Tibbals Hero of History Raffle Prizes

Tour Ca’D’Zan with the expert who understands it like no one else in the world. Ca’D’Zan, 36,000 square-feet with 56 rooms. No one knows every inch of the mansion and its grounds like Ronald R. McCarty. He is the Keeper of Ca’D’Zan , who supervised the monumental restoration of the mansion that he likes to call “Mable’s House” You will explore secret places that tourists never see and you will see specific Masonic symbols that were incorporated into the facade of the house as well as Mable’s favorite flowers, zodiac signs, animals and classical symbols that were worked into the glazed patterns. This custom tour is one of Ron McCarty’s last. He is retiring after 38 years, the longest serving employee in the history of The Ringling. Maximum of six people – tour approximately two hours and must be taken by August, 2018.


Tour the Wisconsin with David W. Duncan, a Pullman car historian and the the expert who restored John and Mable Ringling’s fabulous private railroad car. At The Ringling, visitors can glimpse a means of transportation available only to the rich and famous. The amenities for a luxury life on the rails as well as the decorations are extraordinary. This private train car commissioned by John and Mable Ringling was used beginning the year they married in 1905. The tour begins with a look at the Howard Bros. Circus Model. David assisted Howard Tibbals with the installation and continues to assist with the maintenance of the miniature circus. David will arrange the time and date with the winner, but he suggests a Thursday evening when The Ringling is open late the the Wisconsin gallery has fewer tourists. Maximum of four – tour lasts about two hours.


Custom Cooking Class with Chef Judi Gallagher. You have watched her on TV, now you can dice, slice and chop right next to her in the comfortable cook’s kitchen at Southern Steer Butcher for a personalized cooking class followed by enjoying the four-course meal with a glass of wine or beer. This is a crowd pleasing menu of hand-cut, grass fed beef as well as organic vegetables and fruits and is destined to become part of your culinary repertoire, one that you will want to repeat with confidence in your own home for guests and family. During the class, Chef Judi will reveal serving tips and preparation secrets that restaurant chefs rely on. Dress casually, bring your apron and your cooking questions. Maximum six people – lunch or dinner. Time and date to be arranged with fabulous Chef Judi but no weekends.


Lions, Tigers, Bears and Chimps, Oh My! All yours at Big Cat Habitat. Get up close and personal with big and exotic animals. The winner of this rare experience wins a personal tour and chance to feed and get very close the the animals. Your guides are Kay Rosaire, educator/behaviorist who founded Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary in 1987 to protect and give home to large, rare and endangered animals, and her son Clayton Rosaire, one of the few men in the world who can put his head in a lion’s mouth. They will take you on a custom one-hour tour of their extraordinary and fabulous world. This is truly a walk on the wild side that you will never forget. Appetizers and wine served too (for you and friends, not the animals). Bring your camera for sure. Maximum of four – Schedule date and time directly with Kay, Clayton, or Danielle Rosaire.

March Conversations at The Crocker

Gulf Coast Trade with Cuba and Fishing Ranchos

The Conversations at the Crocker series takes look at our long trading traditions with Cuba with emphasis on ranchos when an anthropologist and an archeologist present their research

It might surprise a lot of people in Manatee and Sarasota counties to know that there has been an active Florida trading commerce with Cuba since the 1600s. Mostly it’s been smoked mullet, but also citrus, cattle, and other commodities. At the Historical Society of Sarasota County’s popular series Conversations at The Crocker, an archaeologist and an anthropologist take an in-depth look at Florida’s trade with Cuba. They will focus particular attention on the Cuban fishing ranchos and the origins of modern Sarasota and Manatee. For more than 100 years, Cuban fishermen set up seasonal fishing camps along our coast where they would catch fish, salt them and send them back to Cuba to sell.

This Conversation takes place on Tuesday, March 13 starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park) in Sarasota. Free to members of the Historical Society and students; guests, $10 at the door. 

Leading the Cuba Conversation are archaeologist Jeffrey Moates, and Professor Uzi Baram, a professor of anthropology at New College.  

Three Cuban fisherman are credited with showing Josiah Gates and his brother-in-law fields near a spring on the south side of the Manatee River,” said Jeffrey Moates.  “Gates would use the land to settle a homestead that became the center of the Village of Manatee, today’s eastern part of Bradenton.” And that’s only a tiny part of the story. Using maps, historical photographs and documents, Moates and Baram will draw you into a time and a place of ancient peoples who have left clues to thriving waterside communities. 

Jeffrey Moates is Regional Director for the Florida Public Archaeology Network, and he is based at the University of South Florida (USF). In 2010, Moates and USF staff developed and coordinated Rancho Regattas, public programming to celebrate Cuban fishing rancho history and archaeology in Florida.

Uzi Baram is a Professor of Anthropology at New College of Florida and founding director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab. In his experiments with public outreach and community engagement, Prof Baram has commissioned two video games that teach the history and geography of the Cuban fishing ranchos of Sarasota Bay.  

Archaeologist Jeffrey Moates

Priofessor Uzi Batam

Established five years ago by the Historical Society of Sarasota County, Conversations at the Crocker is a series of interactive conversations that explore the people, places and events that have shaped this part of Florida. Before each Conversation, the Historical Society offers docent-led tours of the two heritage properties at Pioneer Park that the society curates, The Bidwell-Wood House (l882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Annual membership at the Historical Society is $35. For more information, contact Linda Garcia, Site Manager, at 941-364-9076

Happy New Year 2018!!

Bidwell-Wood House New Roof

Fall 2017 New Roof

2017 New Roof on Bidwell-Wood House

Bidwell-Wood House has a new Roof!


The Bidwell-Wood House (1882) has a new roof!!! Thanks to a grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and generous donations from the annual appeal we were able to have Sutter Roofing Company do the work. It had been delayed with hurricane Irma this summer and work did not begin until late October and was finished by the end of the year. Please come visit and see how great it looks!

“John & Mable Ringling” in the Holiday Parade

Two of our board members, Ron McCarty and Kathryn Chesley, portrayed the famous couple “John & Mable Ringling” in the 2017 22nd Annual Sarasota Holiday Parade : “The Greatest Parade on Earth” Circus Tribute on Saturday December 2, 2017. The parade was honoring the 65th anniversary of the release of the film “The Greatest Show on Earth” that was filmed here in 1951. We hope your were able to attend and enjoy the spectacular costumes and clowns!

October is Here – Conversations at The Crocker are Back!!

Sarasota’s Waters – Changes in Our Lifetimes

Join the conversation when three experts on water and how Floridians have used waterways in the past have a lively Conversation at The Crocker.

Presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County, the first of this season’s Conversations at the Crocker takes place on Tuesday, October 10 starting at 7 p.m. at the historic Crocker Memorial Church at 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park). The topic is Sarasota Waters – Changes in our Lifetimes and leading the Conversation is John Ryan, a water expert and founding member of Sarasota Bay Watch. 

This lively interactive community conversation (with PowerPoint presentation) is free to Historical Society members and $10 for guests at the door. Joining Ryan on the stage of the Crocker for in this timely conversation about Sarasota’s waterways and how they’ve changed are Rodney Potter and Rob Wright. 

Organized six years ago, the Conversations at The Crocker series highlights specific aspects of Sarasota’s past and examines pivotal events and people who have influenced today’s Sarasota.  

John Ryan is an Environmental Manager with Sarasota County Stormwater where he handles water quality monitoring and pollution regulatory matters. He is a 30-year resident of Sarasota who has had a long career with the County after a short stint with Mote Marine Lab. Ryan helped start the oral history project with New College of Florida that can be seen on the Sarasota Water Atlas website. He was a founding member of Sarasota Bay Watch. 

Rob Wright, who grew up in Nokomis, is currently the Conservation Chair for Sarasota Audubon Society (SAS) and a leading voice on environmental issues. Previously he was the Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST) Coordinator for Sarasota County from 2003 – 2016. Wright has been involved in the administration and implementation of environmental management programs in the public and private sector for more than 34 years. 

A lifelong resident of Manatee County, Rodney Potter has worked in the timber industry and in agriculture. He has constructed greenhouses for nurseries and he owned and operated a lettuce farm in the 1950s. He has been a member of the Manatee County Historical Commission for more than 20 years and is an active in hunter and fisherman. As an outdoorsman, his connection with the area’s waterways, is thus both personal and professional and his insights and memories promise to be impressive.

All Conversations take place at The Crocker Memorial Church and proceeds help to maintain the Historical Society’s two heritage properties at Pioneer Park – the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Docent-led tours of both buildings are available an hour before each of the Conversations at The Crocker events. The Historical Society is a membership organization ($35 annually) led by a volunteer board of directors. Co-chairs of Conversations at The Crocker are Lynn Harding and Marsha Fottler. For more information contact Linda Garcia, Site Manager, 941-364-9076.


Roof Project gets Green Light!

Grant to Historical Society from William G. and Marie Selby Foundation means a replacement roof for the historic Bidwell-Wood House (1882) 

The historic Bidwell-Wood House built in 1882 by Alfred and Mary Bidwell and now located at Pioneer Park in Sarasota is getting a replacement shingle roof thanks to a $15,000 grant from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation to the Historical Society of Sarasota County (HSOSC).  Work begins this summer.

The two-story wood frame vernacular house with its detached kitchen, deep front and back porches and heart pine floors is the oldest private residence in the city of Sarasota. The house has been under the care of the Historical Society of Sarasota County (HSOSC) since the structure was moved for the third and last time in 2006 to Pioneer Park at 1260 12th street. The home originally stood at what is now the corner of US 41 and Wood Street. 

“This has definitely been the year of the roof,” said HSOSC treasurer Deborah Bowers, who was at the Bidwell-Wood House along with board member Jeff LaHurd to receive the Selby Foundation check from its president, Sarah Pappas. “Through the Historical Society’s annual appeal which was a dedicated roof campaign and from other donations, we were able to raise $11,500. Now with the Selby Foundation grant, we have the funding for the replacement roof project. Our thanks to HSOSC members and community friends of history who generously donated to the roof campaign and, of course, to the William G and Marie Selby Foundation which makes the roof replacement a reality.” 

On the porch steps of the Bidwell-Wood House, Sarah Pappas (center) President of the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation presents a check for $15,00 that is a grant to the Historical Society of Sarasota County for the organization’s project to replace the shingle roof of the 1882 Bidwell-Wood House at Pioneer Park. Accepting the grant funding is Deborah Bowers, treasurer of the Historical Society and author/historian Jeff LaHurd who is a board member of the Historical Society of Sarasota County

Reid Gerletti is elected to the Board of Directors

Reid Gerletti, a sales associate with Sotheby’s International Realty, has been elected to the 12-member board of directors at the Historical Society of Sarasota County. At the May annual meeting held in the 1901 Crocker Memorial Church at Pioneer Park, he was elected along with Marsha Fottler, president, succeeding Howard Rosenthal who led the organization for six years.
As a fourth generation native, Gerletti has spent his life enjoying all the benefits that city life in Sarasota has to offer. He lives in and is restoring a home that was this grandfather’s.  Gerletti is a graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design and has long had an interest in the Sarasota’s buildings, traditions and the cultural life of the city. As a board member of the Historical Society, he takes on the job of advancing the mission of the membership organization to teach and celebrate the rich history of Sarasota County and the State of Florida through teaching, research, community programming and special events.
The Historical Society also curates and maintains two historic buildings, the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Docent led-tours are available. Additionally, the Historical Society curates, maintains and preserves the city-owned Rosemary Cemetery, Sarasota’s first burial ground platted in 1886.
Serving on the Historical Board with Gerletti in addition to Fottler are: Deborah Bowers, Kathryn Chesley, Greg Dickinson, Meade Ferguson, Lynn Harding, Bill Kleber, Jeff LaHurd, JoRita Stevens and William Watrous. .

Annual Meeting & Elections

Previous Distinguished Awards Recipients Harriet Stieff and Viola Goldberg were happy to attend the 2017 Annual Meeting and congratulate the 2017 Hero of History – John McCarthy and the 2017 Distinguished Service Awardees Kate Holmes and Brenda Lee Hickman.  The new incoming President Marsha Fottler says thanks to outgoing president Howard Rosenthal and welcomes the new board member Reid Gerletti.

Arbor Day 2017

A Good Day For Trees
As Americans planted trees from one end of this country to the other in observance of National Arbor Day (April 28), Sarasota did its part by giving trees to various organizations at official tree-planting events. Arbor Day began in Nebraska in 1872 and quickly took root across the United States. Sarasota enthusiastically participates.
The Historical Society of Sarasota County was one of the groups honored. From the welcoming front porch of the historic Bidwell-Wood House (1882) located in Pioneer Park at 1260 12th Street, Mayor Willie Shaw read the official city proclamation noting how valuable trees are to the environment. Vice President of the Historical Society, Marsha Fottler, accepted a lovely white-flowering Geiger tree that is now in the members garden of the Historical Society.
Volunteers at the Society started the garden five years ago with grant from the Founders Garden Club and it is maintained by members who volunteer on the Landscape Committee. The Historical Society garden surrounds both the Bidwell-Wood House and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). The extensive garden is Florida friendly and includes a wide brick path and window-box gardens, as well as benches for relaxing.

Marsha Fottler, HSOSC Vice President with representatives of the Parks & Rec and Forestry Divisions

April Converstations at The Crocker

Manatee Village Courthouse

This community event, organized by the Historical Society of Sarasota County, takes place on Tuesday, April 11 starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park), Sarasota. The event is free to students and to members of the Historical Society; $10 for guests. Proceeds help to maintain the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901). Tours of both vintage structures are available an hour before the start of the program.
Participants in the small museums program are: Cathy Slusser, Director of Historical Resources, Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court; Diane Ingram, Museum Supervisor, Manatee County Agricultural Museum; Mandy Polson, Museum Supervisor, Palmetto Historical Park; Phaedra Carter, Museum Supervisor, Manatee Village Historical Park and Kristin Sweeting, Museum Supervisor, Florida Maritime Museum, which is in Cortez. Sarasota was originally part of Manatee County, which extended from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee, was 60 miles wide north and south, and contained 5,000 square miles. Sarasota County was created in 1921.
The conversation among these museum professionals about their museums and the impact they have on community residents and Florida tourism will be augmented by a PowerPoint program that will transport the audience to each of these heritage sites. Question and answer period too.
For more information about this Historical Society outreach program, contact Linda Garcia, Site Manager at 941-364-9076.

John McCarthy & Brenda Lee Hickman on their 25th Cruise

captain-don-brenda-lee-hickman-john-mccarthyOn Sunday November 20 the HSOSC hosted their 29th Historical Cruise on LeBarge with narrator John McCarthy and organizer Brenda Lee Hickman both on their 25th cruise in photo above with Captain Don.  The LeBarge offers HSOSC the town’s favorite floating history lesson and a great way to enjoy cruising on Sarasota Bay. The next cruise sets sail on Sunday March 5, 2017 – call the office for reservations. All proceeds help maintain historic properties at Pioneer Park and promote history education and programming.

November 2016 Conversations at the Crocker


2015 Hero of History Jeff LaHurd

Hero of History Jeff LaHurd


History author indulges his nostalgia for the way things were

Popular author Jeff LaHurd presents an illustrated program on Sarasota’s “charming”past at the Crocker Memorial Church. A community event organized by the Historical Society of Sarasota County

The author of 15 books about the history of Sarasota and Florida and a child of Sarasota since 1950, Jeff LaHurd comes to the Crocker Memorial Church on Tuesday, November 15 to present an illustrated program that is half history and half nostalgia when he takes a loving look at Sarasota’s not too distant past. The fun starts at 7 p.m. Historical Society members, free; guests, $10. All proceeds go to maintaining the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901), both located at 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park), one half block off N. Tamiami Trail at 12th Street.
If you know practically nothing about Sarasota history, this event will be an eye-opener. If you think you are pretty well versed in how and why this sleepy little fishing village and sunny small-town refuge from northern winters evolved, you may be surprised by what you’ll learn from Jeff LaHurd’s amusing and timely perspective.
“When Arvida first announced that they were coming to Sarasota in 1959,” said LaHurd, “they indicated, ‘Very few places have one iota of the charm of Sarasota,’ so my presentation is a look at the places many long-time residents remember when “charm” not “overdevelopment” was the operative word.”
This Historical Society event is part of Conversations at The Crocker, a series of interactive conversations about the people, places and events that have influenced the growth and development of Sarasota County. President of the Historical Society is Howard Rosenthal. Co-chairs of Conversations at The Crocker are Lynn Harding and Marsha Fottler.
Jeff LaHurd is a two-time winner of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s Individual Distinguished Service Award and he is a recipient of the Hero of History Award, presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County. He is regular contributor to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune daily newspaper and he is a contributor to STYLE Magazine. A speaker known for his humorous take on some aspects of local history,

is a sought-after speaker and whenever he appears at Conversations at The Crocker, it’s a sold-out house for the Historical Society, where he is a Life Member.

November LeBarge Historical Cruise Rescheduled

Norma Kwenski, Volunteer Extraordinaire, grabs the catbird seat on LeBarge, next to our commentator, always-captivating John McCarthy, one of Sarasota’s leading historians.

Norma Kwenski, Volunteer Extraordinaire, grabs the catbird seat on LeBarge, next to our commentator, always-captivating John McCarthy, one of Sarasota’s leading historians.

Our 29th Historical LeBarge Cruise was postponed two weeks due to mechanical repairs being done to the boat. We are rescheduled for Sunday November 20 – same time same station!! Sunday morning cruise from 11a – 1p. We had to do some rearrangements for guests that could not make the date change and we now have a few more spaces available. The VIP tickets are $75 (includes early boarding with two drink coupons and a thank you gift) and regular tickets are $50. Please call the office at 941-364-9076 if you would like to join us for our fall LeBarge cruise.