Gillespie Park honors John Hamilton Gillespie, first Mayor of Sarasota. The Scottish-born aristocrat arrived in 1886 as agent for his father, Sir John Hamilton Gillespie of Edinburgh, a principal in Florida Mortgage and Investment Co., which filed the Town of Sarasota plat in 1886. This land was part of the town’s experimental farm. Gillespie designed a golf course in 1886. He secured funds for the dredging of a Sarasota Bay channel in 1888, and built a hotel on Main Street. When Sarasota was incorporated in 1902, Gillespie was elected mayor. He died in 1923 and was buried in the town’s Rosemary Cemetery.
Gillespie Park Subdivision was platted in 1917. In 1924, Sarasota developer Owens Burns sold a parcel to the city for a park. During the Florida land boom, a $75,000 bond issue funded development of lawn bowling, tennis courts and a playground. In 1925, it won a national beautification award. The park supported a natural history museum, Brumby Lake, a lakeside walkway, and footbridge. In 1977, a Gallery of patriots installed in the park’s northwest corner featured such Western Hemisphere leaders as Abraham Lincoln, José Martí, Simón Bolívar, and Ingnacio Agramonte.
Courtesy of Sarasota History Alive