Centennial Celebration Video

As we celebrate the county’s centennial year, each historic group was tasked with creating something that would entertain and educate the public. Kathryn Chesley, member of the Board of Directors at the Historical Society, wrote and directed a play reading which was then video-taped for easy sharing. President Marsha Fottler says: “WKathryn Chesleye are ready with the production and our organization’s contribution to the Centennial celebration.” Here’s the details:
Title: The Roads We Took to Sarasota County
Run time: 1 hour
Available by: Contacting the Historical Society of Sarasota County
                     Available to any organization who plans to use it with a Centennial event
Cost: Donation to the Historical Society of Sarasota County, There is no set amount for the donation. It is whatever the organization wishes to donate
To use: Contact Linda Garcia, manager of Historical Society who will provide a way to unlock the link to the video. Organization can then use the video.
Contact phone number: 941-364-9076
In Addition:
The play will be shown on Tuesday, November 9, at 7:00pm at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street, Sarasota, Fl. The actors will be present as well as Kathryn Chesley, the writer and director along with Frank Cassell, from whose book the facts were taken.

You, too, can make history.

How do we know what we know?

Research. And more research. And double-checking to make sure that what we present to the reading/ viewing audience is not only correct, but applicable to the topic we’re discussing,

Best resources for getting the facts, and the tone, of past happenings right? Primary sources. And guess what?

You. Are. A. Primary. Resource.

That diary you kept in grade school (or did you call it elementary school, or primary school? Your diary might be the crucial clue for regional word choice.)

Example of a family photo to be used as a primary source by historians

Family photos give real-life clues about fashion.

Your college transcript, the photos of your first car in front of your first apartment. Your snaps of the relatives at a wedding. Maybe even those films of the Christmas parade or the audio tapes of your uncles reminiscing about ice-fishing on the Great Lakes.

You can digitize old papers (here’s how if you use a MAC computer and here’s how if you have Adobe Acrobat), transcribe your (admittedly less-than-Palmer-Method) handwriting into text, make sure those generation-back relatives’ images are correctly captioned. You can contact the historical society or government archives* in the town you grew up in/ camped near/ visited, to ask what they can use.

You can even help preserve web pages for future researchers. It’s as easy as a few clicks. Read how on The Wayback Machine.

Interested in preserving physical artifacts for your family? Explore our series You Can Do It.

* We at the Historical Society of Sarasota County do not have the resources to preserve artifacts. A guide to what the Venice Museum and Archives can accept is here. Sarasota County’s Historical Resources contact info is here. Florida Memory is interested in some items as well; read their FAQs here.

Back to school, thanks to Mary McLeod Bethune

Back-to-school may not be the same now in 2020, but we’d like to give seasonal honors to

…Author, educator, and African American Civil Rights leader, Mary McLeod Bethune, was born in Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875. The fifteenth child of former slaves, Bethune knew from a young age that education was the key to success. She attended Scotia Seminary School, and the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Bethune moved to Palatka, Florida, in 1899 and began teaching.
She moved to Daytona in 1904, and in October of that year opened the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls. She worked tirelessly to keep the school open by gaining support from wealthy benefactors, many from outside Florida.
In 1931 the school was merged with the Cookman Institute, establishing a coeducational junior college known as Bethune-Cookman College (now University). She was involved in a number of civic groups including the National Council of Negro Women, the National Youth Administration (a WPA program), the National Association of Colored Women, the Federal Council of Negro Affairs, and many others. She was a close friend of President Franklin and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and devoted her life to the education and betterment of African Americans.

from Jax Examiner

More on Mary McLeod Bethune:

From National Women’s History Museum
and PBS’s American Experience
and Bethune-Cookman University
and Biography.com

More on African American schools in Florida history:

From Orange County Regional History Center
and Palm Beach County History
and a video from 10 Tampa Bay’s “Deep Dive” on current, 2020, teaching of Black history

Can you hear a pin drop?

Is it just, well, too quiet around your place? We have some audio suggestions.

With selections like Fire on the Mountain, Pat Shields, John McCutcheon & the Roberts Brothers,
Florida Memory Radio is presented by the State Archives of Florida. It is part of the Florida Memory Program, whose mission is to provide free online access to a growing number of archival resources from the collections of the State Library and Archives.

Florida Memory Radio provides worldwide, around-the-clock access to the Florida Folklife Collection recordings housed in the State Archives of Florida. Programming includes bluegrass & old-time, blues, folk, gospel, Latin and world music. Through the work of folklorists and archivists, as well as the legacy of creation passed on to future generations by the artists themselves, this music is preserved and enjoyed.

The Brox Sisters plus teddy bear!

(As curious as I am? Click the pic for The Brox Sisters doing Marlene Dietrich)

Florida Frontiers: The Weekly Radio Magazine of the Florida Historical Society is a weekly, half-hour radio program, a combination of interview segments and produced features covering history-based events, exhibitions, activities, places and people in Florida. We explore the relevance of Florida history to contemporary society and promote awareness of heritage and culture tourism options in the state. Stream them whenever it gets too quiet at home.

And finally, If you like moving pictures served up with your audio, we offer up Florida Frontiers Television.

(And when you get tired of all the noise, turn the speakers off and read all the Florida history articles they have for you here.)

There, these free sources should liven the amosphere up. Enjoy!

2020 Hero of History Honoring Jon Thaxton

Edited: Due to the COVID crisis, this celebration has been rescheduled for Thursday, November 18, 2021. Join us then to honor Jon Thaxton as our latest Hero of History!

2020 Hero of History awarded to Jon Thaxton by the Historical Society of Sarasota County

Michaels on East

Wednesday March 18, 2020

Thursday November 18, 2021

Registration 11:30am

Luncheon & Program Noon

Tickets – Individual $100
Environmentalist $2,500
Bird Lover $1,000
Scrub Jay $250
For more information contact Linda Garcia
HSOSC 941-364-9076 or hsosc1@gmail.com

Thank you, Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation!

The Historical Society of Sarasota Cpunty's campus in Pioneer Park, captured by Greg WilsonA $5,000 grant has been received to help fund improvements to the interior of the historic Crocker Memorial Church (1901). The grant comes from the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation.

“This grant will help bring Crocker Church back to what it looked like in 1901 when Peter Crocker built it as a community gathering place and for worship,” said Howard Rosenthal, President of the Historical Society.

“Preservation architects Greg Hall and Linda Stevenson did an analysis of the Crocker interior and suggested ways that we could improve and stabilize the building. We are following those recommendations with the Alliance grant.

“One of the best things about this grant is that it demonstrates how the Alliance fulfills its mission to preserve historic structures in Sarasota County and it certainly furthers our mission as we curate the Crocker Memorial Church building and the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) for educational outreach and as gathering places for community events that celebrate history.”

Events are held in both buildings on the Historical Society’s campus in Pioneer Park. Civic meetings, book clubs, theatrical performances, monthly history-oriented programs organized by HSOSC, art shows and much more keep our locale active and engaging. Both buildings were moved from other locations to Pioneer Park by the City of Sarasota in 2006 and placed under the protection of the Historical Society of Sarasota County, a 450-member organization.

Over the past few years the Crocker Memorial Church has become a destination for small country weddings with the reception on the front and back porches of the Bidwell-Wood House. With the structural improvements made possible by the Alliance grant of $5,000, the Crocker Church building (which was decommissioned as a church in 2006) will become even more accessible to the community.


Earlye Musicke in Historic Crocker Church

On Tuesday March 22, 2016 the Sarasota Earlye Musicke Consort will be performing for the 4th season in a row for members and guests of the Historical Society of Sarasota County.  The program will be presented at the Crocker Memorial Church in Pioneer Park,  1260 12th Street (between US41 and Cocoanut Avenue) beginning at 7pm.

Earlye Musick Consort will perform at Historical Society of Saraspota County on March 22 2016The members of this consort, performing in period costume, play music dating from the 14th century to the 21st century on recorders and viols. This concert is free for HSOSC members; a $10 donation is requested from guests.  The group is led by Charlotte Trautwein.

The Sarasota Earlye Musicke Consort was recently awarded a 15 year certificate by the National American Recorder Society, recognizing the ensemble’s contribution to Sarasota and the surrounding communities.  The Sarasota chapter of ARS recently hosted the national board meetings for ARS at the Crocker Memorial Church, where they gather for class and group playing for intermediate and advanced players every week.

Earlye Musicke in Historic Crocker Church

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015 the Sarasota Earlye Musicke Consort will be performing for the third season in a row for members and guests of the Historical Society of Sarasota County.  The program will be presented at the Crocker Memorial Church in Pioneer Park,  1260 12th Street (between US41 and Cocoanut Avenue) beginning at 7pm.

An early musical instrument

This is a viol de gamba!

The members of this consort, performing in period costume, play music dating from the 14th century to the 21st century on recorders and viols. This concert is free for HSOSC members; a $5 donation is requested from guests.  The group is led by Charlotte Trautwein.

The Sarasota Earlye Musicke Consort was recently awarded a 15 year certificate by the National American Recorder Society, recognizing the ensemble’s contribution to Sarasota and the surrounding communities.  The Sarasota chapter of ARS recently hosted the national board meetings for ARS at the Crocker Memorial Church, where they gather for class and group playing for intermediate and advanced players every week.

Even the kids & the grandkids support Sarasota history!

The Historical Society of Sarasota County loves the Keith Farmhouse restoration!
Did you know that the Farmhouse Market, in Phillippi Estate Park, is managed by Friends of Sarasota County Parks? This non-profit volunteer organization improves the life of current-day Sarasotans and visitors as well as helps maintain our ties to our past history.

Bring your children to the 4th Annual Children’s Day in the Park, at Phillippi Estate Park on Wed. March 11th, from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

In addition to the sights and yummy tastes of the weekly market, there will be games of skill and balance by Krisztina. Plenty of vendors in the Arts/Crafts, live music by Siesta John and local authors too.

You can even bring your pooch to this weekly Farmhouse Market, where you find over 50 purveyors of locally grown and produced fresh produce, fish, honeys, teas, pet items, and much, much more! No-hassle free parking.

Children’s Day has always been the biggest day at the Market, so come early and stay late!
Phillippi Estate Park is located at 5500 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota on the Phillippi River.

Exploring Sarasota County History

It’s the perfect time of year, here in Sarasota, to venture forth and see some of the sights in our county that you have always meant to visit.

Put down the top and see the county!

Put down the top and see the county!

The History & Preservation Coalition has, for your print-out-and-take-with pleasure, a colorful PDF map of what THEY call Historical Resources and what WE call cool spots to see. Included are URLs, so be sure to visit the various sites of the sights to see when they are open to the public.

County Park, food, art, and jazz. What more could we want?

The Historical Society loves how everything in the county is intertwined. Some of our volunteers are volunteers elsewhere. Perhaps members of the Wood family, who lived in the Bidwell-Wood House from 1896 until the 1960’s, visited the Keiths or the Prodies at the Keith Mansion. So we are proud to help our current-day peers preserve and protect history, and of course, we love food, art and jazz as well as history! So join us at an event on the Trail, just a few miles south of our Pioneer Park location:


Light Chasers at the Bidwell-Wood House

The plein air painters often visit our historic buildings at the Historical Society of Sarasota County.

On Wednesday February 25 the Phillippi Farmhouse Market, a venture of the Friends of Sarasota County Parks,  welcomes the Light Chasers (Sarasota’s Plein Air Painters) to a Quick Draw Painting Contest.  At 10 a.m. the air horn signals the start of the painting in the market and all over the park.  The painters have just two hours to create an original painting: will they paint the Farmhouse> The Mansion? The colorful kayaks bobbing in Phillippi Creek? You’re welcome to wander the grounds and peer over the artists’ shoulders as they strive to envision an award-winning artwork of this bit of Sarasota history!


Bill Farnsworth, Master Artist from Venice, will judge the paintings and award prizes. You can buy the paintings right off the easel right then or attend one of the art shows and sales at the Edson Keith Mansion on Friday, Feb 27 – 6 – 8 p.m. (Gala Opening Night – $25.00/ticket) or come Sat Feb 28, 5 – 8 p.m. FREE, or Sunday, March 1 – noon – 5 p.m. FREE.


Along with Sunday’s art show and sale will be Jazz in the Park, a free jazz concert from noon – 5 p.m. at the Gazebo, sponsored by the Jazz Club and the kickoff to Jazz Week in Sarasota.The Quick Draw Contest and art shows and sales in the Edson Keith Mansion will raise funds for the restoration of the Keith Farmhouse in the Park.  This was the original building erected on the estate in 1916 – 99 years ago.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Map of Sarasota, 1925

This October 1925 map of downtown Sarasota is from, we believe, the newspaper.

Dwell Real Estate has a blog entry with lots of fun Sarasota-in-the-past photos. Credit given: Photos and information courtesy of Yesterday’s Sarasota by Del Marth.

Take a look!

For actual copies of the Sarasota papers from 1925 on, visit here.

A two-fer of History in Pioneer Park!

The Whitaker Cemetery, from 1879, is next door to the Historical Society's Pioneer Park campus at 1260 12th Street, just east of Tamiami Trail.

Photo courtesy of our neighbor, the DAR.

The Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901) might seem reason enough to visit Pioneer Park, but did you know that next door is the The Pioneer Whitaker Cemetery?

It is the first cemetery in Sarasota , and the burial site of the first white settlers in the County. The Whitaker Pioneer Cemetery continues to be the burial site for the Whitaker family. More on the Whitaker Cemetery.

What makes a community, a community? Lessons from 100+ years

Ever since 1882 (the year Alfred Bidwell built his home in Sarasota, now known as the Bidwell-Wood House, the oldest remaining residence in Sarasota County) and 1901, when Peter Crocker built the Crocker Church for his Bee Ridge community, our two preserved buildings have been places to gather, to meet and help neighbors, and to celebrate the many aspects of life.Read the history of our two buildings in our Museum Booklet.

When the Historical Society moved the house and the church to its campus in Pioneer Park, this tradition of community events gained speed and depth.

Recently, hundreds of people have joined the Society for its Conversations at the Crocker, a monthly get-together from October to April featuring panel/ audience dialogs on everything from historic neighborhoods to government to baseball. The parlor, dining room and Back Porch of the house have been venues for classes on topics ranging from mosaics to watercolor, pine needle basket weaving to… iPhones (hey, just ’cause we’re historical doesn’t mean we’re not up-to-date!)!

We’ve had the honor of providing community space for events ranging from the Cinderella Project (high-schoolers from the community can choose, from an elegant “pop-up boutique”, their prom attire) to the history-educational History Fair. We’ve also been the chosen venue for teas, weddings, book clubs, art classes, musical rehearsals and recitals, art exhibits and crafts demonstrations, Florida-friendly gardening, luncheon groups and antique car destinations. We’ve even had a baptism!

We also love participating in community outreach such as the Holiday Wreath event at Westfield Sarasota Square, providing hosts for the historical homes tours during season, and showcasing our gardens with Florida-Friendly plantings.

But… all this community involvement is in danger.

We are the caretakers of the two buildings, and as such, we must pay every penny of their upkeep. If you’ve ever lived in an historic home, you know what’s involved there! Right now, we are looking at over $50,000 in work that must be done asap… just to keep the buildings dry and protected from the Florida climate. The Church roof needs coating (done! thanks to an Arts and Cultural Award) , and the beautiful wooden shakes of the House roof need complete replacement. (done! thanks to the Selby Foundation)

Update December 2019: The Crocker Memorial Church is needing community support now. Our lovely climate is not so lovely to old wooden buildings, and we are now facing the considerable expense of replacing a major support beam to keep the Church bright and beautiful. Read what’s happening and how you can help keep this Sarasota icon in pristine shape. Details are here.

If you think that this historic treasure, which has served as a community-gathering space for over 100 years, deserves to continue to make Sarasota a true community, won’t you  help? A modest $25 or $50 donation, multiplied by the thousands of folks who love vintage buildings and the peaceful ambiance of Pioneer Park, can do it! You can donate today with your credit card or e-check by clicking the “Donate” button here on our right sidebar, or you can do the “old-fashioned thing” of dropping by our beautiful buildings in Pioneer Park, any M-F 10a to 2p, with a check. Heck, you could even put a check in the mail!

Thanks for being a part of the Sarasota community!