The Historical Society of Sarasota County

Creating an awareness of the rich historical heritage of Sarasota County, Florida

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Even the kids & the grandkids support Sarasota history!

The Historical Society of Sarasota County loves the Keith Farmhouse restoration!
Did you know that the Farmhouse Market, in Phillippi Estate Park, is managed by Friends of Sarasota County Parks? This non-profit volunteer organization improves the life of current-day Sarasotans and visitors as well as helps maintain our ties to our past history.

Bring your children to the 4th Annual Children’s Day in the Park, at Phillippi Estate Park on Wed. March 11th, from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

In addition to the sights and yummy tastes of the weekly market, there will be games of skill and balance by Krisztina. Plenty of vendors in the Arts/Crafts, live music by Siesta John and local authors too.

You can even bring your pooch to this weekly Farmhouse Market, where you find over 50 purveyors of locally grown and produced fresh produce, fish, honeys, teas, pet items, and much, much more! No-hassle free parking.

Children’s Day has always been the biggest day at the Market, so come early and stay late!
Phillippi Estate Park is located at 5500 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota on the Phillippi River.

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Exploring Sarasota County History

It’s the perfect time of year, here in Sarasota, to venture forth and see some of the sights in our county that you have always meant to visit.

Put down the top and see the county!

Put down the top and see the county!

The History & Preservation Coalition has, for your print-out-and-take-with pleasure, a colorful PDF map of what THEY call Historical Resources and what WE call cool spots to see. Included are URLs, so be sure to visit the various sites of the sights to see when they are open to the public.

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County Park, food, art, and jazz. What more could we want?

The Historical Society loves how everything in the county is intertwined. Some of our volunteers are volunteers elsewhere. Perhaps members of the Wood family, who lived in the Bidwell-Wood House from 1896 until the 1960’s, visited the Keiths or the Prodies at the Keith Mansion. So we are proud to help our current-day peers preserve and protect history, and of course, we love food, art and jazz as well as history! So join us at an event on the Trail, just a few miles south of our Pioneer Park location:


Light Chasers at the Bidwell-Wood House

The plein air painters often visit our historic buildings at the Historical Society of Sarasota County.

On Wednesday February 25 the Phillippi Farmhouse Market, a venture of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks,  welcomes the Light Chasers (Sarasota’s Plein Air Painters) to a Quick Draw Painting Contest.  At 10 a.m. the air horn signals the start of the painting in the market and all over the park.  The painters have just two hours to create an original painting: will they paint the Farmhouse> The Mansion? The colorful kayaks bobbing in Phillippi Creek? You’re welcome to wander the grounds and peer over the artists’ shoulders as they strive to envision an award-winning artwork of this bit of Sarasota history!


Bill Farnsworth, Master Artist from Venice, will judge the paintings and award prizes. You can buy the paintings right off the easel right then or attend one of the art shows and sales at the Edson Keith Mansion on Friday, Feb 27 – 6 – 8 p.m. (Gala Opening Night – $25.00/ticket) or come Sat Feb 28, 5 – 8 p.m. FREE, or Sunday, March 1 – noon – 5 p.m. FREE.


Along with Sunday’s art show and sale will be Jazz in the Park, a free jazz concert from noon – 5 p.m. at the Gazebo, sponsored by the Jazz Club and the kickoff to Jazz Week in Sarasota.The Quick Draw Contest and art shows and sales in the Edson Keith Mansion will raise funds for the restoration of the Keith Farmhouse in the Park.  This was the original building erected on the estate in 1916 – 99 years ago.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Map of Sarasota, 1925

This October 1925 map of downtown Sarasota is from, we believe, the newspaper.

Dwell Real Estate has a blog entry with lots of fun Sarasota-in-the-past photos. Credit given: Photos and information courtesy of Yesterday’s Sarasota by Del Marth.

Take a look!

For actual copies of the Sarasota papers from 1925 on, visit here.

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This Day in History: Happy 45th, Van Wezel!

van wezel from louiswerycomOn this date in 1970, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall opened.

Designed by the late Frank Lloyd Wright’s firm, Taliesin Associates Architects, the building was called by its critics the “purple cow” or “purple people seater.”

How much do YOU know about the Van Wezel?

The Van Wezel was painted purple because:

  1. Purple was a good foil to the turquoise waters of Sarasota Bay.
  2. Mr. Wright’s widow suggested it.
  3. Purple is the color of royalty, and Sarasota looked forward to the “royalty of performers” appearing in the theater.
  4. The paint was donated by a local paint dealer, and that’s the color he chose.

Why did the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater come to Earth?

  1. His spaceship crashed in the Grand Canyon.
  2. He wanted to get a job in a rock-&-roll band.
  3. He craved a Starbuck’s every day.
  4. He liked short shorts.

The first Broadway show in the Van Wezel was

  1. Cactus Flower
  2. Fiddler on the Roof
  3. Guys and Dolls
  4. The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd

Who were Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel?

  1. They built the first year-round residence on Lido Key.
  2. Lewis was a diamond buyer for Tiffany’s.
  3. Eugenia’s brother-in-law was Gustaf Nobel.
  4. They built a downtown building known as the Eugenic.

Answers: In each case, the correct answer is #2, except for the last. All the choices are correct about the Van Wezels! You will be awarded extra points if you pronounce Van Wezel as “Van Way-zel”, not “Van Weasel.”

Did you know? Tours of the Van Wezel backstage areas and the Fine Arts Society art collection are offered to the public the first Tuesday of the month, October through May. More info.

And if you can’t remember all the lyrics of One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater, here it is on YouTube. Tequila.

With thanks to Yesterday’s Sarasota Calendar by J. Whitcomb Rylee, the Van Wezel web site and Sarasota History Alive! for these tidbits. Photo from