Sarasota History

From the Early 20th Century

Our short Sarasota history tells us that Sarasota, Florida was incorporated as a town in 1902 and as a city in 1913 and really sprang to life in the early 20th Century thanks to a couple of nationally well known people: one was Bertha Honore Palmer, who had been married to the famed business magnate, Potter Palmer of Chicago.


Palmer quickly established the area as a fashionable place for winter retreats and tourists to visit (you can take a tour of Historic Spanish Point, the estate of Bertha Palmer. There you can also learn more about our modern day history as well as the area's pioneer days and going back as far as 5,000 years ago).

The sheer natural beauty of our Sun Coast area also attracted another big name of the early 20th Century: Ringling!

The Ringling Brothers, as well as John and Mable Ringling, were taken with the area and John and Mable soon developed an estate on property that had been part of the Shell Beach subdivision.

They would later build a compound there on adjacent parcels that would also include the Ringling Museum of Art. You may see a bust of John Ringling in St. Armand's Circle Park.

Ringling was the prime mover and shaker in the development of St. Armands Key and even used Ringling Brothers Circus elephants in the construction of the bridge from the mainland to St. Armand's Key, now called the "Ringling Bridge."

The John Ringling Causeway Bridge

More about Sarasota

Through his business interests and travels, Ringling was associated with many people to whom he extolled the virtues of Sarasota. It was also through his associations that major league baseball spring training came to Sarasota.

With early 20th Century names like Palmer and Ringling behind it, Sarasota was on the map! And the names Ringling and Palmer remain to this day revered in Sarasota History.

Speaking of maps, here’s a little geography on the region: we are on the east coast of the U.S. directly on the central west coast of Florida, though some will refer to us as part of southwest Florida also.

According to 2004 census figures Sarasota, the county seat, had a population of 54,349, although that number swells a bit during the winter season and spring break.

Check out the Historical Society of Sarasota County for vastly more about the region's rich history. 


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