Last Gathering this Season… a great one!

Our Sunday Afternoon Socials at 2 pm are casual, cafe-style events complete with wine and refreshments, and feature some of the most interesting people around. This month we welcome two historical writers who have turned their research into fish ranchos and early development into a fascinating tale of the 1840s-1900 Manatee and Sarasota areas.

Peggy Donoho and Ron Prouty will be telling the true tale of everyday settlers who populated our area.

They are the authors of Miguel’s Bay, about the people who lived in the Terra Ceia Bay area (that area you are in when you cross the Sunshine Skyway Bridge), the Manatee River towns Bradenton and Palmetto, and the Sarasota Bay area.

Miguel was a fisherman from Menorca who fished the waters from the bay now named after him all the way to Sarasota. He courted a Bavarian immigant who worked on the Manatee River and married her, despite

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Recycling… the Historic way!

We’re very excited to be joining forces with Historical Resources and Archives, commonly called The History Center, to offer our county an easy way to donate ephemera that you may have lying around, and never dreamed anyone would value it.

Ephemera! Stuff published once, meant for the moment… only now YOU

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What the “Real Florida” looks (and feels) like

If you want to experience what this area looked like before you got here, try an EcoWalk.

Book yourself into some nature walks with knowledgable guides from UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County. They provide “practical education you can trust, to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future. This service is a partnership between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Sarasota County.”

Click the pic to see Eventbrite’s listings (tours are free but space-limited.)

Note that the tours pause in summer and begin again the fall. Yup. It’s too dang hot to be out in the sun in the summer. There’s a history lesson right there.

2022 Giving Challenge: Why Help?

Every two years, our community comes together for 24 hours to donate what we can to charitable organizations serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties. 

Last time, in 2020, with the pandemic raging and our future unknown, the Historical Society thought the need for human services was more pressing than the need to save the very fabric of our history. We could wait for the help: people couldn’t. So two years ago we asked our supporters to think People First Then Buildings.

Now, in 2022, we come to ask history-lovers, our members, and our supporters to join us in the effort to save the Crocker Memorial Church. Many of you have followed, and participated in, the saving of the west wall of the Church, and for that we are most thankful.

But a building, of course, has four walls (and in this case, a steeple, a portico with columns, a flight of stairs and handicap ramp) which are in ongoing need for preservation. We now face the daunting task of raising funds for the east wall. The window sills are rotting and need to be replaced so that the original windows can be saved.

The Historical Society is proud to have been one of the original charities invited to join the Giving Challenge in its first year, and happy to join the over 700 area nonprofits participating in this year’s Giving Challenge, a 24-hour online event between noon Tuesday April 26 and noon Wednesday April 27. During this time, your gift of $25 to $100 will be doubled by The Patterson Foundation.

Since 2012, the Giving Challenge has acted as a catalyst for connection and provided more than $59 million in unrestricted funding in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties.

Watch the complete 2020 video from HSoSC

Explore how we refreshed our west wall, learn why it needed it, and how we even managed to help an Eagle Scout give us a second handicap space!

In 2020, we published an appeal to the public to think “People First Then Buildings.” Here’s what Treasurer Deborah Bowers, head of our Finance Committee, said: “…HSoSC feels that in these perilous times, people must come before preserving historic buildings.
Therefore we ask of you, think people first as you decide where your donations will go during the Giving Challenge …
“Please, if you are able to participate in the 2020 Giving Challenge, look first for those charities that help people.
Historic buildings are wonderful… we love them, and we love local history, but buildings are nothing without people to enjoy them in good health and prosperity.
“If you are moved to also donate to the Historical Society we would be grateful …
“In years to come this pandemic and how it has impacted local history is going to be the subject of Conversation at The Crocker and many of you will have important knowledge and personal stories to contribute that will illuminate how we live in the future. Right now we are all historians and we are in this together.”

Everything you were afraid to ask about David

Word is, Sarasota city employees are thinking of replacing David on the city logo. And spending, according to that article, $25,000 for “design services” to do so.

While it’s true, the original logo (still, apparently, the city seal) is rather, well, dated… is David dated? Them folks over in Italy don’t think so!

If you’re not quite sure how a replica statue (and one not even in the original size) might be a symbol of The City of Sarasota, here’s some historic background.

First off, David’s the only one in the Western Hemisphere. And we’re the only Sarasota. That’s worth mentioning. Second, David was created by a 26-year-old dude. That’s rad, right? Like our art and college students. Third, the marble Michelangelo carved into had been sitting around for decades as a “failed project”, rather like, um, the campaign to replace the logo? Here’s some more info on the original.

“Our” David was bought by John Ringling to adorn his never-completed, torn down Ritz-Carlton hotel, and later was repurposed to inspire the art school which didn’t end up being where Ringling thought it should be, so it’s a great example of how Sarasota flows with the times, in my opinion. Here’s the detes.

And finally, David, like the city of Sarasota, always needs to be polished up and conserved. Here’s what the Ringling had to say about that back in the 2020 Giving Challenge season.

BTW, the Historical Society’s hoping you’ll consider our restoration project when you’re choosing your favorite nonprofits during the 2022 Giving Challenge on April 26 and 27.

So, what do you think? Should the city logo change? Back in 2021, 2013, and even 2011, apparently folks thought so. But you know, he’s still standing tall. Like we hope you’ll help us keep the Crocker Memorial Church standing tall and proud as a symbol of our Sarasota community.

If you couldn’t join us, you missed a treat!

Oh, if you weren’t there, #youshouldhavebeen! For our 37th Historic Sarasota Bay Cruise, the weather was glorious, narrator John McCarthy was awesome, and Capt. Eric of LeBarge took us to places we’ve never been before!

How John knows all that stuff, how the valued volunteers Norma Kwenski and Sue Padden and board members Brenda Lee Hickman and Jon Stone and our Site Manager Linda Garcia manage to keep even our 37th Historic Sarasota Bay Cruise fresh and not-to-be-missed is a wonder! Join HSoSC to keep up with all the goings on at the Society! https://hsosc.com/be-a-part-of-history/membership/

Above: The VIP Boarders waiting to, well, board, LeBarge for our 37th Sarasota Bay Cruise… some for their first time (Hello Australia and Norway visitors!), some for repeat trips. They don’t know it yet but they’r’e in for a treat… Captain Eric took a fresh route, and we saw things you wouldn’t have expected! Ospreys diving, dolphins herding their Sunday brunch into the shallows, and… a SHIPWRECK!
N.B: The trash can declined to participate so it was left dockside. Its loss!

Above: Jon Stone, incognito in his shades and straw hat, entertaining the waiting hordes. He also became an impromptu server as he passed around snacks several times during the cruise… we were all too busy seeking out what John McCarthy was pointing out to us (Shell Beach! Bay Island! Sailing prams and sandbars where they used to swim au naturel!) to actually visit the buffet table!

Above: Our long-time friend, past President, Guide to All That Works, John McCarthy, moments before he took the mic to send us on a 2-hour voyage to the past, regaling us with what went before (all the way back to the 1500s!) and how it relates to what’s happening today in Sarasota.

What went before and how it influences today… sounds like the topic for our upcoming Conversation at the Crocker on Tuesday March 8 at 7pm…. read about THAT here.

March is for Lovers!

March is definitely for lovers. Lovers of local history that is. After so long apart, we’re thrilled to welcome you back on campus in Pioneer Park.

Yes, the Historical Society is holding events in March. And not only are you welcome, you’re encouraged to attend! Come as you are. The only event requiring pre-registration is the Historical Bay Cruise, so check with Linda Garcia, our Site Manager, to see if space is still available on Le Barge. Other events, walk-ins welcome; admission fees (if any) noted, and of course, you are welcome to come masked.

Join history buffs at the newly-refreshed and -researched Crocker Memorial Church in March.

Wednesday March 2, 2022: History Is Fun.  In the Crocker Memorial Church at 2 p.m. Free for members, $10 for those who haven’t gotten around to becoming members yet. It’s the last of this season’s presentations, and we’re welcoming the Sarasota County Historical Resources folks. They’re the people who guard and catalog our county’s past, from mastodon bones to Bertha Palmer’s rowing machine. Come learn, come ask, come get acquainted with Historical Resources.

Sunday March 6, 2022:  Historical Sarasota Bay Cruise. Our favorite narrator, John McCarthy, takes the mic on Le Barge as you glade on Sarasota Bay. Watch history unfold before your eyes. Sip a beverage, nibble on snacks and enjoy the open air and gentle breezes. The boat leaves from Marina Jack at 11 a.m. (loading at 10:30!) and returns around 1 p.m. This is the boat ride you will always remember. There are still some tickets left at the time of writing. $75 per person. Call HSoSC Site Manager, Linda Garcia, at 941-364-9076 for availability. 

Tuesday March 8, 2022: Conversations at The Crocker. 7 p.m in the Crocker Memorial Church. The Crocker Church, Lost And Found Years. A fresh look at the revised history of the Crocker Memorial Church. Read more. Presenters are Deborah Walk, Jon Stone and Betsy Lingenheld, board members at HSoSC. Docent tours of the Bidwell-Wood House are available at 6 p.mbefore the show. Free to members; $10 at the door for guests.

Sunday March 20, 2022: Sunday Afternoon Social: 2 p.m. in the Crocker Memorial Church. The Last Lustron. Tom McArdle is a board member at the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation and owner of the last Lustron, a piece of post WWII Americana, in Sarasota. Read about these unusual homes here. Refreshments included in this relaxed, cafe-style event. $5 for members and $10 for guests at the door.

Our tree.

Well, we have lots of trees surrounding our campus in Pioneer Park, but the one that shades our front yard is the one everyone remarks upon.

Ringling College art students painting our historic buildings under our pignut hickory.
The pignut hickory we are proud to protect.

Why pignut hickory? Well, the nuts are a main source of food for some species of sqirrels, bears, and of course… pigs!

Feral swine are not native to the Americas being first brought to the US in the 1500s by early explorers and settlers as a source of food. 

So what’s pignut hickory used for? I’m so glad you asked. It’s prized for skis. It was formerly used for wagon wheels and textile loom picker sticks because it could sustain tremendous vibration. (I also found it was used for chair legs… so when your adolescent relative leans back in your prized heiroom chair, maybe it saves his noggin?)

But the real reason I’m telling you about Our Tree? Because of this quote from a botanical website:

Pignut hickory wood is heavy, hard, strong, tough, and elastic.

Rather like the Historical Society of Sarasota County is feeling these days. It’s been a tough two years, and we thank you all for hanging in there as we try to keep your historically-inclined mind entertained, your health safe, and our historic buildings sound. Stay tuned as we, with grace, continue on our shared journey to the future.

Sparkle, sail….

Sparkly Saturday is our traditional Preloved Jewelry Sale combined with our favorite Porch Sale

It’s time for Sparkly Saturday! On Saturday February 12, from 8am to 2pm, we’ll fill the Crocker Memorial Church with preloved jewelry, from costume to sterling, funky to fabulous, necklacesbraceletsearringsbroochesandmore, in conjunction with our fabulous supporter JewelrytotheRescue. And as always, we fill the porches of the Bidwell-Wood House with our “household sparkles” too. Come early, stay late!

A good time on our Historic Bay Cruise is always had by all… especially Site Manager Linda Garcia and Narrator John McCarthy

Then there’s our even-more-traditional Historic Sarasota Bay Cruise on Sunday March 6, with

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May we offer an alternative?

Afternoons at the Mansion in Phillippi Estate Oark, 5500 S Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, on Sunday Feb. 20 2022, a presentation on the Lost Towns of Sarasota County by HSoSC Advisory Board member Kate Holmes. A fund-raiser to help create a History Museum in the Keith Farmhouse, built 1915. It starts at 2 PM, seating is extremely limited, and you can get your tickets from the County by calling 941-861-7275.

Being super-cautious, the Board has canceled February ‘s Conversation at The Crocker as well as February’s Sunday Afternoon Social.

We are still holding Sparkly Saturday on Sat. Feb. 12, which is both indoors in well-ventilated space and outdoors on our Porch,

Sparkly Saturday is a wonderful pre-loved jewelry sale in the Crocker Memorial Church, and a Tag Sale on the Bidwell-Wood House Porch. Parking and admission are free, and the sale runs from 8am to 2pm on Saturday February 12.

and our traditional Historical Sarasota Bay Cruise on March 6 (spots filling up since we’re limiting numbers; get your reservations in NOW by calling Linda M-F 10 to 2 at 941-364-9076 or emailing hsosc1@gmail.com)…

The Historical Society of Sarasota County has presented our Historic Sarasota Bay cruise for over 25 years.
The Historical Society of Sarasota County has presented our Historic Sarasota Bay cruise for over 25 years. This year we are limiting the number of passengers and providing Snack Bites rather than open food on our buffet, and the weather’s always fine. Call Linda in our Campus Office M-F 10 to 2, at 941-364-9076 to assure your spot!

We’re happy to announce a peer event: Afternoons at the Mansion is a GO.

The Keith Mansion in Phillippi Estate Park at 5500 S. Tamiami Trail, was built by a Chicago couple in 1916. The Mansion itself is amazing, and in the classic living room they are presenting Lost Towns of Sarasota County with Kate Holmes, an HSoSC past Board member. This is not an HSoSC event, but it is sponsored by our peers and supporters, a not-for-profit formed to raise money to help fund a future local history venue in the neighboring the Edson Keith Farmhouse (1915). 

Again, limited numbers admitted to the Mansion so reserve NOW. Call 941-861-7275 to reserve your seat.

The Historical Society’s current Calendar of Events can always be seen on our Events Page here.

Historical Musings at the Farmhouse Market

Plant City Strawberries

The best strawberries? Those from Plant City, just a little north of the Farmhouse Market at Phillippi Estate Park. So I start thinking, naturally, of history. (And strawberry shortcake but let’s stay on topic here…)

Question: Why do they call it Plant City?

A: Because Itchepackesassa was too hard to pronounce and Cork? Really?
B: Because it’s an agricultural powerhouse.
C: Because Henry Plant built his railroad through there.

Answer? All of the above. Seriously, though, it was named after the railroad magnate who made the town’s fortune: now farmers could pack the strawberries in ice and ship them North to those fools living in snow and slush.

Tootin’ their own horn. Photo credit Ephemera Collection, State Library of Florida.

So then I start pondering “strawberry schools.”

Since many families could not afford to hire extra people to harvest the strawberries, children would help. Instead of having a summer vacation, children went to school during the summer and took the winter months off to help their parents with the harvest. The plants would start bearing fruit towards the end of December and continue through the end of March, so the school year was set at April to December. The schools with such a schedule (scheduling was a local, not a state, matter) were known as “strawberry schools.” Read more.

A number of counties in Central and South Florida mandated this to accommodate the small family farm harvest schedules for various winter fruits and vegetables. Strawberries were the main Florida crop requiring this arrangement. Rearranging the school year was no new invention; the very idea of summer vacation was originally devised to allow farm children to help their families during the busy summer months.

Plenty of other states had similar systems to allow schoolchildren to help out at harvest time. There have at various times been “potato schools” in Connecticut, “apple schools” in New York, “tomato schools” in Ohio, and so on. Read more. And more.

Then I got this yen for reading a sweet historical novel.

It’s technically a children’s book, but we all should retain our childlike sense of wonder, right? Read Strawberry Girl online. It’s also available in hard copy in our Sarasota County libraries.

So has all of this got you yearning to go to the Strawberry Festival in March?

The Strawberry Festival’s 2022 dates are March 3-13. Here’s some history of the Festival, and here’s where you can buy tickets to the music acts, including Oak Ridge Boys, Boys II Men, Chicks with Hits, Beach Boys (are we seeing a gender theme here or is it just me?)

January Local History Events

I’m feeling bad about leaving you in the lurch here at the Historical Society of Sarasota County, what with our two upcoming events (Conversation on Jan 11 and Sunday Afternoon Social on Jan 16) being cancelled, so here’s some substitutes to keep you and your brain occupied until we meet again.

Exercise your

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Fabulous Fables & Fascinating Facts

Our second presentation of History is Fun was a hit! After a slideshow discussing the facts behind some of the more persistent fables about Sarasota history, our Hero of History, Sue Blue, as historian and raconteur, took the stage to relate to us the most wonderful fable of all… that of the doomed Sara deSoto.

Sue Blue, getting ready to delight us with her story-telling.

Our audience was well-spaced and the doors to the Crocker Memorial Church were left open to aid in air movement. And most fun of all, member Wil Pearson (pictured here in his persona of John Ringling during our “Ask Me Anything” event at Barnes & Noble in January 2020) won the door prize: A hand-crafted elegant bar of Mermaid soap! After all, mermaids are a fable, right?

Wil Pearson as John Ringling

Our Board has decided, being cautious, to cancel/delay our other January events. We hope to present these to you at a later time. To stay up-to-date, check our Events Page for the latest Calendar of Events.

If you missed this event or the December premiere of History is Fun, which highlighted Sarasota as seen through the eyes of an artist, be sure to circle Wednesday March 2 2022 at 2pm, when we’ll host the crew from our county’s Historical Resources Department telling us how they help preserve our local stories. Hope they’ll bring some artifacts! (They have mastodon teeth and teacups and all sorts of cool things there.)

To keep up to the moment in the ever-fluid issue of covid cancellations, bookmark our Events Page, where you’ll find the latest schedule of events at HSoSC.

Sunday Afternoon Social: Sarasota’s last Lustron Home

EDIT Feb. 25 2022 Originally schedued for 2021, we’re happy to be able to present this event on Sunday March 20 2022. Bookmark our Events Page where you will find the most up-to-date info on gatherings at HSoSC.

Sarasota is renowned for its mid century modern structures designed by nationally known local architects and collectively known as the Sarasota School of Architecture. The designs employed innovative use of materials, engineering and spatial configurations. Many of the city and county’s SSA treasures are, or have been, the focus among preservationists who seek to preserve these architectural links to our past. 

Lesser known but equally innovative, was the Lustron House. It was conceived to help meet the demands for housing among returning WWII veterans and their families. Like the earlier Sears Kit Houses, the concept brought mass production to homebuilding to save time and costs in construction, and sought to re-purpose the industrial capacity built in the United States for WWII.  

But unlike its predecessors, the Lustron Corporation employed the use of steel and porcelain enamel to achieve the same results, and added the concept of low maintenance and durability.


Our Sunday Afternoon Social on January 16 at 2pm in the Crocker Memorial Church will focus on Sarasota’s last remaining Lustron Home #01687 located at 1956 Rose Street. We’ll discuss the history of the Lustron Corporation, this house and the challenges to its preservation and our efforts to secure its future.

— submittted by Tom McArdle

Our Sunday Afternoon Socials at the Crocker start at 2pm. These are light, cafe-style gatherings with light refreshment and interesting content. Members, $5 and yet-to-become-members, $10. The topic of the Sunday Afternoon Social on April 24 will be announced as available on our Events Page Calendar.