Brown Bag Book Lunch: Discuss & munch with the author of “Shade in the Sunshine State”

AAuthor Liz Coursenuthor, editor, and publisher Elizabeth H. Coursen will be featured at this month’s Brown Bag Book Lunch at the Historical Society of Sarasota County on Wed. Feb. 18, in the historic Crocker Memorial Church. She will be speaking on Continue reading

What the built future of Sarasota could look like.

An imaginary future city.Are There More Modern Buildings in Our Future?

Four young turks of architecture think so. Come and hear what they have to say and what the built future of Sarasota could look like.

No matter how you feel about modern architecture, you’ll want to be in the audience on the evening of Tuesday, February 10, at 7 p.m. when Sarasota Herald-Tribune real estate editor and architecture lecturer Harold Bubil leads a conversation with four ambitious and highly talented young architects who discuss how future of Sarasota will look if they have any influence. And they do, since they’re all working on important projects in town. Joining Bubil on stage at the Crocker Memorial Church are: Tatiana White, Chris Leader, Leonardo Lunardi and Damien Blumetti. A power point presentation narrated by Harold Bubil will place the modern movement in context with Sarasota’s past styles of residential, commercial and municipal architecture.

If you’re a newcomer to town, seasonal visitor or tax paying full-time resident, you’re bound to learn a lot about buildings and homes you see everyday around town. But, you’ll also see what could be down the road for Sarasota in terms of the homes we live in and the buildings we shop in, bank in and places where we receive medical care. Are we clinging to Mediterranean revival and cottage styles or committing to leading-edge modern design based on principles of the Sarasota School of Architecture that reigned in post-war years through the 1960s? Find out and then express your own views.

Now in its third year and presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County (HSOSC), Conversations at The Crocker is a series of interactive monthly discussions that highlight aspects of Sarasota’s history and looks at past events and people who have influenced today’s Sarasota. All Conversations take place at the historic Crocker Memorial Church in Pioneer Park, 1260 12th Street, Sarasota. Community welcome. 7 p.m. Free to HSOSC members and students; $10, guests.

The futuristic rendering appears here.

Conversation at the Crocker: Ringling’s Private Rail Car

PullDavid Duncan working on the Wisconsin, John Ringling's private Pullman car. Hear Mr. Duncan speak at Conversation at the Crocker, January 13. For more info see http://HSoSC.comman car historian and restorer of John Ringling’s private railroad car, the Wisconsin car in Sarasota talks about rail travel of the Gilded Age and how John and Mable Ringling traveled in luxury aboard a fabulous custom car.

“It is rare for a
private railroad car
to be restored with
such care, attention to detail and respect to the historic fabric”

Ride the rails into the past with Pullman Railroad car expert and the restorer of the famed Wisconsin custom railroad car with David W. Duncan when he leads a Conversation at The Crocker, on Tuesday, January 13, starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church, 1260 12th Street (Pioneer Park), Sarasota.

David W. Duncan is a Pullman Railroad car historian and he has been the consultant on the Wisconsin for The Ringling Museum. His hands-on work and expertise have been instrumental in the restoration process of this historic railroad car. Duncan will be joined on stage by Ron McCarty, Curator of Ca’d’Zan at The Ringling Museum.

A Pullman Car was a standard of luxury in the early part of the 20th century and John Ringling wanted one. Having established a relationship with the Pullman firm by buying second-hand cars for use by the circus, Ringling commissioned Pullman to build a private car for his personal use in 1904. The name Wisconsin was chosen to honor the state that was home to the Ringling brothers and their circus.

On March 16, 1905, Ringling took delivery of the Wisconsin from Pullman’s Calumet Shop. He used the car as a place to stylishly entertain and impress friends, family, business associates and politicians. And the car enabled him to conduct circus business as he traveled across the country. Ringling’s first trip aboard the car was to Baraboo, Wisconsin, the family’s hometown. Later that year, John Ringling and Mable Burton were married in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“It is rare for a private railroad car to be restored with such care, attention to detail and respect to the historic fabric,” says Ron McCarty about Duncan’s work on the Wisconsin. “Now at the museum, visitors to Sarasota can glimpse a means of transportation that only a few ever experienced. This restored jewel of the Gilded Age tells the story of a bygone era and the community can learn all about it at the Conversation at The Crocker on the evening of January 13.” All aboard !

Organized and presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County and sponsored by SARASOTA Magazine, this public conversation (accompanied by rare photos) is free to Historical Society members and students. Guests, $10. Proceeds help maintain the two historic properties at Pioneer Park, The Bidwell-Wood House (1882, Sarasota’s oldest private residence) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901).

25th Historical LeBarge Cruise

The Historical Society celebrated its 25th Historical LeBarge Cruise early in November, and were delighted to offer commentary courtesy of famed local historian John McCarthy.

If you couldn’t make the November tour with us, make plans now to join us in March! Email Linda Garcia, our Site Manager, at for your reservations now.

Historical Bay Cruise by the Historical Society of Sarasota County

Our newest board member Virginia Hoffman (second from left) enjoyed her birthday celebration on the cruise with other board members (l. to r.) BrendaLee Hickman , Bill Kleber, and Meade Ferguson.

Funds raised help the private non-profit Society preserve and protect two of the oldest historic buildings in Sarasota County. Visit the Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901) Monday-Friday 10am to 2pm, or during any of our special events on our Calendar of Events.  Pioneer Park is located just east of 41 at 12th Street.


Saturday, Novmeber 15, 2014

9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Crocker Memorial Church

1260 12th Street  (Pioneer Park)

One block east of N. Tamiami Trail at 12th Street


Presented by the Historical Society of Sarasota County in cooperation with area interior designers who have donated specialty items from their galleries and inventory.

Come and find custom toss pillows, lamps, occasional furniture, extraordinary designer fabric and wallpaper, tabletop sculpture, framed paintings and prints, mirrors, garden ornaments, silk flower and foliage arrangements and a special holiday section with gift items for the season.  Proceeds help maintain the historic Bidwell-Wood House (1882) and the Crocker Memorial Church (1901).

Shop for fun, amazing and gorgeous designer bargains and help support historic preservation in our town.  It only happens every other year so don’t miss out!

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!

Family comes to aid of historic structure.

Historic Crocker Church in Pioneer Park, Sarasota FL

The Kwenski Krewe: (left to right) Kendell Kwenski, Kay Kwenski, Norma Kwenski, Brent Kwenski and Montana Kwenski. The family provided the funding for handrails at the historic Crocker Memorial Church (1901) which is curated by the Historical Society of Sarasota County. The gift was made in memory of Brad Kwenski, Norma’s husband and the the dad and grandfather of the Kwenski family.

The family of Norma Kwenski, a member of the Sarasota Historical Society of Sarasota County, responded to a need at the Crocker Memorial Church (1901) by donating the funds to provide hand rails to the porch of the de-sanctified church building in Sarasota’s Pioneer Park.

These new handrails provide additional safety for people come to the Crocker for monthly member programs, for weddings, and for community social and civic meetings and public events that are held at the Crocker year round on a continuing basis.

“I mentioned to my children about the need for handrails on the porch and they suggested we make a family gift of the funding in memory of my husband Brad who loved history and loved this community,” said Norma Kwenski. “It gives us all such great pleasure now every time we’re at the Crocker and we see people using the handrails. It’s made a real difference and my husband would be thrilled to know he is being remembered for a role in historic preservation and in keeping these historic places alive and in use.”

Sounds of the Holidays Tuesday Dec 3

sharon scottSOUNDS OF THE HOLIDAYS, featuring inspirational music, carols and spirituals will fill the historic Crocker Memorial Church on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd at 7:00 P.M.

This FREE concert for historic music lovers is open to the public and features internationally known voices including:  Sharon E. Scott, Sarasota’s own Mahalia Jackson, Bill Schustik – America’s Troubadour, Tyrone Aiken, whose stage credits include The Voice of Audrey 2 in  “Little Shop of Horrors TYRONE HEAD SHOT 112313National Tour” and Ozanda Gray, Jr. recently seen in the Asolo’s Artist Series, “Sounds of Christmas Concerts”  and currently working with the West Coast Black Theater Troupe.

The New York Times wrote of Sharon…”she is a performer of size and vocal quality that overwhelms the stage…and is a pyrotechnic personality with all the dazzle of a Fourth of July fireworks display.”

bill s cropBill Schustik has performed worldwide and even enjoyed singing for three Presidents at the White House.

A “Love Donation” will be greatly appreciated by this talented gathering of voices.

The Historical Society feels extremely lucky to have them assemble under our historic church roof. For more information, please call the Historical Society at 941-364-9076.

What type of pirate will you dress up as?

  • Be a Pirate for the evening or for the day or for both! at the Historical Society of Sarasota County's Pirates & Pioners Day November 16 (and the evening before, adults only)We’re SO looking forward to the adults-only Pirates Eve on Friday evening, November 15 (tales and tasty libations for the over-21 group) to the family-oriented Pirates and Pioneers Day on Saturday November 16 (admission, a few canned goods for the Mayors Feed the Hungry Campaign) at the Historical Society of Sarasota County… for the fun, yes, but also because

who doesn’t want to dress up as a pirate?

Inspiration from cheap and cheerful to “too sexy for my hook” ideas here, from Pinterest.

Get ready to learn something NEW at the OLDest residence in Sarasota County!

Artists enjoy the Bidwell-Wood House at the Historical Society of Sarasota CountyWe’re excited to announce that the 2013-2014 Classes at the Park Schedule is now online!

Our traditional Classes on the Back Porch have been renamed Classes at the Park, reflecting our involvement in the wider community of Pioneer Park in Sarasota, this year’s syllabus starts with Yoga and ends with birdwatching… and you won’t believe the variety of classes in between!

While our Conversations at the Crocker focus monthly on historical info and interests, and our special events such as the Bay Cruise and Trolley Tours put residents and visitors alike in touch with Sarasota’s journey to 2013, our classes are focused on the here-and-now with up-to-date topics and education.

As far as non-members are concerned, class registration opens in September. But members not only get preferred pricing, but if you call our competent and just-plain-adorable Site Manager, Linda Garcia (who’s “standing by” in the Historical Society office Tues-Fri, 10 to 2), I’m sure she’ll let you snap up the limited enrollment spots now! (Tip: there are some one-session classes that your card club, Red Hat Ladies, neighbor group could turn into a private girls’ day out!)

Our Classes in the Park are a major source of operating funds for the non-profit Historical Society, so learn something and help us preserve, protect, and polish the Bidwell-Wood House and the Crocker Memorial Church at the same time.

Painting and Planting: Winter Classes on the Back Porch*

Vintage Sarasota PostcardLook through our roster of classes for this winter season, then fill in our Sign- Up Sheet (click here) and mail it with your check. Reservations are limited, so to assure your place, call the HSOSC office at 941-364-9076 M-F 10am to 2pm with your credit card or email us at  Reservations must be made in advance.


Create a one of a kind, illustrated, personal journal of your travels, or your own back yard. Beginners Welcome!
Each Tuesday in Feb. and March. First Class:  Feb.5th 10:00 – Noon.
Fee:  $35.00 per class or $100.00 for three.
Instructor: Nationally famous artist/author, Lucinda Hathaway
Supplies:  Bring your own OR available at Art and Frame Shop, or Blue Line Office Sup.
Mention Lucinda’s Class for 10% disc. Contact Lucinda:  941-383-0216


Maggie Nevens, back from her Cruise Ship Classes, has returned with her
“Let loose, have fun and paint like crazy!” Water Color Classes
Thursdays in Feb. and March 10:00 – Noon in the Crocker Church.
$35.00 per class or 4 for $100.00.
Blue Line Office Sup. offers a 10% Discount on supplies.
Call Maggie for list: 941-343-0430


New this year, we welcome the team of Laurel Schiller, Annie Schiller and Fran Palmeri, all Florida Nature lovers and educators, very involved in the gardening industry, right here in Sarasota County.
With many degrees and years of teaching experience among them, this team will be offering classes for adults and a Butterfly Gardening class for children as well, happily during Spring Break! Sign up soon, we’re sure we’ll have a full house for these classes AND participants will take home a small plant of their choice at the end of each class.

All classes will be held on Mondays, from 10:00 am to Noon, in the Crocker Church. Minimum 10 students.

Monday, March 4th: Gardening with Hardy Edibles – Eat What You Grow!
Introduction to a handful of hardy edibles, both native and tropical, that will thrive in your yard….from grapes to pumpkins!  Includes planting and harvesting instructions, health benefits, recipes and more.  Take home an edible plant of your choice.
Fee:  $10.00 per person

Monday, March 11th: Natural Butterfly Gardening for Kids
(For ALL ages, but especially ages 4 and up. What a great way to spend a Spring Break Day with your grandchild!) We will read the wonderful book, “On Meadowview Street” by Henry Cole and see a slide presentation on wildlife that you might see in YOUR yard, should you plant wildflowers.  Take home a wildflower plant.  Attendees will be invited to plant a plant in the Butterfly Garden at the Historical Society!
Fee:  Adults – $5.00, kids free!

For an in depth introduction to our valuable gardening instructors, please find their bios on .  Their credentials are way too long to list here, but when they’re not instructing, you can find them at the Florida Native Plants Nursery, 730 Myakka Rd, Sarasota.


Tuesday, Feb. 26th: Leaf Embossing on Card Stock

Nature Printing has been a fascination for Beverly Blair, a retired lawyer who fills our Gift Shop with her gorgeous artwork on cards and fabrics.  She has studied with some of the best nature printers in the country and she will be sharing the methods of the art of Leaf Embossing.  You’ll come away with your own creations of this fascinating craft and a deeper appreciation for the beauty of leaves! All supplies will be provided. Class size limited to 8 students!
Fee:  $15.00 per person

* Actually, classes are held on the Back Porch, overlooking the beauty of Pioneer Park, when the weather is gorgeous. If the weather is less than spectacular or our instructors and students would be more comfortable, we move into the 1901 Crocker Church. So don’t let a few clouds stop you from attending… it’s always warm and sunny in our HSoSC classes!

Postcard image made available by the Boston Public Library.

Join us in honoring tradition at our Annual Meeting

dinner on the groundsOnce a year, the Historical Society has a pot-luck “dinner on the grounds,” just as our forebears did. At the same time, we come together to elect our public servants, as did our grandparents and great-grandparents.

And so we Continue reading