Now that I’m 119, I could use some fresh underpinnings…

Pioneer Day in Pioneer Park at the Historical Society of Sarasota County
The Crocker Church has been a community gathering place for 119 years. Let’s make it a part of Sarasota County for another century or so.

If we don’t care about our past, we cannot hope for the future. ~

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Perhaps you’ve heard that after a certain age, it’s patch, patch, patch? Well sometimes, it’s more like a major LIFT is needed.
Our beloved community gathering place, the Crocker Memorial Church, needs new underpinnings. A major support beam is in drastic need of renewal. You can imagine the cost… now, imagine your contribution. 

Please support the new structural support beam.

You can send a check to HSoSC at 1260 12th Street, Sarasota FL 34236, or donate instantly with your credit card via this secure Internet link. You can even pledge a monthly amount through Paypal if you choose. Thank you for helping keep the Crocker Memorial Church whole and healthy for today, and for all the tomorrows.

Please don’t let the Crocker Memorial Church die.

The Historical Society and indeed, our whole county, can be proud that we have preserved the Crocker Memorial Church for continual use as a gathering place for our community.

Other communities have not been so fortunate. On the left, below, Island Grove Church as seen on Abandoned Florida and on the right, our vibrant, attractive Crocker Memorial Church at 1260 12th Street in Sarasota.191219exterior blog

Inside, this is what Island Grove looks like, compared to ours.

191219 interior

But old wooden buildings don’t stay pristine forever, especially in our climate. Thank goodness we have the expertise and the ability to make sure that the issues with our beloved Crocker Memorial Church, which unfortunately include replacing the major support beam under the west wall, can be historically corrected. Here’s where we are today, awaiting the raising of funds.

west wall 2019

Learn more about the challenge we face.

As you can imagine, replacing the support beam and refreshing the siding and reinstalling the (carefully stored for now) original windows on the west wall of the building will take a lot of money, all of which must be raised by the Historical Society.

Please support the new structural support beam.

You can send a check to HSoSC at 1260 12th Street, Sarasota FL 34236, or donate instantly with your credit card via our secure “Donate” button on our sidebar. You can even pledge a monthly amount if you choose. Thank you for helping keep the Crocker Memorial Church whole and healthy for today, and for all the tomorrows.

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!

Old time-y receipts are fun to look at but….

Here at the Historical Society of Sarasota County, we love to see old receipts. Here’s one from a Bradentown (that’s what it was called in 1911) grocer:
H. A. Fuller Grocery billWouldn’t it be wonderful to have a monthly grocery bill of $19.13? Even if it didn’t include such modern wonders as microwave popcorn…


Meet your new Board Members!

Historical Society new Directors

New Directors Bill Kleber and Deborah Bowers look forward to meeting you and hearing about your concerns and your volunteer talents at the Historical Society of Sarasota County. Come meet them Tuesday October 8 at our first Conversation at the Crocker!

Our first Conversation at the Crocker on Tuesday October 8 would be an excellent time to meet your new Board members. Remember, the buildings open an hour earlier, at 6pm, including the Gift Shop, and Deborah and Bill would love to get to know you and your particular areas of interest and expertise!

At its annual meeting, the members of the Historical Society of Sarasota County elected two new board members, Deborah Bowers and Bill Kleber. They also re-elected President Howard Rosenthal and Recording Secretary JoRita Stevens, and elected former Board member (and immediate past president) Jane Kirschner-Tucillo to a new term.

Deborah Bowers recently moved to Sarasota from Fort Myers Beach where she and her husband Peter owned and operated a small beach resort. Prior to her move to Florida, Bowers worked in non-profit development in the Boston area for 20 years.  Her positions there included Vice President for Development and Marketing at the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, an organization which operates 25 historic house museums throughout New England. She also served as Vice President for Development at MetroWest Medical Center, created by the merger of two community hospitals in the western suburbs of Boston. Deborah is a native Floridian and a graduate of Duke University.

Bill Kleber moved to Sarasota in 2004 after a career in the computer industry in Chicago, New York and Boston. A graduate of Purdue University with a BS in mechanical engineering, he also served in the Air Force and was assigned to one of the country’s first computer installations. “I like to tell people that I was a programmer on the 10th computer ever built, which is true,” he said. Besides serving on the HSOSC board, Kleber is membership chair of the Genealogical Society of Sarasota, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and a member of the local Purdue Club. Heand his wife Ali recently formed a non-profit organization, Sarasota Outreach Solutions, Inc., the goal of which is to establish an overnight shelter for the homeless in the Sarasota area.

The full HSOSC Board is: Howard Rosenthal (President), Marsha Fottler (Vice President), Greg Dickinson (Treasurer), Meade Ferguson (Corresponding Secretary), JoRita Stevens (Secretary), Linda Garcia (Site Manager), Lynn Harding, Ron McCarty, Jane Kirschner-Tuccillo, Deborah Bowers, Bill Kleber and William Watrous. Rotating off the board but remaining active with the organization on various committees are Kate Holmes, Chuck Resh and Hope Black.

Put your Historical Society “on the map”

If you’d like to give a no-money-involved gift to the Historical Society of Sarasota County (although, of course, financial contributions are always welcome!) please consider writing a review and/or adding a photo or two to these web resources. The more mention we have on the Internet, the more residents, winter Floridians, and visitors will find us!

So if you have five minutes, and think the history of Sarasota County is worth preserving, see what you can add to:

Sarasota FL map from an automobile club, 1919.

Sarasota FL map from an automobile atlas 1919. Click to enlarge.

You can “share” not only our website with friends, but this from And of course, you can refer your online friends, folks coming to town, and so on, to our Facebook page and our Twitter feed.

Don’t want to fiddle with writing reviews? Sit back, relax, and enjoy some old-timey photos of Sarasota. We appreciate your interest!

Come dig us… or dig WITH us!

The Historical Society of Sarasota County garden fairiesCalling All Gardeners*
Marsha Fottler, Landscape Committee Chair
If pulling weeds, planting, pruning and spreading mulch are strategies you embrace for relieving stress and getting exercise, your Historical Society has a opportunity you can’t pass up – a work day at the Bidwell-Wood House garden on Saturday, May 4, 2013 from 9 a.m. until about 1 p.m. Bring your own garden tools and gloves. Mulch will be supplied as well as cold drinks. Also, if you have any plants you want to donate to the landscape bring them along (Ed. note: Drop them off; you don’t have to DIG if you have other plans!) and integrate them into our members’ growing collection. The aim to have the members’garden in tip-top condition for our annual meeting and potluck picnic on May 11. Give an hour and help the garden to grow!
* Pinnies and gaiters optional.

Do you have… or will you help get… what Linda needs?

LInda Garcia, Site Manager of The Historical Society of Sarasota CountyLinda, our Site Manager and Board member, has issued our Spring Wish List. Might you have/ know of/ be willing to contribute to any of these needs at the Historical Society? She’d love to hear from you!

Maybe it’s just $30 for flashlights. Maybe you can strongarm your talented specialist buddy into tuning the organ. Or maybe it’s something in between. Even something as humble as donating paper goods can help us preserve, protect, and polish the Bidwell-Wood House and the Crocker Church in Pioneer Park.

Click for the Wish List.

After you choose what you can fund, let Linda know if you would like to be acknowledged her on the blog, or if you’d rather keep your good works to yourself. And as they say nowadays, TIA (Thanks in Advance!)

The Herb Garden

by Marsha Fottler, Chair, Landscape Committee

Kitchen garden at the Bidwell-Wood House, Sarasota

The HSOSC herb Garden is near the detached kitchen at the Bidwell-Wood House. In past times (and now) it would have been appropriate to plant an herb and limited vegetable garden near the kitchen for the convenience of the cook. Our garden is mostly for demonstration but this year’s crop of cherry tomatoes is pretty tasty.

After the front-yard garden and the brick pathways were installed at the Bidwell-Wood House (see Florida-friendly plants at the Historical Society) , our members thought it would be educationally useful to build an herb garden near the detached kitchen.

Such a garden would Continue reading

Haven’t you ALWAYS wanted to peek in their drawers?

Here’s what some members of the Historical Society got to do this month: peek in John Ringling’s dresser drawers!

Ron McCarty, Curator of Ca'd'Zan, shows Historical Socierty members John Ringling's haberdashery

Ron McCarty, Curator of Ca’d’Zan, shows Historical Society members John Ringling’s haberdashery. Click to see John Ringling’s ties close up, something you don’t get to see on a public tour. HSoSC’s  private tour sold out almost the same day it was announced to our members. Join HSoSC and get first dibs on tours like these!

We are blessed to have Ron as an avid supporter of the Historical Society of Sarasota County. Join him and hundreds of your fellow citizens and seasonal residents in supporting our mission!

Here’s what we’re all about.

Here’s how to join.

Here’s what’s coming up in the near future!

Like to learn more? Sign up for our free e-newsletter. No nagging, no spam, just a glimpse into how HSoSC helps preserve and present the history of Sarasota County. highlights the Historical Society

Historical Society of Sarasota County on visitflorida.comWe’re famous, a star of the screen! See board member Chuck Resh’s great photo of the Historical Society on VisitFlorida here! And we’d be delighted if you’d share a personal memory of HSoSC  at It’s easy to do and they do not post any info about you.

And stop in soon to our home in Pioneer Park to see our newest addition, Pete’s Garden. You can even dedicate a brick in the walkway to our sorely-missed Sarasota history maven and tireless supporter, Pete Esthus.

Rag rugs, stuffed cats, Florida tote bags (everyone need to tote Florida in a bag, right?) and more….

Shop local at the Historical Society of Sarasota CountyThe public is invited to the Grand Re-Opening of the Historical Society of Sarasota County’s Gift Shop, which is literally filled to the rafters in the detached kitchen of the historic Bidwell-Wood House (1882). The shop will celebrate its opening for the new season with a

Wine & Cheese Reception
Fri., Oct. 5th from 5 – 8 p.m.

The Historical Society’s shop, as portrayed by Ginger Mermin, renowned artist and past Board member of the Society

on the Back Porch of the Bidwell House, where many “Classes on the Back Porch” will be held this upcoming Season.  You’ll find the Historical Society at 1260 12th Street (between N. Trail and Cocoanut Ave.) in Pioneer Park.

Normal business hours for the Gift Shop will be 10:00 – 2:00 Mondays – Fridays and one Saturday per month, beginning on Nov. 17th, during the 2nd Designer Tag Sale held next door in the Crocker Memorial Church (1901).  Each 2nd Tuesday of every month through April, the Shop will also be open from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. preceding the monthly “Conversations in the Crocker” meetings which are also open to the public.

Sarasota’s ”Best Kept Secret”, the Gift Shop, for the past 3 years, has been selling the art, crafts and books of over 75 local artisans, who fashion one-of-a-kind creations using timeless methods, such as hand-woven rag rugs and book marks and hand carved wooden items. But you’ll also find garden art assembled from recycled treasures, soft stuffed cats and Christmas ornaments, shell mirrors for every décor, festive Florida tote bags, photo cards of Sarasota clowns and environs, water colors, and Vintage looking home décor items, books by local authors and much more!

Historical Society of Sarasota County: Locally-crafted birdhousesProceeds from the Gift Shop help support the Historical Society, but up to 70% of the sale prices go to the Artisans, who volunteer their time one day per month in the shop.  If you are ready to sell YOUR artistic, well-made creations, stop by the shop.  We are always looking for new creative vendors.  For more information, please call: 941-364-9076 or email