What Makes Sarasota So Very Special? Story 10 of 12

We’re highlighting some very interesting historical places including Sarasota’s Civic Center and Theatre Arts District. We all love Sarasota, no doubt; now, learning about the fascinating architecture and landmarks will make our piece of paradise even more special. Check-in next week for more Sarasota history! We hope you enjoy the tour!

These wonderful snippets were given to us by Paul Thorpe (Mr. Downtown) who died in the summer of 2017. He left an amazing legacy of love for family, friends and his beloved Sarasota home and we miss him.

Sarasota Women’s Club

This building was built in 1913 and is of the Tudor Revival style. Note the diamond-patterned window glass and exposed beams. The charter members totaled 63 and, as the club grew, the members pushed for more hard-surfaced roads and sidewalks. Before 1900, the Women’s Club members planted over 250 Cocoanut Palms on the waterfront, many of which remain today. It was the focal point of social and civic activities for most of Sarasota’s early years. During WWI, the women wrapped bandages for the war effort – and they did this all before women could vote! The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. It now houses the Keating Theatre, the main stage of the Florida Studio Theatre group.

Seaboard Railroad Depot

In the 1890s, J. Hamilton Gillespie established a primitive rail link from Bradenton to Sarasota. It was nicknamed “Slow & Wobbly” – a very accurate description indeed! In 1903, the Seaboard Railroad rebuilt the old existing route and finally connected Tampa to Sarasota. The tracks came through the center of town on Lemon Avenue. The arrival of the rail to Sarasota started a real estate and building boom that lasted until the crash in 1929. The original train station, a handsome brick building, was built in 1920 and was still in use until the railroad ceased passenger service in the mid-1960s. The station was razed in 1967, and the property is owned by the City of Sarasota and leased to Mattison’s City Grille.

Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium

This was a WPA project built-in 1937. The land was bought in 1935 with unpaid tax certificates of The Sarasota Bay Hotel, a failed hotel development. The delinquent taxes due were $15,000. With the property now owned by the city, the building construction was funded by a Federal grant as part of the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. The tract of land is 37 acres and is a city park known as Santo Domingo Plaza and includes the Garden Club, Art Association, and Visitors Bureau. The building underwent extensive restoration in the 1990s, including the art deco fountain in the front.

Photos courtesy Sarasota History Alive website.

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