Sarasota Honoring its Veterans

“Over 100 years ago, on April 8, 1917, a rainy Easter Sunday morning, “Sarasota’s Sailor Lads,” a well trained Naval militia, gathered at a downtown movie theater for religious services. They were leaving that day bound for Europe and World War I” …”To honor them, a flagpole was erected at the center of Five Points, flying a large 12-by-20 Stars and Stripes donated by

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Read Florida History for Free

Is your house overwhelmed with books? You just can’t resist the opportunity to learn more… but there are books “stacked on the floor, books kept in baskets” and so on? Well, we’re here to help you save some space.

We’ve found some digital books that we think you’ll like, and all they occupy are some gently-used electrons that are infinitely recyclable… in other words…

Here’s some PDFs available for the low low cost of FREE!

If you know of more free reading about Florida and its history, please add them in the comments.

The Digital Library of the Caribbean offers:

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You might not be a native, but your landscaping can be!

We all want our gardens, whether we have a multi-acre spread or a pot on the balcony, to scream FLORIDA!
Well, here’s local folks to help, and to get native plants from. And their advice is wise, easy to get, and free. It’s available one day only, though.

Courtesy gulfcoasthomeguide,com
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This Day in History: September 19, 1559

Just a little something to ponder as we enter the peak of the hurricane season, here in 2022.

Pensacola was the scene of a massive hurricane that changed the history of North America forever, illustrating the pivotal role that such storms played and continue to play in human affairs. A weeks-old settlement of over 1000 people, who had begun to clear land and even plat out residential lots, lost

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In their own words

The best kind of history? First-hand from people who lived it. You get a feeling for the times, see events through borrowed eyes, and have the opportunity to experience what life back then was like for those who lived through it. And the interviewers, who took the time and effort to create a slide show with photographs and other memorabilia, made these oral histories entertaining and enlightening. Enjoy

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“Learn everything good and throw away the bad”

We’ve spent the last several years comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu* and people have been complaining about tearing down buildings since, well forever. (What was there before they built the Colosseum? Kew Gardens? The Great Wall of China?) Have we never had a boom/bust cycle before in the History of Mankind** and what will we learn about soaring land prices this time around?

Now we’re in the midst of ever more expensive gas. Might they lead to shortages as in the early 70’s? Click to read more about how those shortages actually changed America.

Of course, nothing’s ever exactly the same… but every little insight we have by learning from history will help us cope, correct, and withstand future events. Keep on learning.

* Yes it wasn’t Spanish but that’s what it was called when it happened.
** Okay, Humankind.

Wouldn’t a new History Center be WONDERFUL?!

“Your penny at work.” That’s the slogan of the campaign asking voters to approve, in November 2022, a continuation of the county 1% sales tax. Many wonderful things have been financed by this income since it was first authorized in 1989, but never before has the history of our county been addressed. Understandably, we history lovers would be thrilled if some of that tax income could give a state-of-the-art home to not just the actual history archives (which is part of the county library system), but public space for gatherings and perhaps even exhibits. While the vote is not on how the funds will be spent… we need to vote for the “penny tax” to be renewed so that funds are available. Continue reading for a message from the President of the Historical Society of Sarasota County:

A “Common Cents” initiative that all friends of history can endorse

Since 1989 when it was first adopted by voters of Sarasota County, the 1% sales tax has improved the quality of life for everyone. The tax has been used to invest in schools, libraries, parks, water, the environment and more. 

The tax is up for a vote again in November of 2022 and all friends of history are excited about it because one of the priority investments is a new 30,000 square-foot History Center, which will be the repository for all our precious documents, maps, photographs and objects that are central to understanding and honoring the history of our county.  This is the first time that our history has been directly addressed with the one-cent surtax. 

 At the Historical Society of Sarasota County, we say it’s about time. Anyone who has recently visited  our center for archival material, realizes that it’s been too small for too long. It’s time we treated our history with the respect it has always deserved. 

We support the extension of the one-cent surtax and are looking forward to a new History Center. 

Marsha Fottler, President

For complete information from the county government on the penny surtax and how it could be spent, including FAQs and other projects being considered, see https://www.sarasotacountysurtax.net/

Hot History, Part 2

It’s still too hot to do anything. If you visited our earlier post on brushing up on, or learning new things about, local history, we know you had a cool time. Here’s some more things that’ll keep you entertained and not all sweaty.

The romance of ports. Tampa Bay History Center’s virtual event

It’s on Tuesday July 12 at 2pm, and you do have to register for it, so get out your captain’s hat and enjoy The History of Tampa’s Ports. Can’t make the event? Click the photo above to read some Tampa port history.

Next up, we offer you:

Not just citrus and cattle, they follow the times!

If you’re from around here, you’ve for sure heard of the Albritton family. Read an article about their history in Floridiana magazine, learn about picking your own blueberries and sunflowers next spring (definitely put it on your calendar!), and follow Albritton Fruit Farms on Facebook.

Photo courtesy Edible Sarasota

Wax Nostalgic

One of the more ambitious websites I’ve run across, SRQWhatItUsedToBe is absorbing. The references are from 2017, so some might be a bit outdated, but this is great fun! There’s lots here, so be sure to read the instructions on how to search. Interested only in what’s still here NOW that was here a while back? Here’s the list. And he’s even tackled businesses on 41 in Bradenton (AKA 14th Street).

Funny how we’re nostalgic… for food.

Hot History

We all know it’s too hot in July to do anything. But brushing up on, or learning new things about, local history, can be cooling. Here’s a few suggestions:

Visit Manatee Village Historic Park in Bradenton to see their exhibit, Wars in Manatee.

Explore how the pioneers and settlers of what became Manatee County experienced the various armed conflicts during their time. From the Seminole Wars to World War I, settlers couldn’t escape the fall out of the Wars of Manatee. This exhibit will be open until October 2022 so put it on your calendar.

Map Credit: Military Map of Florida, 1856. Courtesy of the Special Collections Department, University of South Florida.

Take a road trip… to the end of the road

Florida Back Roads Travel has gathered up 25 towns “at the end of the road.” Some you may have visited… but others await. Assuming your vehicle has A/C and you can pack a refreshing jug of lemonade, it’s a great way to wile away a hot weekend.

From stationwagonsforum.com

Take a gander at some gams

The history of bathing suits... a fun article with even better photos! Florida Memory serves up some hot ways to stay cool. Yes, that’s a palm frond swimsuit, next to the alligator skin one… and of course, no Florida July day would be complete without a sea shells outfit, there on the right.

In Flander’s Field…

When I was a child, we all bought and wore crepe paper poppies to honor the fallen of all wars. I haven’t seen a single poppy seller this year, but I still think of poppies on Memorial Day. Do you, too?

The symbolism of the poppy started with a poem written by a World War I brigade surgeon who was struck by the sight of the red flowers growing on a ravaged battlefield.

Click for illustration credit.

The brutal clashes between Allied and Central Powers soldiers tore up fields and forests, wreaking havoc on

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Your weekend reading!

We’ve made available to all, two small publications on Sarasota history that can be difficult to find. They’re available, along with a full weekend’s worth of reading, on our Articles page. Our thanks to Board Member Deb Walk for the tech work on these two new additions, which have a lovely surprise: For those of you doing local history research,

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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.

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.

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?)