinner cruise. Plenty of temporarily marina slips available.
  • Historic Palm Avenue. Downtown Sarasota's "Best Walk in Town". Located one block from Sarasota's Bayfront, aptly poised between the Ritz Carlton and Selby Gardens. Stroll the Galleries, Restaurants, Antique and Specialty Shops. "Palm Avenue's First Friday Art Walks" are held the first Friday of every month from 6PM-9PM. Enjoy gallery openings, live performances and hors d'oeuvres as Palm Avenue Merchants serenade the Avenue and its guests.
  • St. Armands Circle. Removed from the intensity of downtown Sarasota, St. Armands Circle has an unbelievable selection of original shops, galleries and restaurants. Designed in a charming circular pattern amongst a flourishing landscape, this makes for a breathtaking shopping or afternoon strolling or evening dining experience. Take Tamiami Trail (US 41) to SR 780 W to St. Armands Key, travel over the Ringling Causeway and Sarasota Bay and you will run right into lovely St. Armands Circle.
  • Westfield Sarasota Square (Formerly Sarasota Square Mall)
  • Westfield Shoppingtown Southgate (Formerly Southgate Mall). an upscale mall with a Saks, Macys, and Dillards.
  • Sarasota Pavilion
  • The Landings Shopping Center

Main Street in downtown also has several shops.

  • Caragiulos, 69 S Palm Ave, Phone: 941-951-0866 [14] 20 years as Sarasota's Favorite Italian-American Eatery.
  • 5 One 6 Burns, 516 Burns Lane :: Historic Burns Court, 941-906-1884 (), [15]. Sophisticated Southern Soul Food.  edit
  • Esca, 1888 Main St, Phone: 941-365-3722, Mediterranean Fusion Cusine, Nightly Enterainment, Outdoor dining, Upstairs Bar & Balcony, Late-Nite Bar Menu, [16].
  • Main Street Bar and Sandwich Shop, 1944 Main Street, Phone: 941-955-8733.
  • Sarasota Alehouse, 3800 Kenny Dr, Phone: 941-378-8888.
  • Empress Garden Chinese Restaurant, 6090 N Lockwood Ridge Rd, Phone: 941-359-3658.
  • Tasty Home Cookin', 3854 S Tuttle Ave, 941-921-4969.
  • Yoder's Restaurant, 3434 Bahia Vista St, Phone: 941-955-7771.
  • Sugar and Spice, 4000 Cattlemen Rd, Phone: 941-342-1649.
  • The Table, 1934 Hillview St, Phone: 941-365-4558.
  • Columbia Restaurant, 411 Saint Armands Cir, Phone: 941-388-3987.
  • Cafe Epicure, 1298 N Palm Ave, Phone: 941-366-5648.
  • Cafe Amici, 1371 Main St, Phone: 941-951-6896.
  • Stonewood Grill & Tavern, 1894 Stickney Point Rd., Phone: 941-927-3969. Fine dining.
  • Stoneybrook Golf and Country Club, 8801 Stoneybrook Blvd, Phone: (941) 918-9595, lunch and dinner.
  • Urban Reef formerly known as Esca Upstairs Bar & Live Music, 1888 Main St, Phone: 941-365-3722, [17]. Entertainment every night of the week: Karaoke, DJs, Bands, Jazz, Flamenco, Lounge, Performers & More. Late Nite Bar Menu.
  • Gator Club, 1490 Main St, Phone: 941-366-5969, [18]. Popular bar and nightclub with entertainment nightly.
  • Cock & Bull Pub, 975 Cattlemen Road (between Bahia Vista & Palmer), America's #6 Beer Bar. Excellent Pizza! Phone: 941-341-9785, [19].
  • Shakespeare's English Pub, 3550 South Osprey Avenue, [20].
  • G Spot Bar, 6582 Gateway Avenue, Phone: 941-922-7768, [21]
  • Miguel's Restaurant, 6631 Midnight Pass Rd. (On Midnight Pass Rd. 1/4 mile south of Stickney Point Rd.), 941-349-4024, [22]. open at 5PM. Quaint French Continental cuisine at the south end of Siesta Key. Wonderful food, full bar and early bird specials  edit
  • Comfort Suites, 8305 Tourist Center Drive, Phone: (941) 360-2626, [23]. All-suite hotel with free Wi-Fi available in all rooms as well as public areas.
  • Hotel Indigo Sarasota, 1223 Blvd of the Arts Phone:(941) 487 3800 conveniently located right downtown.
  • Hyatt Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts Phone: (941) 953 1234. On Sarasota Bay
  • La Palme Royale European Style Bed & Breakfast, 624 South Palm Avenue, Phone 1-866-800-3921 or 941-284-8890. [24]. This 1924 historically designated two-story Craftsman style home among oak trees overlooks Sarasota Bay. From your private oasis stroll down Palm Avenue to the art galleries, fine shopping boutiques, superb dining, theater, opera or the famous Burns Court Cinema. A Pet friendly & Gay friendly accommodation in the heart of downtown.
  • Lido Beach Resort, 700 Ben Franklin Drive, 800-441-2113, [25]. Beachfront accommodations.  edit
  • Longboat Key Hilton, 4711 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Phone:(941) 383 2451. In the middle of gorgeous Longboat Key.
  • Longboat Key Club, 301 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Phone:(941) 383 8821. Spanning Longboat Key.
  • The Ritz Carlton Sarasota, 1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Phone: (941) 309 2000. Complete with beach club on Lido Key, located on Tamiami Trail.
  • Sleep Inn Sarasota, 900 University Pkwy, Phone: (941) 359-8558, [26]. Located across the street from the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, this newly renovated hotel is perfect for corporate, sporting, and event travelers.
  • Suburban Extended Stay, 7251 North Tamiami Trail, Phone: (941) 355-7747, [27]. Well-equipped kitchens and free wireless internet in all rooms.
  • Lido Islander, 528 South Polk Drive, Sarasota, Fl 34236, 941-388-1004, [28]. checkin: 3:00PM; checkout: 11:00PM. Amid a tropical garden, the units are steps from Lido beach, with the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico just beyond. Quiet side roads and boulevards are perfect for a morning jog or a casual stroll to nearby St. The units are completely furnished and fully equipped. The 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units have full kitchens. $50.  edit
  • Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch, 6231 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota, FL 34240, Phone: 941-782-4400, [29]. If you’re looking for upscale hotels in Sarasota, Florida, Holiday Inn Lakewood Ranch features luxurious accommodations in a boutique setting. Near Florida’s famous white-sand beaches, shopping, dining, and entertainment, our Sarasota hotel has it all.
  • Hilton Garden Inn, 8270 N. Tamiami Trail, +1-941-552-1100, [30]. Centrally located in the Sarasota-Bradenton area, this hotel is within less than 1 mile from Ringling Museum, Asolo Repertory Theatre, and Powel Crosely Estate along Sarasota Bay. This hotel offers free shuttle transportation to the Van Vezel, Downtown Sarasota Historic District, Selby Gardens, Sarasota Gardens, and anywhere else within five miles of the property.  edit
Routes through Sarasota
TampaBradenton  N noframe S  Port CharlotteMiami
  • Tampa and St. Petersburg are an easy drive North via I-75 and the Sunshine Skyway. Professional Football, baseball, NHL, and most other sports venues can be found there. Tampa also has more shopping at International Plaza and Westshore malls. Ybor City and the University of South Florida are also in Tampa, as is a Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)and Busch Gardens.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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  1. A town in southern Florida.


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