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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Brown Bag Book Lunch: Discuss & munch with the author of “Shade in the Sunshine State”

AAuthor Liz Coursenuthor, editor, and publisher Elizabeth H. Coursen will be featured at this month’s Brown Bag Book Lunch at the Historical Society of Sarasota County on Wed. Feb. 18, in the historic Crocker Memorial Church. She will be speaking on Continue reading

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The TRUE Sarasota County natives….

You say you don’t run across too many folks here in Sarasota County who were BORN here? That may be true, but allow Sarasota County Archaeologist Ryan Murphy to introduce you to some true natives, and Continue reading

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Want to be a docent on the Tour of Homes? We have TWO opportunities!

The Historical Society of Sarasota County is seeking volunteers to help with
2 Tour Of Homes events in March, 2015 

As HSoSC, we love to reach out and help our peers in historical groups. Right now, we have two opportunities for you to step up and reach out.

The Sarasota Alliance for Historical Preservation (SAHP) is hosting Continue reading

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Good news and fun photos in the latest issue of the newsletter!

Marsha Fottler, VP, Historical Society of Sarasota County

Marsha Fottler is one of the most active and involved members of HSoSC, and serves as vice president.

As an Historical Society, we still produce a real, hard-copy newsletter for our members and to hand out to folks interested in learning about us, joining us in membership, attending some of our many events and exploring whether we are worth financial support small or large.

Amongst myriad other tasks, our Vice President, Marsha Fottler, writes, edits, produces, and even drives to the printer, our newsletter. Be sure to thank her, next time you see her!

Here’s our Newsletter Page where you can view, download, even print out the electronic version of our current newsletter, and explore past issues as well


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We’re holding a seat for you on the Sarasota Bay Historical Cruise!

26th Historical Sarasota Bay Cruise, presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County FL

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A lovely day for a walk in the past

A walk along the beach is always wonderful. Exploring downtown can be very rewarding (and stopping for a bite and sip every 40 feet or so is always an option). Our parks are beautiful. And so many neighborhoods are as well. So get out into our beautiful winter weather and treat yourself to a walk in the past!

Explore Laurel Park

Click to visit the Laurel Park web site.

Here’s the Laurel Neighborhood Walking Tour PDF. Print it out, lace up your walking shoes, and enjoy this lovely neighborhood!

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What the built future of Sarasota could look like.

An imaginary future city.Are There More Modern Buildings in Our Future?

Four young turks of architecture think so. Come and hear what they have to say and what the built future of Sarasota could look like.

No matter how you feel about modern architecture, you’ll want to be in the audience on the evening of Tuesday, February 10, at 7 p.m. when Sarasota Herald-Tribune real estate editor and architecture lecturer Harold Bubil leads a conversation with four ambitious and highly talented young architects who discuss how future of Sarasota will look if they have any influence. And they do, since they’re all working on important projects in town. Joining Bubil on stage at the Crocker Memorial Church are: Tatiana White, Chris Leader, Leonardo Lunardi and Damien Blumetti. A power point presentation narrated by Harold Bubil will place the modern movement in context with Sarasota’s past styles of residential, commercial and municipal architecture.

If you’re a newcomer to town, seasonal visitor or tax paying full-time resident, you’re bound to learn a lot about buildings and homes you see everyday around town. But, you’ll also see what could be down the road for Sarasota in terms of the homes we live in and the buildings we shop in, bank in and places where we receive medical care. Are we clinging to Mediterranean revival and cottage styles or committing to leading-edge modern design based on principles of the Sarasota School of Architecture that reigned in post-war years through the 1960s? Find out and then express your own views.

Now in its third year and presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County (HSOSC), Conversations at The Crocker is a series of interactive monthly discussions that highlight aspects of Sarasota’s history and looks at past events and people who have influenced today’s Sarasota. All Conversations take place at the historic Crocker Memorial Church in Pioneer Park, 1260 12th Street, Sarasota. Community welcome. 7 p.m. Free to HSOSC members and students; $10, guests.

The futuristic rendering appears here.

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Will you be getting lucky on Valentine’s Day?

There’s nothing more romantic than a trolley ride down Sarasota’s oldest streets, and you could be one of three lucky couples still to join the Historical Society of Sarasota County’s

Historic Downtown Trolley Tour.Nothing more romantic than a Trolley Tour at the Historical Society of Sarasota County

We’re almost sold out, so be sure to call our Site Manager, Linda, at 941-364-9076 to reserve your spot on Saturday, February 14, from 10am to 12 noon. Free parking on our Pioneer Park campus at 1260 12th St., between Tamiami Trail and Cocoanut Avenue. $25 per person or $50 a couple, and you can purchase over the phone. Reservations a must.

Oops, can’t make it on Valentine’s Day? We have seats available on the March 28 and April 18 tours (March 7 tour is sold out.) See more about the Trolley Tour.

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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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Brown Bag Book Lunch: Discuss & munch with famed The Living Gulf Coast author

The Living Gulf Coast author leads a discussion at the Historical Society of Sarasota County January 21 2015Charles Sobczak, author of our favorite guide book, “The Living Gulf Coast – A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida”, will be the featured author at this month’s Brown Bag Book Lunch at the Historical Society of Sarasota County on Wed. Jan. 21st, in the historic Crocker Memorial Church.

Sobczak, a resident of Sanibel Island, has been a featured lecturer with ROAD SCHOLARS (formerly Elderhostel.) He is only one of two authors in the county whose books are used as companion guides to their local programs. His first novel, “Six Mornings on Sanibel is currently in its seventh printing. His nature guide, entitled, “Living Sanibel – A Nature Guide to Sanibel and Captiva Islands” quickly became the best-selling book on Sanibel and rose to #34 nationally on Amazon.com for nature guides.

His lectures are memorable for their relevance and his sense of humor and his Gulf Coast book has been a Best Seller at the Historical Society. If you have a copy, bring it to discuss… if you don’t, you can buy one at this Brown Bag Book Lunch!

Bring your lunch, drinks will be provided on the Back Porch of the historic Bidwell House. Join history, book, and nature lovers for this month’s BBBL Wednesday January 21 at 11:30 am Free to members, $5.00 per guest. The Historical Society is located in Pioneer Park, just east of Tamiami Trail, at 1260 12th Street . Plenty of free parking. Call the Society at  941-364-9076 during office hours, 10 to 2 Monday-Friday for more information.

(Can’t make this month’s meeting? Interested in our History Book Club as well? Read more.)

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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 LouisWery.com.

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Conversation at the Crocker: Ringling’s Private Rail Car

PullDavid Duncan working on the Wisconsin, John Ringling's private Pullman car. Hear Mr. Duncan speak at Conversation at the Crocker, January 13. For more info see http://HSoSC.comman car historian and restorer of John Ringling’s private railroad car, the Wisconsin car in Sarasota talks about rail travel of the Gilded Age and how John and Mable Ringling traveled in luxury aboard a fabulous custom car.

“It is rare for a
private railroad car
to be restored with
such care, attention to detail and respect to the historic fabric”

Ride the rails into the past with Pullman Railroad car expert and the restorer of the famed Wisconsin custom railroad car with David W. Duncan when he leads a Conversation at The Crocker, on Tuesday, January 13, starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park), Sarasota.

David W. Duncan is a Pullman Railroad car historian and he has been the consultant on the Wisconsin for The Ringling Museum. His hands-on work and expertise have been instrumental in the restoration process of this historic railroad car. Duncan will be joined on stage by Ron McCarty, Curator of Ca’d’Zan at The Ringling Museum.

A Pullman Car was a standard of luxury in the early part of the 20th century and John Ringling wanted one. Having established a relationship with the Pullman firm by buying second-hand cars for use by the circus, Ringling commissioned Pullman to build a private car for his personal use in 1904. The name Wisconsin was chosen to honor the state that was home to the Ringling brothers and their circus.

On March 16, 1905, Ringling took delivery of the Wisconsin from Pullman’s Calumet Shop. He used the car as a place to stylishly entertain and impress friends, family, business associates and politicians. And the car enabled him to conduct circus business as he traveled across the country. Ringling’s first trip aboard the car was to Baraboo, Wisconsin, the family’s hometown. Later that year, John Ringling and Mable Burton were married in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“It is rare for a private railroad car to be restored with such care, attention to detail and respect to the historic fabric,” says Ron McCarty about Duncan’s work on the Wisconsin. “Now at the museum, visitors to Sarasota can glimpse a means of transportation that only a few ever experienced. This restored jewel of the Gilded Age tells the story of a bygone era and the community can learn all about it at the Conversation at The Crocker on the evening of January 13.” All aboard !

Organized and presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County and sponsored by SARASOTA Magazine, this public conversation (accompanied by rare photos) is free to Historical Society members and students. Guests, $10. Proceeds help maintain the two historic properties at Pioneer Park, The Bidwell-Wood House (1882, Sarasota’s oldest private residence) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901).

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Plan Ahead for a great 2015! January Happenings at HSOSC

IMG_0073The Historical Society of Sarasota County has lots of events to choose from for the New Year.  Mark your calendars and join us often!

Sunday January 11, 2015 – High Tea and Plein Air Artists Paint off Easel

Always a sell out, this year’s High Tea in the beautiful and historic Crocker Memorial Church features several nationally known local artists, members of our “Light Chasers” who will exhibit their works and sell “Off the Easel” works that they will paint while guests are having a High Tea inside the Crocker Memorial Church from 2p – 4p on Sunday January 11.  Live music will be provided by Sal Garcia.

The theme for this year’s event is “Tea and Flowers.” Wear your prettiest “tea” hat and enjoy a cordial event! Guests will receive flower cards provided by our wonderful hostess Judy Alexander.  Refreshments provided by Morton’s Market and The Breakfast House.   Tickets are $25 and reservations are a must.  Call HSoSC at 941-364-9076 M-F 10a to 2p to charge your tickets, or email us at hsosc1@gmail.com for further information. All monies raised go for the maintenance and upkeep of the gems of Pioneer Park, the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901).

Tuesday January 13, 2015 – Conversations at The Crocker

Our renowned Conversation series continues at 7pm on Tuesday January 13 in the Crocker Memorial Church with our January meeting featuring David Duncan with a conversation about “Wisconsin Pullman,” John Ringling’s Railroad Car. Come learn, come join the conversation!  These meetings are at 7pm and are free to members and $10 for guests.

Thursday January 15, 2015  -The History Book Club

New Feature!  Beginning in January, HSOSC is starting a History Book Club headed up by president Howard Rosenthal and member Anita Palladino. We’ll discuss a local history classic, “Sarasota A History” by Jeff LaHurd. These meetings will take place on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 1pm from January thru April in the Crocker Memorial Church. Learn more.

Wednesday January 21, 2015 – BBBL (Brown Bag Book Lunches)

The series continues in January with Charles Sobczak, author if our favorite guide book “The Living Gulf Coast – A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida”  Mr. Sobczak has been a featured lecturer with Road Scholars.  His first novel, “Six Mornings on Sanibel” is currently in its seventh printing.  His lectures are memorable for their relevance and his sense of humor. You will be able to purchase and have autographed The Living Gulf Coast at the event. This event meets in the Crocker Memorial Church at 11:30amBring your lunch to enjoy on the back porch of the Bidwell-Wood House.  Beverages will be provided by HSOSC.  Free for members and $5 at the door for guests (reservations not necessary). Learn more.

Saturday January 24, 2015 – Historical Trolley Tour

Sue Blue narrates a two hour tour of downtown historical sites.  Trolley departs from and returns to the Crocker Memorial Church on Saturday January 24 from 10a – noon.  Reservations are required and tickets are $25. Call HSoSC at 941-364-9076 M-F 10 to 2 to charge your tickets, or email us at hsosc1@gmail.com for further information. Learn more.

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