In 1926, A. B. Edwards built a theater that could be adapted for either vaudeville performances or movie screenings. It is situated at the intersection of Pineapple Avenue and Second Street, having been restored and used for operas. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sarasota is the home of Sarasota Orchestra, which was founded by Ruth Cotton Butler in 1949 and known for years as the Florida West Coast Symphony. It holds a three-week Sarasota Music Festival that is recognized internationally and attracts renown 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). 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.
Beautiful Siesta Beach : Sarasota, Beach
Later, Stuart Barger designed and oversaw the construction of another Asolo Theater, housed in the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts. It is a multi-theater complex, located farther east on the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art property, being placed between Bay Shore Road and Tamiami Trail, and facing Ringling Plaza. It was built around a rococo, historic Scottish theater, which had been shipped to Florida. The new complex also provides venues and facilities for students of Florida State University's MFA Acting program, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. This was the administrative home of the Sarasota French Film Festival for several years. Venues around the city were used for films and events that focused upon French films and their stars.
Town House Motel : Sarasota, Florida
In the 1960's the Van Wezels enabled the city to build a performing arts hall on the bay front. The auditorium, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's successor firm, Taliesin Associated Architects team under the direction of William Wesley Peters. Wright's widow, Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, selected its purple color.
Other cultural attractions include the Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, the Sarasota Players, the Banyan Theater Company, and many other musical, dance, artistic, and theatrical venues. Since 1998, the city has hosted the Sarasota Film Festival annually. The festival attracts independent films from around the world. It claims to be one of Florida's largest film festivals.
Sarasota is home to Mote Marine Laboratory, a marine rescue, research facility, 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; 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; 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. East West College of Natural Medicine, an accredited college of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is also located in Sarasota.
March 2007, Riverview High School
The Sarasota School of Architecture has developed as a variant of mid-century modernist architecture. It incorporates elements of both the Bauhaus and Frank Lloyd Wright's "organic" architecture. The style developed as an adaptation to the area's sub-tropical climate and used newly emerging materials manufactured or implemented following World War II. Philip Hiss was the driving force of this movement.
Fellow architects creating new adaptive designs were Paul Rudolph and Ralph Twitchell. The second generation of the school includes Gene Leedy, Jack West, Victor Lundy, Mark Hampton, James Holiday, Ralph Zimmerman, as well as several who still practice in the community: William Zimmerman; Carl Abbott, Edward J. "Tim" Seibert, and Frank Folsom Smith.
Rudolph's Florida houses attracted attention in the architectural community around the world. He started receiving commissions for larger works, such as the Jewett Art Center at Wellesley 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.
Archway along inner court of John and Mable Ringling Art Museum : Sarasota, Florida
See also: List of historic sites in Sarasota, Florida
By the end of the twentieth century, many of Sarasota's more modest historical structures had been lost to the wrecking ball. Condominium development erased all evidence of the Whitaker settlement along the bay. To the east of Tamiami Trail, however, their family cemetery remains on property owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, adjacent to the city-owned Pioneer Park. Recently, two historic buildings, the Crocker Church and the Bidwell-Wood House (the oldest remaining structure in the city), first restored by Veronica Morgan and members of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, became city property. The Sarasota County Historical Society facilitated the move. These structures were relocated to this park, despite protests from residents who objected to the loss of park area. Restoration is needed again for deterioration that occurred during the last decade.
In the late 1970s, Sarasota County purchased the Terrace Hotel that was built by Charles Ringling and renovated it for use as a county government office building. That structure and the adjacent courthouse that he donated to the new county in 1921 have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the next decade the landmark hotel built by Owen Burns, the El Vernona, which had been turned into apartments became endangered. By then it was called the John Ringling Towers and was purchased by a phosphate miner, Gardiner, who wanted to turn it into his corporate headquarters. All of the tenants were turned out and plans were made for the restoration of the building. The city commissioners supported the plan initially, but lobbying to undermine the project began and one of the commissioners changed her vote, and the project was denied at the final hearing. The enraged miner abandoned the city and subsequent owners, seeking to demolish it, made garish changes to the building to make it unappealing before finally leaving it open for vagrants to invade and pilfer.
A community campaign began to preserve the building complex that included the realty office of Owen Burns that had been renovated for use as a home by Karl Bickel. A historic preservation organization, the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, was founded by Veronica Morgan to save the buildings and to promote historic preservation throughout the community. Through their efforts, combined with the help of many architects in the community, a hotel development group with a history of restoring historic hotels bought the property and both structures on the property were listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it soon was sued by another developer who had made a bid for the property also. The buildings were subjected to a legal battle that was lost by the historic hotel developers. Eventually both buildings fell under the wrecking ball.
Most of the luxurious historic residences from the 1920's boom period along the northern shore of Sarasota Bay have survived. This string of homes, built on large parcels of elevated land along the widest point of the bay, is anchored by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art at its center. Among them is Cà d'Zan, the home of Mable and John Ringling, which was restored recently under the direction of Bill Puig.
Many significant structures from the comparatively recent "Sarasota School of Architecture" period of the mid-twentieth century, however, have not survived. Since they do not qualify under the age criteria set for historic preservation nominations their historic aspect often escapes public recognition. Others frequently are threatened by demolition plans for new development without consideration of their historic importance to the community instead of motivating the implementation of plans to retain the buildings and integrate them into new plans.
March 2007 photograph of Riverview High School, a Paul Rudolph design built in 1958
In 2006, the Sarasota County School Board slated one of Paul Rudolph's largest Sarasota projects, Riverview High School, for demolition. The board arrived at the decision despite protests by many members of the community, including architects, historic preservationists, and urban planners. Others support the demolition as they believe the structure is no longer functional. The issue was divisive. The World Monuments Fund included the school on its 2008 Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the category Main Street Modern.
Although the community of Sarasota is divided on the worth of Rudolph's structure, the international arts community is not. New urbanist planner and architect Andres Duany has strongly supported retention of the school. When asked about the project by a historic preservation leader at a public meeting in January 2007 in Sarasota, Duany stated that Sarasota would lose its international stature as an arts center if it allowed the demolition. The historic building is the main structure in the school complex and includes a planetarium. Plans existed to nominate Riverview High School to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of the most endangered historic structures in the United States, America's Most Endangered Places.
Mira-Mar Hotel and Park : Sarasota, Florida
Following a March 2007 charrette led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a proposal was advanced to renovate and preserve Rudolph's buildings. The school board decided to allow a year to consider implementation of the innovative plan proposed to preserve the buildings, that would include building a parking garage with playing fields above it rather than demolishing the structures.
In early June 2008 the school board announced that the school would be demolished and that a parking lot will replace it.
Golf being played in 1905 in Sarasota - collection of Sarasota History Center
The warm climate helped the Sarasota area become a popular golf destination, a sport brought to America by the Scots. One of them was John Hamilton Gillespie, an early pioneer of the game in Sarasota. The Sara Bay course in the Whitfield area was designed by golf architect Donald Ross. Bobby Jones was associated with the community course in Sarasota. Many courses dot the area, including the one originally laid out for the hotel John Ringling planned on the southern tip of Longboat 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 will 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.
Parade wagon at the Ringling Museum
The area Young Man's Christian Association (YMCA) is the largest and best-funded in Florida. Within the YMCA's three branches is one of the state's more proficient swim teams, the Sarasota YMCA Sharks which has won numerous state titles. Swim teams from around the nation come every summer to practice at the facilities and compete against the Sharks.
El Verona Hotel : Sarasota, Florida
Sarasota also is the site of the annual UPA Ultimate Club Championships.
The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball player, John-Ford Griffin, was born in Sarasota.
The Sarasota Marathon started in 2005 and happens spring each year. The start and finish is near the John and Mable Ringling Museum.
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.
Palm Avenue : Sarasota, Florida
The first effort to open the Sarasota area for commerce and development with rail transportation began in 1892 when a leg of a line planned between the deep water access at Boca Grande and Lakeland was constructed between Sarasota and the cargo docks in Bradenton. The tracks were placed with a very close gauge, however, and although using the railroad reduced the duration of the three-hour wagon trip there by two hours, the line became nicknamed, The Slow and Wobbly.
The nickname was derived from the train’s instability and inclination to tip over and reports were that it was a most unpleasant ride for passengers. The resulting low use lent to unpredictability as well, and no fixed schedule developed. Soon its tracks were pulled up to pay for the debt of the great venture.
Roadside fruit stand
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.
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 "Positive Change", "Sarasota Observer", "Gulf Coast Business Review", Pelican Press, Sarasota Magazine, "Sarasota Magazine's Biz941", Longboat Observer, Creative Loafing, Sarasota Downtown and Beyond, and BlaK&WitE Magazine.
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).
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.
The naturally occurring sand of Lido Beach is very fine and pure white. It has won contests for being among the best in the world. Unfortunately, the city government once chose to replace some of it lost in a storm with sand shipped in from other locations that was of a different color and texture. Public reaction against that is likely to prevent any similar substitution efforts in the future and sand from offshore was used in the next replacement.
Sarasota In Pictures:
Sarasota County History Center
City of Sarasota official site
Sarasota Herald-Tribune Local News