Sarasota, city (1990 pop. 50,961), seat of Sarasota co., SW Fla., on Sarasota Bay; settled c.1884, inc. 1914. It is a yachting and fishing resort with varied light manufacturing, and packing houses handling the citrus fruit, celery, and beef raised in the area. Sarasota is the former winter home of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and is the site of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, with its excellent Peter Paul Rubens collection. Other attractions are the Sarasota Jungle Gardens and the Cars of Yesterday Museum. New College of Florida is in Sarasota. Nearby, on the keys off the Gulf of Mexico, are many beautiful white-sand beaches.
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, Saint Armand Key, Otter Key, Coon Key, Bird Key, and portions of Longboat Key and 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 54,349 in 2004. In 1986 it became designated as a certified local government. Sarasota is a principal city of the Sarasota-Bradenton-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

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, 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 attest to the prehistoric human settlements that existed in Sarasota.

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, 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 maintained a trade of 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, as research continues in the area. The army established the fort at a rancho operated by Louis Pacheco, an African slave working for its 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

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, is the first documented pioneer of European descent to settle permanently in what has become the city which is still named 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. They raised eleven children on Yellow Bluffs despite the hardships faced by solitary pioneers. This included a raid that destroyed their home. It was made by a formerly friendly Seminole chief, Holata Micco, dubbed Billy Bowlegs, after whom Bowlees Creek may have been named. The Whitakers rebuilt and prospered. Their homestead site has not been preserved, having been developed in the 1980s. Their family cemetery remains, however.

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. The site was farther south from Whitaker's settlement, in an area near what is now the city of Osprey. When the Webbs arrived in the area looking for the bluff, they described it to Bill Whitaker. He led them right to it. After settling, they 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.

Joseph Daniel Anderson was one of the first pioneers and an early Sarasota leader. Following is a transcript from a Sarasota County historical marker that resides in a park dedicated to him on Manasota Key, in southern Sarasota County.

"After the Civil War, many Georgians moved their families to Southern Florida. Joseph Daniel "Jody" Anderson, born in Georgia in 1867, was a child when his father moved to the Tampa/Sara Sota area. In 1884, Joseph became the head of the Anderson family. Two years later, he moved his family to Southern Manatee County. He homesteaded the land in the Mystic River (Forked Creek) Valley. In 1890 he married Helen Alice Johnson of Sarasota. They had eleven children. Eight survived.

With only hand tools, Anderson converted the Florida wilderness into an agricultural industry. This fertile land produced vegetables, sugar cane and citrus. In the vast Myakka/Pinedale area, he raised his cattle and swine. He and brother Moses "Lee" prospered in ranching until the Range Law Act curtailed the right to use this land for grazing.

Sleds (later wagons) were used to move the farm produce, fruit and cattle to Lemon Bay where they were transferred to draft boats and transported to ships at Boca Grande. Some of the wagons were rafted across the bay to Manasota Beach where the produce was ferried to Cuban smacks and later to American schooners.

Anderson pioneered commercial fishing in North Lemon Bay which teemed with schools of mullet and other fish. The Andersons fished with nets made of cotton and flax twine over which they poured a heavy lime solution to prevent rot. Their base of operation included land storage facilities on the shore and on the beach (Manasota) to salt, dry and pack the fish in barrels. Upon the arrival of run boats with ice from Tampa, the Andersons could ship fresh fish and produce.

Joseph Daniel "Jody" Anderson was a quiet family man who never sought publicity. However, before Sarasota County was organized, he served as deputy sheriff and game warden in the Pinedale/Manasota area. The Anderson family built the area's first school (Pinedale) of which Jody was trustee. He also organized the first church in the area. Anderson actively supported the creation of Sarasota County from Manatee County and in 1922, became the first elected county commissioner from District 4. After the death of his first wife, he married Mary Ethel Morgan with whom he raised four more children. Joseph Daniel Anderson died in 1939."

Sarasota has been part of three American counties depending upon the era. Created in 1834 while Florida was still a territory, Hillsborough County was further divided in 1855 placing Sarasota in Manatee County until 1921, when a new county, among three new ones carved out of portions of Manatee, was created and called, Sarasota, with the city being made the seat of the new county. The boundary of the community once extended to Bowlees Creek. It was redrawn to an arbitrary line to divide the airport so it would be part of both counties and the street addresses north of that new county line remain as "Sarasota" due to established postal designations, although they remain located in 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 in 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 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 as a town in 1902 with John Hamilton Gillespie as mayor. It was re-platted in 1912 and 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 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.

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 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 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 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 is now 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.

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, however.

Owen Burns had preceded Bertha Palmer to Sarasota and had become the largest landholder within what is now 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 School of 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 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, 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 upon which he also built its government offices and courthouse as a gift.

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 also 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 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

In 1927 John Nolan, a professional planner, was hired to develop a plan for 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. 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. 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.

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.


Sarasota is the home of Florida West Coast Symphony, founded by Ruth Cotton Butler in 1949. It holds a three-week Sarasota Music Festival that is recognized internationally and attracts renown teachers and the finest students of chamber music. Other cultural attractions include the Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera, Florida Studio Theatre, the Sarasota Players, the Banyan Theater Company, and many other musical, dance, artistic, and theatrical venues.

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 and Second Street, having been restored and used for operas.

In the early 1950s, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art purchased a historic Italian theater, the Asolo. 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.

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 Taliesin team under the direction of his wife, Olga (Olgivanna) Lazovich Hinzenburg. She selected its purple color.

Later, Stuart Barger designed and oversaw the construction of another Asolo Theater. It is a multi-theater complex, located farther east on the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art property. 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 theater arts and film program. 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.

Since 1998, the city has hosted the Sarasota Film Festival annually. The festival attracts independent films from around the world. It has become one of Florida's largest film festivals.

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. 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.

Sarasota is home to Mote Marine Laboratory, a marine rescue, research, and aquarium; Marie Selby Botanical Gardens; 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 Florida, a public liberal arts college; Keiser College of Sarasota, a private college; Ringling College of Art and Design, a school of visual arts and design; and satellite campuses of Eckerd College, based in St. Petersburg, Florida; a commuter branch of the University of South Florida, based in Tampa, Florida; and Florida State University College of Medicine, based in Tallahassee, Florida. Community colleges include Sarasota County Technical Institute and Manatee Community College.

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 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 and the new owner was badly treated by another preservation organization that formed solely to oppose his plans. 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.

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 remains 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 building that would include building a parking garage with playing fields above it rather than demolishing the structure.

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


The city is home to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (also known by its IATA designation, SRQ) which serves both Manatee and Sarasota counties. That designation was adopted by SRQ Magazine, SRQ Dance Studios, and by SRQ Racing, a local automotive community, and it is sometimes used by people who identify with the city and area.



Sarasota is part of the Nielsen-designated Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota television market, which is the 13th largest TV market in the United States. The local television stations are ABC affiliate WWSB and SNN 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 programming is offered by Fort Myers and Tampa television stations.


Arbitron has identified the Sarasota-Bradenton radio market as the 73rd largest market in the country,, and the sixth largest in the state of Florida. There are eight radio stations in the city: WSMR (89.1FM/College), 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 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 the "Sarasota Observer", Pelican Press, Sarasota Magazine, "Sarasota Magazine's Biz941", Longboat Observer, Creative Loafing, Sarasota Downtown and Beyond and the independently published "BlaK&WitE Magazine from the artist group "OrangePress".

"OrangePress", a local publisher of art, literature and other types of media that reflect the youth culture in Sarasota, Florida. Begun in 2007 by Jennifer Nugent and Nicholas Perdue, the magazine "BlaK&WitE" was their first project and was a submission based "zine". Later the two published other works that range from flyers and promotions to small magazines and books.


The warm climate helped the Sarasota area become a popular golf destination, a sport brought to America via Sarasota by the Scots, beginning with John Hamilton Gillespie. 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 Cincinnati Reds train in spring for the upcoming season, and is home to the minor league Sarasota Reds. However, along with many other teams, the Cincinnati Reds may move their spring training location to Goodyear, Arizona. 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 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 is also the site of the annual UPA ultimate frisbee national tournament.

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 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.


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


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