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Taking in Sarasota’s Architecture

Day Tripping: Taking in Sarasota’s Architecture

| Sande Caplin |

With temperatures rising and a fabulous holiday in your rear view mirror, it’s time to think of ways to beat the heat. The intensity of the summer sun can send even the most heartened Florida native inside to cool off, but there’s no need to become a couch ornament this summer. First things first: Set aside some time to shine the mirrors, check the oil, and top off the gas, because you’re going to want to ride in comfort as you explore some of the architectural wonders found in the area, all from behind the wheel of your vehicle.

Sarasota is not just called the “city of the arts,” it literally is brimming full of artful things. As you make the loop around the Tour Sarasota Architecture Guide, you’ll see that the arts pour out of the historically significant buildings, landmarks, and homes that can easily be taken for granted. As you pass the unique Bayfront, and Downtown area, you can hear the voices of the many musicians who got their start playing gigs at outdoor bars and patios around Sarasota, and you can see the emotions of generations of locals, as painted by well-known artists on buildings and in galleries, who make up the tapestry of Sarasota. But for this day, and this car ride, we’re going to drive past some of the most artistically applauded works of architecture found in the country some would say. And we, as lucky viewers, might agree.

The Tour Sarasota Architecture guide leads you on a two-hour scavenger hunt, of sorts, which has you discovering prime examples of renowned architecture as your treasures. There isn’t a tangible take home prize, but the beauty and wonder that will unfold before you will leave a forever gift in your heart. Whether your interest lies purely in the constructive beauty of the buildings you will see, or whether you’re a history buff with a love of all things “Sarasota,” including an intensive look at examples of the Sarasota School of Architecture, this is a Sunday afternoon ride that’s fit for any day of the week. Primarily highlighting the Sarasota School of Architecture period of 1940 through the 1970s, but also including homes constructed in the 1920s, as well as superior examples of modern-day architecture, the tour will take you from Lido Key to Downtown Sarasota, and throughout the northern and southern ends of the city. Be sure to look beyond the popular notions of the architectural poetry Sarasota’s structures offer, and enjoy little gems of architectural greatness scattered throughout the community. Some of the smaller bungalows you find tucked away in quaint neighborhoods dating back to the 1950s easily tell their stories through cracked paint and worn screen doors in louder accord than even the grandest buildings.

The homes and structures chosen for the tour allow easy sight access from a vehicle, so all should be visible from the road. Also, if renovations on significant homes have not left the intention of the original architect intact, the homes were omitted from the tour. You can rest assured that the tour truly gives a taste of the best architecture Sarasota has to offer. There are grander examples and smaller sites you’ll visit, as well, but these exemplify the varieties of architecture you’ll encounter.

Tour Sarasota Architecture guide

Sarasota County Courthouse, 2000 Main Street, built in 1927

This downtown building features a 110-foot central tower, originally intended to be used as a “look out” over the bay. With east and west wings joined together by a central area with a sunken garden, it also features a wide usage of Florida terra cotta.

Riverview High School, 1 Ram Bowl Way, built in 1959

This selection was the first commissioned work of famous architect, Paul Rudolph, and stands as a prime example of the Sarasota School of Architecture, taking into account Florida’s warm climate by utilizing sunshades and floor-to-ceiling glass panels.

Burns Court Historic District, Burns Court and S. Pineapple Avenue, developed in 1925

This quirky collection of small bungalows extolled the virtues of stucco construction and cross-ventilation in its clever marketing campaign in the 1920s. These structures feature chimneys and some house quaint eateries and galleries.

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Sanctuary, 2256 Bahia Vista St., Built in 1968

The intricate use of beams and skylights create a beautiful array of color as sunlight shines through delicate stained glass windows. A high roof suspended with cables indicates a simpler structure when seen from the road.

Frances-Carlton Apartments, 1221-1227 N. Palm Avenue, Built in 1924

Visions of Sarasota’s elite sipping cocktails and watching the sunset with an unobstructed view of the bayfront are conjured up as you drive past these 1920’s apartments. With a Mediterranean Revival style and beautiful downtown setting, this is a must-see on the tour.

These are just a few of the delightful stops you can make along the Sarasota Architecture Tour, and the list certainly includes quintessential Sarasota architecture like John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida Studio Theater, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, and other buildings whose architectural significance has reached international status. Other lesser known neighborhoods which have been the home to thousands of families whose roots set the town abloom in the roaring ‘20s until now are a delight to gaze upon. It’s a great lesson in architecture, history, and pure hometown fun. Plus, it’s hot out there, so gas up the car, crank up the a/c and get touring. For more information, please visit

Photos: Sarasota High School Addition, Sarasota Architecture courtesy of Wes Bryant on Flickr, commercial use allowed
Ringling Museum-Courtyard courtesy of Roger W on Flickr, commercial use allowed

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