Sarasota is a beautiful city with unique architecture, white sand beaches, and a subtropical climate. Many things get lost in history beyond what you already know about Sarasota. Here are just a few things you may not have learned about Sarasota.
1.) Circus Elephants Helped Build a bridge.
Off the coast of the mainland of Sarasota sits St. Armands Key. If you’re familiar with the area, you probably know that you need to cross the John Ringling Causeway. What you probably didn’t realize was that during the original construction in 1925, the builder John Ringling (Ringling Brother’s Circus) used the elephants from the circus to assist in hauling timber used to construct the bridge. The original bridge opened for traffic officially in 1926 but was quickly outdated and no longer able to handle increased traffic, so a new drawbridge was built and opened in 1959. Eventually, the drawbridge met the same fate, and the John Ringling Causeway we know today officially opened in 2003.
2.) the Circus City nickname:
The Ringling family had a lot of interest in the Sarasota area and saw the opportunity to invest in real estate and try to transform Sarasota into a luxury resort town to rival those that already existed on the east coast of the state. By 1912, John and Mable Ringling made Sarasota their winter headquarters, and in the 1920s, the Ringling family-owned roughly 25% of all the land in Sarasota. Making Sarasota their home, John’s brother Charles Ringling agreed to move their circus’ winter headquarters out of Connecticut and into Sarasota, officially putting the city on the map, creating the start of Sarasota’s tourist industry, giving it the nickname Circus City.
3.) Legends and reality of its name
Sarasota, like many places, has gone by many names over the years. The legend and a more mysterious thought of how Sarasota got its name was through a tragic love story. Written in 1906 by a local pioneer, George F. Chapline, “Sarasota” told a sad love story of Hernando de Soto’s daughter, Sara de Soto, falling in love with the prince of the Seminole tribe, Chi-Chi-Okobee. After falling ill and passing away, Sara was buried in Sarasota Bay while Chi-Chi-Okobee and a hundred guardsmen drowned themselves to watch over Sara for eternity. Unfortunately, as beautiful and tragic as this story is, it has nothing to do with the actual name. Known as Zara Zota, Sara Zota, Sarasote, and Sara Sota are said to come from the Spanish term meaning “the place for dancing” and was named by the first settlers exploring the area.
4.) It has its own type of architectural style
Sarasota School Style architecture was named after the unique mid-century modern style created by Paul Rudolph in 1953. Labeled and coined originally as the Umbrella House style. This style features a rectangular home or building with large windows and transitional indoor/ outdoor spaces to embrace Florida living while covering the home with an “umbrella” or broad building overhang to allow for plenty of shade. This style of architecture can be found in many neighborhood homes and some more significant buildings in the city, like Sarasota City Hall and the new Sarasota High School.
5.) Sarasota wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for just four people
I am sure that over the years, Sarasota would’ve still begun developing and growing to become a city; however, without John Hamilton Gillespie, the first mayor, saw into the future, building the first hotel downtown and cleared the first roads for the city. Owen Burns saw Gillespie’s work and created more of the city we know today. Taking the first dirt roads cleared by Gillespie and paving them, creating the first sea walls and building causeways to connect the mainland to the islands. Burns would also assist in the building of John and Mable Ringling’s Ca’ d’Zan, the Golden Gate Pointe, and Sunset Park neighborhoods and assist in the separation from Manatee County to create a new Sarasota County. Bertha Palmer was an influential Chicago businesswoman who traveled the world to find the perfect vacation home and stumbled upon Sarasota. At one point, Palmer owned 1/4 of modern-day Sarasota County and introduced the viability and many revolutionary ideas of the cattle ranching industry to Sarasota. Lastly, John Ringling, the circus owner, saw the need to develop Sarasota into a luxury and holiday destination unlike any other. Sarasota would be a completely different city without these four people from what we know and love.