What Makes Sarasota So Very Special? Story 6 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 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.

Kress Building

Following the collapse of the Florida Land Boom and the beginning of the Great Depression across the nation, Sarasota entered a new period of development, represented by the construction of the Kress Building in 1932. S.E. Kress & Company was a national chain of five-and-dime-style retail department stores and the corporation’s arrival in Sarasota was hailed by the local press as a much-needed economic boost. The Kress Building is one of the few remaining examples of the Art Deco style in Sarasota. Though 1422 Main Street is no longer a five-and-dime, its façade maintains the iconic Kress logo seen on Main Streets across America.

J.B. Turner House

The J.B. Turner House is one of the few remaining buildings in downtown Sarasota that were built prior to 1924. It is also one of the only rusticated stone block buildings, once a popular building method, that remains standing, and one of the rare examples of Colonial Revival style architecture in Sarasota. J.B. Turner, who moved into the house in 1913, is remembered as one of Sarasota’s most prominent merchants and one of the first automobile owners. He is also remembered for building the first parking lot in Sarasota – a 100’ x 35’ covered lot behind his store on Main Street.

Gillespie Park Subdivision and Gillespie Park

This very early subdivision of homes was platted in 1917. The parcel now known as “Gillespie Park” is 10.5 acres and was originally used as an experimental farm. In 1924 the farm was closed and the owner, Owen Burns, sold it to the city for $75,000. The city took over the acreage and renamed it Gillespie park after the first Mayor of Sarasota, John Hamilton Gillespie, who had passed away the year before.

The city added lawn bowling, tennis courts, and playground facilities. A footbridge and duck pond followed later. The following year the park was awarded a national beautification award. At the northeast corner is found the “Gallery of Patriots,” honoring leaders of the countries of the western hemisphere such as Simon Bolivar, Jose Marti, Ignacio Agramonte, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. Many of the homes surrounding the park are originals from the period and the subdivision is currently undergoing a historic revitalization.

Photos courtesy Sarasota History Alive website.

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2020-12-03