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

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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?)

January 11 Conversation at the Crocker

EDIT Feb. 25 2022 Originally schedued for January, we’re happy to be able to present this event on Tuesday March 8 2022 at 7pm. Bookmark our Events Page where you will find the most up-to-date info on gatherings at HSoSC.

This Conversation at The Crocker is an information-rich celebration of the recent project undertaken by HSoSC and the community to rescue the historic Crocker Memorial Church. Three HSoSC board members will present an illustrated three-part program.

Deborah Walk, a professional archivist, writer and former curator of the Ringling Museum of the Circus, will trace the far-back history of a humble wooden worship center that started out with property deeded to Peter Crocker in 1901. She will also talk about the Crocker family, which attempted to establish a named settlement in Sarasota that could have grown into a town except for the death of its namesake.

Jon Stone, a retired architect and avid researcher, will discuss how adaptive re-use has saved this building and made it into a welcoming place for the community to come for public programming organized by the HSOSC, meetings, weddings, memorial services, art classes, musical recitals, play rehearsals and much more. Adaptive re-use for the Crocker started in the 1980s when preservationist Veronica Morgan owned the Crocker. It was located in the Rosemary district at the time. Jon will also discuss how the Crocker and the Bidwell-Wood House came to be curated by our Historical Society.

Betsy Lingenheld will talk about the engineering-construction rescue mission that saved the entire west side of the building. A contractor who has specialized in preservation work, Betsy came to the Historical Society as a member a few years ago and subsequently agreed to join the advisory board and then the board of directors to be the project manager of the huge rescue project, which got started around the time that COVID did. She will talk about the special challenges in working on a historically designated building.  

After the three speak, there will be time for audience input with a question and answer segment. 

  • Conversation at The Crocker
  • Tuesday, March 8, 2022 at 7 p.m.
  • Crocker Memorial Church, Pioneer Park
  • Free to Members
  • Guests: $10 at the door

Submitted by Marsha Fottler

For our complete Calendar of Events, please visit our Events Page.

New, an afternoon event at the Historical Society!

Not everyone can attend our traditional 7pm Conversations at the Crocker, but we don’t want to make it hard to have fun and learn a little with us. So we’ve added “History is Fun!” afternoon events to our educational line-up.

Our premiere event, our “Grand Opening” as it were, of these afternoon events will be Wednesday December 1 2021 at 2pm in the Crocker Memorial Church. It’s entitled “Sarasota: Art Inspired By The Past” and

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Come see our play!

On Tuesday November 9 at 7 pm in the Crocker Memorial Church, the Historical Society will be gathering at its first Conversation at the Crocker since the pandemic.

To mark the county centennial, the filmed reading of “The Roads We Traveled to Sarasota County“, written and produced by our own Kathryn Chesley will be presented. This November 2021 Conversation at the Crocker is eagerly awaited by members (free) and not-yet- members ($10) alike.

A Welcome Back Party on the Back Porch begins at 6 pm, the program starts at 7 pm, and we hope to see you there!

News of our new afternoon event on Weds. Dec. 1, “History is FUN!”, will be available as well. “The Past Inspires the Arts” with spotlight guest artist Marlane Wurzbach will our first presentation.