History of Sarasota

It is a sure bet that your hometown has an interesting and often compelling history; Sarasota is no different.

Our entire downtown historic district has a story to tell as you are about to discover its intriguing tales, informative historical markers, attractive historic buildings, inspiring public art, and unique parks.  All of these amenities are nestled in between fabulous restaurants, cultural landmarks, art-filled galleries, unique retail shops, a weekly open-air market, and an abundance of personal services tailored just-for-you.

Sarasota essentially got its beginning in 1885 at the foot of Main Street when Scottish colonists arrived to find their dream.  Though most of them left due to the harsh conditions of early settlement life, the town grew from a small fishing village into the vibrant city of today.  Throughout that 130 year development, an amazing story unfolded.

John Hamilton Gillespie, a Scotsman, was sent to finish establishing the Town of Sarasota, and to build the amenities to entice visitors to come here.  He became our first Mayor, started our first railroad service, and was the first person to introduce the game of golf to Florida.  He has often been fondly referred to as the Father of Sarasota.

By 1910, two other very influential people discovered us, the international socialite and businesswoman, Bertha Palmer and developer and contractor Owen Burns.  They invested heavily in the area and prospered with agriculture, the cattle industry, and land development.  Within a year after their arrival, the circus magnate, investor and developer, John Ringling followed the call to our paradise.  He and his wife, Mable brought us an outstanding amount of culture and furthered the affluence of the area.  As they say, the rest is history!

Make use of the enclosed historic district downtown maps, and explore our local and colorful heritage.  Bring Sarasota’s history to life on your smart phone, tour-the –town with informative and entertaining videos, ‘then’ photos and free vintage postcards to email to your friend and relatives. Sarasota is known as America’s 1st air conditioned city!

By Larry Kelleher

Sarasota History Alive