The Historical Society of Sarasota County

Creating an awareness of the rich historical heritage of Sarasota County, Florida

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Pinning your way through Sarasota County History

1908 bathing beauties and Pinterest

Click to visit our very own Pinterest at the Historical Society of Sarasota County

Are you a Pinner? No, we’re not asking if you wear pinafores… but if you’ve explored Pinterest! For the visually-oriented, the researcher, or even just the curious, it’s a veritable treasure trove of images and links.

I am all of the above, so here’s a few Pinterest Boards I enjoy and follow:

First up, of course, our HSoSC Pinterest page.

Some photos I have not seen before and which set me researching, here. His photos, alas, are not always credited or commentated. This fellow also pins other interesting things, like vintage automobiles!

Ever wonder what Fruitville Road used to look like? This Pin Board shows you!

A local Realtor has her own curated Sarasota History Pin Board. Her other boards, covering the area, are interesting as well.

Expanding our historical interest: If you have a rainy week to fill, surf through the 41 boards that Florida Memory maintains. Everything from vintage maps to vintage fashions!

New to Pinterest? Learn how to use it with this complete and free tutorial. If you want to browse Pinterest on your phone, here’s info on the app you’ll use.

Image originally found at




Every church deserves a bell…

Jon Moore and Linda Garcia accepting an antique steeple bell from Jack Helm of Helm Vault

Jon Moore and Linda Garcia accepting an antique steeple bell from Jack Helm of Helm Vault.

Jack Helm, owner of Helm Vault Service in Bradenton has presented the Historical Society with a restored 14” antique steeple bell for use when the Crocker Memorial Church is active with community events.  The building, built in 1901, has been in continuous use ever since and is the meeting space for the Historical Society as well as other civic and social groups.

Additionally, the church is a site for small weddings which makes this donation of a bell so lovely. Helm Vault Service also supports the Historical Society with the personalized engraving of the bricks saved from the Airline Seaboard Railway Depot which are purchased by Society supporters with a donation, and laid in front of the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) each November.

Directors and supporters of the Historical Society of Sarasota County accept the gracious donation of a church bell from Jack Helm.

Members of the Historical Society Board of Directors gathered to accept the wonderful donation. They’re excited to ring the bell at the Crocker Memorial Church for events and meetings such as Conversations at The Crocker in the future.

We’ve set the 2016-2017 Calendar of Events for next season and are ready to accept reservations for the narrated Sue Blue Historical Trolley Tours and the Historical LeBarge Cruise narrated by John McCarthy for the first Sunday in November and again in March 2017. Don’t get shut out of these wildly-popular historic events. Call our Site Manager, Linda Garcia, Tues-Fri from 10am to 2pm to grab your reservations! 941-364-9076. Or email her 24/7 at


Preserving the Past with Paint

There are two (possibly more, even) ways to preserve history with paint, and this month, we present these to you:

A. Preserve the Past with Paint, Method One:

Painting the Bidwell-Wood House, Historical Society of Sarasota CountyThe first method of preserving history with paint involves hydraulic lifts and ladders and professional house painters. Thanks to YOUR support, the Bidwell-Wood House, the oldest residence in Sarasota County, is getting its “spa treatment” to keep it going strong in its third century. This would not have been possible without your participation and donations, and the House and the Society thank you! Stop by soon and see how “young” we look with the repairs and paint job!

B: Preserve the Past with Paint, Method


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Saluting our Award Winners!

The highlight of the Annual Meeting (well, besides Linda’s Spanish Rice, which we wait for all year) is the announcement of the recipients of our two honors, the Hero of History and the Distinguished Service awards. The announcement this year was made by Marsha Fottler, Vice-President of the Board of Directors, standing in for Howard Rosenthal, President, who was unable to attend.

The winners for 2016 are, for the Hero of History, Suzette Jennings Blue, and for the Distinguished Service Award, Norma Kwenski. Their accomplishments are set forth below; click their names to enjoy.


Historical Society of Sarasota County's 2016 award recipients: Sue Blue (standing) and Norma Kwenski (seated.)

Historical Society of Sarasota County’s 2016 award recipients: Sue Blue (standing) and Norma Kwenski (seated) in the parlor of the Bidwell-Wood House, the oldest residence in Sarasota County. Photograph courtesy of Society Director Virginia Hoffman.

Hero of History 2016

Suzette Jennings Blue

Most of us associate Sue Blue with the Saturday morning historic trolley tours that she’s been doing for our historical society since about 2004. It’s a volunteer passion and all the proceeds come directly to this organization. But, Sue’s devotion to history and education as an author, researcher, and actress goes back a lot farther than that. In many ways Sue holds the institutional memory for this historical society and it’s her we often turn to when we need clarification on some aspect of these two buildings or events that are important to the evolution of this organization.

Sue attended Southside Elementary and is a graduate of Sarasota High School, class of 1946. Her  name is actually Suzette and it’s what her classmate Pete Esthus always called her. While a senior Suzette portrayed the role of Sara de Soto in The Legend of Sara de Soto at the Municipal Auditorium. After college and a career as an actress and theater teacher, Sue returned to her hometown, Sarasota, in 1994.

She restored the childhood home built by her grandfather, Aaron E. Scarborough, in 1925. Sue became a member of the historical society in 1996 and a year later was on the board serving as program chairman. She later served as served as Vice-President of the Board. Today she is a member of the Advisory Board and was a subject for an Ordinary Historian video interview. We have copies here if you want to view it and you should because she’s had quite a life.

During her years on the this board, Sue worked on preservation projects such as the Lido Pool, Sarasota High School, the Van Wezel home, the Municipal Auditorium, the Bidwell-Wood  House and Crocker Church. She wrote our brochures and was editor of our monthly newsletter. And she authored a series of 20 articles on Sarasota history that appeared in Scene magazine. Additionally, Sue wrote and directed a staged reading of “Mr. Bidwell,” and we’re hoping for a revival of that next year.  Sue served on Sarasota County Historical Commission from 2008 – 2012.

Sue still lives in her childhood home built by her grandfather.  Her work on behalf of the Historical Society would be enough to quality her as a Hero of History, but her preservation activism in the wider community has been so outstanding for so many years, that it is time indeed for us to declare with great pride and admiration that Suzette Jennings Blue is the 2016 recipient of the Hero of History award.

Distinguished Service Award 2016

Norma Kwenski

Norma Kwenski is the volunteer that every organization wants to call their own. She’s the one who arrives early, stays late and will do anything that needs attention from weeding the garden, to taking ticket money at Conversations, ironing tablecloths, washing dishes, to hostessing at the Holiday Party and bringing homemade deserts with her. Norma is always so “on the job”  that if I arrive at Pioneer Park for an event and don’t see Norma, I assume I’ve made a mistake and come on the wrong day.

Norma and Brad Kwenski moved to Sarasota from Illinois in 1969 when their children were young. Kay was 9 and sons Brent was 7 and Kendell just 5. They moved into a 1927 Mediterranean Revival home in beautiful Sapphire Shores that had no air conditioning or heat, but plenty of vintage charm. Brad got involved with the Ringling Museum, volunteering for the Medieval Fair. And he worked with Veronica Morgan when these two buildings were in the Rosemary District. They lived in their Sapphire Shores dream neighborhood until Brad became ill and encouraged Norma to make the move to a no-maintenance condominium in Longwood Run. Brad passed away in 2007.

Norma says Jane Kirschner, who had already pulled son Brent into her community service orb, was responsible for Norma becoming a member of the Historical Society. Later Jane made sure Norma got actively involved.

“I never thought I had any special talent,” says Norma, “I just thought I’d be quiet and help where help was needed.” And that’s what she did. But, volunteering so widely and so often, has given Norma a unique perspective on our organization.  She always shrewdly observes and reports on the successes of an event and tactfully points out where we could improve things. For instance, when she was collecting money on the Crocker porch for Conversations at the Crocker a couple years ago, Norma noticed that the lack of handrails was inconvenient and downright dangerous for many people coming up and down the steps. So, she talked it over with her children and the Historical Society board and the Kwenski Krew decided to donate money in Brad Kwenski’s name for handrails. People coming to the Crocker Church bless her every day for being so vigilant and so generous.
This morning we members of the Historical Society are so happy to let Norma know that she is appreciated, not just today but every day of the year. Norma Kwenski is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award for 2016.


Mucking about in Pioneer Park

Sue Padden, the new chair of the Historical Society’s landscape committee, organized a garden beautification day on Saturday, April 30. About a dozen volunteers answered her call to weed, prune, rake, plant and spread mulch. Sue is particularly interested in restoring the herb garden.

The Historical Society's Landscape Chair, Sue Padden

If there’s a call for volunteers, you can be sure Norma Kwenski will show up. She’s here weeding the brick memorial pavilion in front of the Bidwell-Wood House. She wants it to look perfect for the annual meeting and potluck luncheon, as well as the brick ceremony where people who have purchased bricks in a loved one’s name will see the bricks installed on May 14.

norma kwenski

Bob Fottler came dressed for the tasks at hand. He brought several bags of mulch and spread them in the garden in front of the Bidwell-Wood House. The garden can always use mulch and donations are appreciated.

bob fottler

Sara King cleaned out the bromeliad beds on the west side of the Crocker Church and planted new specimens. Lots of weeding and pruning too.

 sue king

Bill Whetzel, who has maintained the Crocker Cemetery on Bee Ridge Road for 25 years, was on hand for the HSOSC garden beautification day on Saturday, April 30. This man knows a lot about yard maintenance and garden care.

bill whetzel

Gwen Whetzel did it all – weeding, pruning, raking, weed pulling. She was an inspiration to everyone.

gwen whetzel

Board member Meade Ferguson has participated in these garden clean up days before, so she knew enough to wear heavy gloves and long pants.

meade ferguson

All our members thank these hearty volunteers, and look forward to the Annual Meeting coming up on Saturday May 14 at 11am, with Pot Luck Picnic immediately following.

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An Historic Evening on the North Trail

By Averette - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

An arts district streetscape in Miami.

Artspace Sarasota is a group of citizens who are focusing on North Tamiami Trail, past and present, and its untapped potential for arts-related development. The North Trail corridor is the proposed location for an affordable housing initiative for artists and the creative sector.

This initiative addresses our mission at HSoSC, which is to foster public awareness of our rich historical heritage, encourage inquiry and research into this history, develop a broader appreciation of its historical communities, and protect its historic sites and structures. We welcome ArtspaceSRQ’s meeting in the historic Crocker Church.

This ArtSpaceSRQ fund-raising event will be moderated by Lorrie Muldowney, preservation consultant and former manager of the Sarasota County History Center, on Monday, March 21, and promises a stimulating exchange.

Chicago-based Martin Treu, renowned architect and urban designer, will present The North Trail, Historic Gateway to Sarasota. His recent book, Signs, Streets, and Storefronts, showcases his multi-disciplinary approach to documenting and critiquing streetscapes. Treu has lectured nationally about signs and architectural history and recently launched Eye on Main Street, an organization formed to showcase, interpret, and nurture historic and contemporary Main Street urbanism.

On the same program, Megan McLaughlin, with notable governmental planning experience in Florida, will present Preserving MiMo as a Revitalization Strategy: Success and Contradiction in Miami. The Mimo district shares strong parallels with Sarasota’s North Tamiami Trail.

The event will be held at the historic Crocker Church, 1260 Twelfth Street in Sarasota. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the program begins at 7. A reception and book signing will follow at the adjacent Bidwell-Wood House. A minimum donation of $10.00 is requested. For more information, visit ArtspaceSRQ or contact Veronica Morgan.

Photo by Averette – Own work, CC BY 3.0,