This Day in History is very moving….

In the wee small hours of October 18 2006, you could have seen two historic buildings moving slowly, oh so slowly, through the streets of Sarasota.

That was the day in history when the Historical Society moved its buildings to Pioneer Park. Here’s the local news item:

SARASOTA October 16 2006– The 1882 Bidwell-Wood House had been scheduled to be moved from Florida Avenue to Pioneer Park early Thursday morning.
But mover R.E. Johnson and Son will transport the building 24 hours earlier. Sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. on Wednesday, the Bidwell-Wood House — and the Crocker Church — will be moved from Florida Avenue, south of 10th Street, to Pioneer Park, at 12th Street and Cocoanut. The Historical Society of Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota are coordinating the project.
The buildings have been up on trucks and ready to go for several days.The public is invited to follow the three-block move behind the trucks — in bathrobes and pajamas, for those who wish.
Once the buildings are in place, piers will be built into the footings, which have already been poured on a high spot in the park, and then the structures will be lowered into place.
The move will be videotaped for a documentary to be shown on the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel.

And once the buildings were safe in Pioneer Park, all of us were walking on air.

Photo courtesy of Harold Bubil through the Herald-Tribune.

It had been a long journey, even though it was actually only a few blocks… and it would be several years before we could use the buildings to present local history, but this was a momentous day not just for HSoSC but for the entire county: two buildings saved from the wrecking ball, so that residents can understand what came before today.

Help the Historical Society of Sarasota County Preserve History

Swept by a conflagration…

This Day in History: On October 8, 1871… 150 years ago… the tragedy of the Great Chicago Fire happened.

“This city has been swept by a conflagration which has no parallel in the annals of history” wrote the Chicago papers… after they were able to start printing papers again.

“The Chicago fire has so absorbed public attention

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Happy July 4 1921, Sarasota!

4 flagWhile Sarasota was still excited about becoming its own county on July 1st 1921, and celebrating the 4th in grand style, here’s the world they lived in. Some of these 1921 events might surprise you and others amuse. Isn’t history fascinating?

On July 2, 1921, President Warren Harding signed a joint congressional resolution declaring an end to America’s state of war with Germany, Austria and Hungary. (Calvin Coolidge was Vice-President in case you were wondering.)

330px-Bessie_Coleman_in_1923Brave Bessie: Bessie Coleman was an early American civil aviator. She was the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold Continue reading

Taking a ride on Mr. Ferris’ creation

This day in history June 21 1893, features the debut of a monumental contraption that our very own Bertha Palmer , before she became the Legendary Lady of Sarasota, got the first ride on:

The Ferris Wheel!

Built to one-up the Eiffel Tower of the previous World’s Fair: it’s big AND it moves!

It was big. Very big. Each car held 60 riders. It cost 50 cents to ride it. I’m guessing Bertha, as President of the Board of Lady Managers for the Columbian Exposition, Chicago’s World’s Fair, was comped.

Alas, it was dynamited and sold for scrap less than 15 years later. The mummies, next door, lasted a lot longer.

Learn more about Bertha Palmer, her life in Chicago and in Sarasota, by booking our very own Bertha Palmer to present this fascinating woman’s life story as a costumed first-person interpretation to your group or club by contacting our Site Manager Linda Garcia at hsosc1@gmail.com or 941-364-9076.

Read the June 22 1893 newspaper article.

It’s a Centennial CROWD!

Sarasota County is celebrating its Centennial in 2021. But we’re not the only ones.

The spring of 1921 was a busy one up in Tallahassee. The General Assembly approved the creation of 6 new counties out of what had been 2…

Manatee County got carved into two, thereby creating Sarasota County.

But poor Desoto County? It became 6 separate counties in 1921

  • Charlotte
  • Desoto
  • Hardee
  • Highlands
  • Glades

Let’s just be thankful they

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There’s always one.

This Day in History, March 6 1917: Sarasota voters passed a bond issue by 59 to 1 to raise $40,000 to buy the Hover Arcade and Dock for the City of Sarasota. No one ‘fessed up to being the sole dissenter, but we know for sure it was a man. (Think about it.)

“Okay, now guys, be sure to stand six feet apart…”

Let’s discuss downtown property values, shall we? The original dock was constructed by the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company in 1886 near the spot the Scot Colonists landed the previous December, and was purchased by Harry Higel (he’s the guy who persuaded everyone to stop calling it Sarasota Key and adopt a much more tourist-friendly name, Siesta Key. Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?)


Higel offered it to Sarasota in 1905 for $1,500. Then in 1910 he offered it again to the city for $5000. The city didn’t buy. Higel sold it to the Hover brothers from Lima Ohio and they built the Arcade, with construction starting in 1913.

Ah, city officials. In 1916 there was a bond issue to raise $18,000 to build a pier. Vote passed 45 to 29. But alas, the city did not own any waterfront property, so WTF? Since a landlocked pier didn’t make much sense even to politicians, Plan B went into effect. Well, okay, let’s float a bond for $40,000 to buy the Hover Arcade from those canny Ohioans, the Hovers.

Joseph Steinmetz took this photo in 1952 from the top of Sarasota’s Orange Blossom Hotel on the south corner of Main and Palm.

Learn more: An article by Jeff LaHurd and more from Larry Kelleher

So now, my main thought: Who was the one dissenting vote in 1917, and was he thereby laughing up his sleeve at the politicos?

So the plans got put on ice

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.
Cassava didn't become a Sarasota cropWith thanks to J. Whitcomb Rylee’s Yesterday’s Sarasota calendar.

Want to grow some cassava?

There goes the neighborhood.

Boatload of fish

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.

 

“Is it for me?” comes to Sarasota

Sarasota FL gets its first telephone exchange, 1904This 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!)

And so Sarasota County begins….

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.
Warren Day's sketch of Hover Arcade, Sarasota FL, in the 1920's

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.

Today in History: The Chidsey Library Dedication, 1941!

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

Historic Chidsey Library

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.

This Day in History: Happy 45th, Van Wezel!

van wezel from louiswerycomOn 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:

  1. Purple was a good foil to the turquoise waters of Sarasota Bay.
  2. Mr. Wright’s widow suggested it.
  3. Purple is the color of royalty, and Sarasota looked forward to the “royalty of performers” appearing in the theater.
  4. 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?

  1. His spaceship crashed in the Grand Canyon.
  2. He wanted to get a job in a rock-&-roll band.
  3. He craved a Starbuck’s every day.
  4. He liked short shorts.

The first Broadway show in the Van Wezel was

  1. Cactus Flower
  2. Fiddler on the Roof
  3. Guys and Dolls
  4. The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd

Who were Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel?

  1. They built the first year-round residence on Lido Key.
  2. Lewis was a diamond buyer for Tiffany’s.
  3. Eugenia’s brother-in-law was Gustaf Nobel.
  4. 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.

Yup, it WAS “the good old days”

Yup, it WAS “the good old days”

Nowadays it takes 5 fishermen and a boat to catch a kingfish.

Kingfish trophyBut 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.

Voting, Then & Now

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.
Florida map, 1853(Click the map, which is courtesy of State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, to enlarge)

Read Florida Memory’s article on voting then & now.

Today in History: A Mother’s Gentle Nudge

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?

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.)