Sarasota is a city located in Sarasota County on the southwestern coast of the U.S. state of Florida. It is south of the Tampa Bay Area and north of Fort Myers. Its current official limits include Sarasota Bay and several barrier islands between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Today the keys that are included in the boundary of Sarasota are Lido Key, St. Armands Key, Otter Key, Coon Key, Bird Key, and portions ofSiesta Key. Previously, Siesta Key was named Sarasota Key. At one time, it and all of Longboat Key were considered part of Sarasota and confusing contemporaneous references may be found discussing them.
Longboat Key is the largest key separating the bay from the gulf, but it is now evenly divided by the new county line of 1921. The portion of the key that parallels the Sarasota city boundary that extends to that new county line along the bay front of the mainland was removed from the city boundaries at the request of John Ringling in the mid-1920s, who sought to avoid city taxation of his planned developments at the southern tip of the key. Although they never were completed in the quickly faltering economy, those development concessions granted by the city never were reversed and the county has retained regulation of those lands ever since.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Sarasota had a population of 52,211 in 2012. In 1986 it became designated as a certified local government. Sarasota is a principal city of the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is the seat of Sarasota County.
It is among the communities included in a two-county federally mandated Metropolitan Planning Organization that includes all of Sarasota and Manatee counties and the chairs of the three elements of that organization belong to the eight-county regional planning organization for western central Florida.
Charles Ringling as developer
Charles Ringling invested in land, developed property, and founded a bank. He participated in Sarasota’s civic life and gave advice to other entrepreneurs starting new businesses in Sarasota. From his bank, he loaned money to fledgling businesses. Encouraging its creation, he donated land to the newly formed county—upon which he also built its government offices and courthouse as a gift to the community.
Ringling Boulevard was named for Charles Ringling. It is a winding road leading east from the bay front at what now is Tamiami Trail toward the winter circus headquarters. It crosses Washington Boulevard where Charles Ringling built the Sarasota Terrace Hotel, a high-rise in the Chicago style of architecture, opposite the site which Ringling would donate for the county seat. It was readily accessible by train at the time.
Charles Ringling and his wife, Edith, began building their bay front winter retreat in the early 1920s. Charles Ringling died in 1926, just after it was completed. For decades Edith Ringling remained there and continued her role in the administration of the circus, assuming many duties of her husband, and her cultural activities in the community. Her daughter, Hester, and her sons were active in Sarasota’s theatrical and musical venues. What came to be known internationally as theEdith Ringling Estate is now the center of the campus of New College of Florida.
John Ringling in partnership with Owen Burns
John Ringling invested heavily in developments on the barrier islands, known as keys, which separate the shallow bay from the Gulf of Mexico. Although he had several corporations and development projects in Sarasota, he worked in partnership with Owen Burns to develop the keys through a corporation named, Ringling Isles Estates. Burns owned all of Lido Key. To facilitate development of these holdings a bridge was built to the islands by his partner, Owen Burns. Eventually Ringling donated the bridge to the city for the government to maintain. They named that route, John Ringling Boulevard. The center of Saint Armand key contains Harding Circle and the streets surrounding it are named for other U.S. presidents. Dredge and fill by Owen Burns created even more dry land to develop, including Golden Gate Point. Winter residents, called snowbirds, flocked to purchase these seasonal homes marketed to the well-to-do.
Prehistorical data[edit source]
Fifteen thousand years ago, when humans first settled in Florida, the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico was one hundred miles farther to the west. In this era, hunting and gathering was the primary means of subsistence. This was only possible in areas where water sources existed for hunter and prey alike. Deep springs and catchment basins, such as Warm Mineral Springs, were close enough to the Sarasota area to provide camp sites, but too far away for permanent settlements.
As the Pleistocene glaciers slowly melted, a more temperate climate began to advance northward. Sea levels began rising; they ultimately rose another 350 feet (110 m), resulting in the Florida shoreline of today, which provided attractive locations for human settlements.
Archaeological research in Sarasota documents more than ten thousand years of seasonal occupation by native peoples. For five thousand years while the current sea level existed, fishing in Sarasota Bay was the primary source of protein and large mounds of discarded shells and fish bones attest to the prehistoric human settlements that existed in Sarasota and were sustained by the bounty of its bay.
Early historical records
Europeans first explored the area in the early sixteenth century. The first recorded contact was in 1513, when a Spanish expedition landed at Charlotte Harbor, just to the south. Spanish was used by the natives during some of the initial encounters, providing evidence of earlier contacts.
Having been identified on maps by the mid-eighteenth century as Zara Zote, perhaps from an indigenous name, the sheltered bay and its harbor attracted fish and marine traders. Soon there were fishing camps, called ranchos, along the bay that were established by both Americans and Cubans who traded fish and turtles with merchants in Havana. Florida changed hands between the Spanish, the English, and then the Spanish again.
After the 1819 acquisition of Florida as a territory by the United States and five years before it became a state in 1845, the army established Fort Armistead in Sarasota along the bay.
The fort is thought to have been located in the Indian Beach area, and research continues there. The army established the fort at a rancho operated by Louis Pacheco, an African slave working for his Cuban-American owner. Drawings of the fort give a clue to the location as well, showing a significant landmark point that still exists at Indian Beach. Shortly before the fort was abandoned because of severe epidemics, the chiefs of the Seminole Indians gathered to discuss their impending forced march to the Oklahoma Territory. These were Native Americans who had moved into Florida during the Spanish occupation. Most of the indigenous natives of Florida, such as theTocobaga and the Caloosa, had perished from epidemics carried by the Spanish. They mostly had maintained permanent settlements that were used from late fall through spring, moving to settlements farther north during the summer.
Soon the remaining Seminole Indians were forced south into the Big Cypress Swamp and in 1842 the lands in Sarasota, which then were held by the federal government, were among those opened to private ownership by those of European descent via the Armed Occupation Act passed by the Congress of the United States. Even Louis Pacheco was deported with the Indians to Oklahoma.
European settlers arrived in significant numbers in the late 1840s. The area already had a Spanish name, Zara Zote, on maps dating back to the early eighteenth century, and it was retained as Sara Sota. The initial settlers were attracted by the climate and the bounty ofSarasota Bay.
Sarasota has been governed by several different American counties, depending upon the era. Not becoming a state until 1845 Florida was acquired by the United States as a territory in 1819. Hillsborough County was created from Alachua and Monroe counties in 1834 and many early land titles cite it as the county governing Sarasota. Hillsborough was divided in 1855, placing Sarasota under the governance of Manatee County until 1921, when three new counties were carved out of portions of Manatee. One of those new counties was called Sarasota, and the city was made its seat. The boundary of the community once extended to Bowlees Creek, but that was redrawn to an arbitrary line in order to divide the airport so its oversight could include both counties. Property records and street addresses north of that new county line and south of the creek, however, remain as “Sarasota” due to established postal designations, although they remain governed by Manatee County.
To recover from the debt the state incurred through defeat in the Civil War, the central portions of Florida were drained and sold internationally to developers in the North and abroad during the 1880s.[citat