Sunshine Springs and Gardens To Open Winter of 1955-56

Rex Carr posted these scans of a pamphlet on Facebook a while back. We add them here to the HSoSC site so that all can see and appreciate them! Click each graphic to see each full size.

Page scans from the Sunshine Springs booklet that was printed right before they opened, December 3, 1955.

Sunshine Springs and Gardens

Once “Florida’s largest man-made lake”

Sunshine Springs and Gardens, located east of Sarasota on Proctor Road, operated from 1955 to 1959. The attraction featured a swan boat tour through the twenty acre tropical gardens and “aquabelles” and “aquabeaux” in water ski shows on a “400 acre, man-made lake”.

Quite a feat!

Complete with electric swan boats

“Conceived and built in only 264 working days by 29-year-old Leonard Tanner”… [read the newspaper article]

Show Time!

“You’ve seen them in newsreels”

A water stage with arches of water shooting 5 stories tall.


Dull page, but…

Taking advantage of this less-than-fascinating page in the booklet to show you an aerial view of the park “under construction”… but with a show actually going on. You can enlarge the shot as well. Thanks to USF and photographer Ted Newhall.

Ladies in swimsuits with modesty panels.

Old ads are the best, aren’t they?

It’s a interesting aspect of American retail history that swimsuits and evening gowns were often paired in stores. Probably because they both required boned underpinnings.

Oh, give me an Aquabeau or two.

Barefoot or with an extra large keel.

I only want two so I get that extra X… aquabeaux you make my heart sing!

How to Water Ski

“Safe”? The author never face-planted.

I never got past Step A.

When “Miami” meant glamour.

And cat’s-eyes were the cat’s meow.

And shirring did wonders for the figure.

Wonder where they are today?

The performers at Sunshine Springs.

Recognize anyone?

Where to stay? Lido of course!

Note that although you had to “write for rates”… no street address was necessary.

The Azure Tides was demolished in 2001, making way for the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club. Gulf Beach Hotel was sold in February 2021 for $23.5 million for, you guessed it, a “beachfront luxury condominium tower.”

20 Fabulous Acres!

And “pretty girl pilots.”

Actually, what with the 2 million cubic yards of earth dug out to make the lake, there were rolling hills.

More motels!

Did you ever stay in one of these?

Tiled baths were more of an amenity than we ever realized.

Leonard Tanner

What ever happened to the Tanners?

A 1956 Herald-Tribune article on their second season” “Conceived and built in only 264 working days by 29-year-old Leonard Tanner…” [read more]

And of course

Turning tourists into residents since….

And now you know why the neighborhood Sarasota Springs is called that.

Pedestrian Promenades

“Aquabats?” Oh… acrobats, I get it.

Sarasota, Florida Sunshine Springs and Gardens Aquabats The Raylins, Kenneth Thomas & Dave Brothers. Click to see ’em! 

When Sarasota Terrace had a cocktail lounge.

And shuffleboard rather than politicians.

More on Sarasota Terrace? Yes please.

Basket Bazaar!

A trip to NostalgiaLand

Who remembers these places?

And Not.To.Be.Missed.

In the ’50s, the reason to visit Sarasota.

Why, who had time for the beach with all this excitement?

Why, you hoped for a cloudy day!

Otherwise you’d miss it all.

All this and the Boston Red Sox too.

Today’s Lakeview Park

16 acres and Frisbee golf.

What’s left of this 50’s recreational attraction.

With deepest thanks to Rex Carr who provided these great scans of the program.