What Makes Sarasota So Very Special? Vol. 1

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 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.

1296 First Street

This recognizable vine-covered building in downtown Sarasota’s Theatre Arts District has had several identities over the years. Constructed in 1925 by local businessman J.R. Burns in the area known as “realtor’s row” during the Florida Land Boom, the building has primarily housed restaurants since the 1980s, including Umbrellas, Roast, the First Street Chop House, and DJ’s. It’s also housed an antique shop, The Conversation Piece, and several offices and city departments throughout its 90-year history in downtown Sarasota.

American National Bank

This contemporary building, completed in 1926, was built on the site of the old Belle Haven Inn, Sarasota’s first hotel. When the Depression hit, the bank was found to be “insolvent” and forced to closed. They paid only 18 cents on the dollar. It reopened in the ’30s as “The Orange Blossom Hotel.”When the war was declared in 1941 and the War Department established Sarasota Field as an Army Air Corps training base, the hotel was commandeered as barracks for pilots and bombardier trainees. After the war, the building became the “Orange Blossom Club Apartments” with the original façade restored. Today, a rare blend of history and luxury is what makes Orange Blossom Tower so unique among Sarasota condos. Its magnificent building is one of the vintage structures on Main Street which were meticulously preserved to contribute to molding the image of Sarasota as Florida’s cultural capital.

Conveniently located at 1330 Main Street corner Palm Avenue, Orange Blossom’s building is an architectural study in neo-classical style with its stately columns and graceful archways. It was constructed in 1926, starting out as the Orange Blossom Hotel and later the American National Bank Building. This historic nine-story edifice underwent a complete makeover in 2000, a time when luxury condo projects were just shaping up in such prime downtown locations as Golden Gate Point Peninsula.

Art Center Sarasota

The Sarasota Art Association began in 1926 and went 20 years without an official home before the construction of the Art Center in 1948. The Art Center was designed by Frank Martin, son of Municipal Auditorium architect Thomas Reed Martin, in the Sarasota School of Architecture style, also known as Sarasota Modern. The original galleries, also designed by Frank Martin, were built around a patio of tropical plants and a sunken pool. Though the outdoor elements have since changed, today an outdoor sculpture garden in front of the Art Center recalls the breezy nature of the Art Center’s original design.

Photos courtesy of pxhere.com and Sarasota History Alive website.

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2020-10-15