This Day in History: January 11 1886
Sarasota’s days as a great cassava center were put on ice. Hamilton Disston (you know, the man who bought 4 million acres of Florida at a quarter an acre?) met with Frank Higel (you know, the guy with a vested interest in the land that would become, 35+ years later, Venice) to talk about investing in Frank’s brain child, cassava (you know, the stuff they make tapioca— and bubble tea— out of).
But as Disston shivered through a 23-degree (you know, Fahrenheit not Celsius) night in an unheated hotel, he decided Higel was crazy, trying to grow a tropical crop in the arctic Sarasota District. Bye-bye Disston, adios cassava.
With thanks to J. Whitcomb Rylee’s Yesterday’s Sarasota calendar.
Want to grow some cassava?
After all, this much fish is way too much for dinner tonight. (Photo from Florida Memory.)
On this day in history, December 12, 1902, the Sarasota Ice, Fish, and Power Company was granted the first permit to construct a commercial plant smack dab in town. (It was located, according to one source, near Lemon Avenue and State Street.) Sarasota had been a town for less than 2 months at that point.
SIFP generated electricity to make ice to keep the catch fresh. It wasn’t for seven more years that Sarasota got street lights (2, count ’em, 2) and from that point on, there was nothing but progress progress progress. (Well, except for the Bust. Another tale to tell.)
We’re happy to announce that this fishy Day in History is dedicated to Elisabeth Waters,
who was gifted with a “Claim Your Day” by Alexandra Jupin in our effort to keep our head above water in this economically-challenging pandemic time. If you’d like us to find an appropriate Day in History for you to claim, you can get the details here.
This Day in History: “1904– With a crank and a jingle, 48 subscribers entered the telephone age as Sarasota got its first telephone exchange. Miss Woodruff was the town’s first operator. The owners had expected only 25 customers or so.” — from Yesterday’s Sarasota 1993 Calendar by J Whitcomb Rylee in conjunction with HSoSC. (The photo’s from a book for sale on eBay; if you’re quick you can get it!)
Today in History, July 3, 1921:
The day before the United States’ Independence Day, having declared its independence from Manatee County, the first meeting of the Sarasota County Commission was held.
“Renting space from the city in Hover Arcade, the commission set about the ordering of such essentials as equipment and record books. Taxes would follow.”
. . — from Yesterday’s Sarasota Calendar, as published by J. Whitcomb Ryylee in conjunction with the Historical Society of Sarasota County.
The sketch of Hover Arcade is by Warren Day, a Sarasota artist represented by Pixels.com. You can order this and other local scenes as wall art, tote bags, even a phone case here.
The books of Sarasota finally get their own home as the Chidsey Library was dedicated. The cost of the building was $18,500, and was a gift of John Chidsey. The building served as our library until 1976. — from “Yesterday’s Sarasota The Calendar for 1993” by J. Whitcomb Rylee, in conjunction with the Historical Society of Sarasota County
Since then, the building has been Sarasota County’s Historical Resources Center, the Visitor Center, and left vacant. Recently, the Friends of the History Center are keeping it and its exhibits public with the help of volunteers from a dozen or so local historical groups, including, of course, the Historical Society of Sarasota County. It’s, for now at least, the Historical Exhibits and Educational Center located at the Historic Chidsey Library Building. 701 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
On this date in 1970, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall opened.
Designed by the late Frank Lloyd Wright’s firm, Taliesin Associates Architects, the building was called by its critics the “purple cow” or “purple people seater.”
How much do YOU know about the Van Wezel?
The Van Wezel was painted purple because:
- Purple was a good foil to the turquoise waters of Sarasota Bay.
- Mr. Wright’s widow suggested it.
- Purple is the color of royalty, and Sarasota looked forward to the “royalty of performers” appearing in the theater.
- The paint was donated by a local paint dealer, and that’s the color he chose.
Why did the One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater come to Earth?
- His spaceship crashed in the Grand Canyon.
- He wanted to get a job in a rock-&-roll band.
- He craved a Starbuck’s every day.
- He liked short shorts.
The first Broadway show in the Van Wezel was
- Cactus Flower
- Fiddler on the Roof
- Guys and Dolls
- The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd
Who were Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel?
- They built the first year-round residence on Lido Key.
- Lewis was a diamond buyer for Tiffany’s.
- Eugenia’s brother-in-law was Gustaf Nobel.
- They built a downtown building known as the Eugenic.
Answers: In each case, the correct answer is #2, except for the last. All the choices are correct about the Van Wezels! You will be awarded extra points if you pronounce Van Wezel as “Van Way-zel”, not “Van Weasel.”
Did you know? Tours of the Van Wezel backstage areas and the Fine Arts Society art collection are offered to the public the first Tuesday of the month, October through May. More info.
And if you can’t remember all the lyrics of One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater, here it is on YouTube. Tequila.
With thanks to Yesterday’s Sarasota Calendar by J. Whitcomb Rylee, the Van Wezel web site and Sarasota History Alive! for these tidbits. Photo from LouisWery.com.
Nowadays it takes 5 fishermen and a boat to catch a kingfish.
But back in the day…
Sept 30 1913: For easy fishing, stay at the Bay Island Hotel. On the first day of kingfish season, a 4′, 27-pound beauty, complete with a mullet in its mouth, jumped 10 feet from the bay, over the seawall, and onto the lawn where it was corralled by a guest. Mr. Faubel, the manager, quickly pointed out the fine fishing on his lawn. — Entry in Yesterday’s Sarasota calendar by J. Whitcomb Rylee
Photo from http://www.insideflorida.com/
More on the Bay Island Hotel from Sarasota History Alive.
You didn’t have to register to vote. You did have to be a member of the militia. And there was no such thing as Sarasota County… heck, there wasn’t even a Manatee County.
Here’s what political districting looked like in 1843 when Florida voted to become a State in the United States of America.
(Click the map, which is courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, to enlarge)
Read Florida Memory’s article on voting then & now.
On August 18, 1920, Tennessee passed the proposed 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by a one-vote margin, becoming the 36th state to ratify the measure and clearing the way for its official adoption eight days later.
Can you imagine NOT “giving the vote” to a woman like this?
Incredibly, women’s suffrage in the United States ultimately hinged on an 11th-hour change of heart by a young state legislator with a very powerful mother.
“I know that a mother’s advice is always safest for her boy to follow,” he explained, “and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification.” Read about it.
(Thanks to this family web site for the image of a strong woman c. 1920.)
Blanche, referred to by her husband as “Bright Eyes”
On this date in 1905, Col. John Hamilton Gillespie married his second wife, Judge McDaniels’s daughter Blanche, in Sarasota. They honeymooned in Scotland. — Entry in Yesterday’s Sarasota calendar by J. Whitcomb Rylee
Read our very own Sue Blue’s article about Col. Gillespie for Scene Sarasota.
See the Gillespie home, before and after Blanche had a greenhouse added.
The photo is from http://www.owenburns.com/, who honored Col. Gillespie in 2011 with merriment and golf.
1885: Members of the
Sarasota Vigilante Committee
went on trial for the murder of Postmaster Abbe. Abbe had
Charles E. Abbe. Click to read about the buildings HSoSC preserves and protects
been involved with some of the “land barons” who had misused the laws to acquire holdings in the area. The Vigilantes killed Abbe over the scheme.
— From J. Whitcombe Rylee, Yesterday’s Sarasota, a 1993 Calendar in conjunction with the Historical Society of Sarasota County.
Photo from the Manatee County Library web site
On August 16 1878, Sarasota got its first post office. It was located in the store of Charles Abbe, in the area now known as Harbor Acres. Mail came in “fairly” regularly, delivered by horseback.
Charles Abbe Continues to Spark Fascination, a newspaper article by Janet Snyder Matthews
The (maybe) 2013 location of the first post office, an article by Harold Bubil
Just one year later in 1879, Judge Webb was appointed postmaster and named the area where his Webb’s Winter Resort was, Osprey.
It wasn’t until 1909 that the Crocker family (yes, our very own Crockers, of Crocker Memorial Church fame) opened their post office, claiming the “southern part of Sarasota was underserved.” The location? Present-day Bay Road (the eastern extension of Bee Ridge Road) and Red Rock Lane or Red Rock Lane.
An aside: It’s said that John Webb had to rename his community from Spanish Point because the rules at that time stated that post offices had to have a single-word name . The Judge lifted his eyes in thought and saw an osprey drifting overhead. I consider it fortunate that he didn’t see a vulture. “Vulture, Florida” just doesn’t have that ring, does it?
Photograph of Charles Abbe from the Manatee County Public Library web archives
In 1927 on this date, John Ringling announced that Sarasota would become the winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In 1960, Ringling moved its winter quarters to Venice and the impact of the circus expanded into the larger Sarasota County area.
Get a fun circus poster here.
Where’s Big Bertha now? How does Brooklyn sound? Read about the circus, 2013: A New York Times article.
Thanks to J. Whitcomb Rylee, http://www.sarasotacircushistory.com/, Lynn Harding, http://www.visitsarasota.org/, and the State Archives of Florida.
January 1st is a new beginning for many things… and
on January 1 1914, Sarasota became, by statute, a City.
Oh goodness… that means we only have a year to plan a Centennial! Question One: What will we wear?
My, how you’ve grown! Happy Birthday, Longboat Key!
In 1915, 14 families lived on Longboat Key.
40 years later, on November 14 1955, the Town of Longboat Key was incorporated.
In 2011, there are over 8000 homes and condo units on the island.
Click to learn about Longboat from their historic association web site.