How did Sarasota get its name? Index: Sahara


The landscape was so much more beautiful than today. The thick virgin pine wood is round and intact. Tropical jungles and islands were greener, the water in bays, bayous, creeks and rivers was bluer and clearer; the banks were straighter and cleaner; the beaches, both on the gulf and in inland waters, were wider and much whiter … and the abundance of marine life, both fish and birds, compared to what it is today is indescribable.

Indians had far more respect for what Mother Nature did for mankind than the ruthless destructive hands of our present civilization, said Arthur Britton Edwards in an interview with Sarasota County historian Dottie Davis on the 23rd. July 1958.

‘Sahara’ + ‘zota’ = Sarasota?

Where does the name Sarasota come from? Locals have been trying to find out for years. The most logical explanation coming to the attention of this journalist is that suggested by Mrs. Edna Mosely Landers. Old maps indicate the presence of a “Boca Sarazota”. One of these maps was in the possession of the late Captain WF Purdy, dated 1776.

According to the results of Ms. Landers’ investigation, Spanish explorers who passed this section of the west coast noted the presence of Indian mounds of white sand that were level with vegetation. From a distance, the whole appeared flat and would have reminded explorers of the “Sahara”. And the suffix “sota”? The Indian word “zota” means clear, blue, limpid, beautiful. What could be more logical than the “zota” was added to the Sahara and that the two finally became first “Sarazota” and then the current “Sarasota”? The “zota” was probably supplied by the Indians to the beautiful Sarasota Bay which existed long before the Spaniards discovered this section. He has always charmed his spectators.

A five point start

On a beautiful spring day in 1885, Sarasota pioneer Arthur B. Edwards and his father were hunting when they encountered a group of strangers roaming the wilderness. The men, hired by the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company, a Scottish firm, had hacked into a 10-foot area and were drawing a pearl on a red and white pole stuck in the ground at the bay’s high water mark, today Gulf Stream Street. The imaginary line leading to the post would become the Lower Main Street, and where they stood is now the center of Five Points. As father and son watched in silence, Engineer Richard Paulson majestically announced, “We are going to develop the city of Sarasota from this hub. “

Measurements of Sarasota's first platform were taken from Five Points.  Engineer Paulson proudly proclaimed,

Anton Kleinoscheg of Austria predated the Scottish colony at Sarasota, arriving here earlier in 1885. Writing to a friend on July 28, 1886, he said: “And now to me. We are at the peak of the rainy season, rain, rain and rain. If it rained on time for a few hours every day, I shouldn’t object to this phenomenon: but a week ago the rain continued for 36 hours, and today a repeat of this show seems to be taking place . Under such circumstances, I cannot work and the enormous amounts of water flowing through my low glade destroy or damage the small achievements that have been accomplished so far. Sometimes I think of my Cary [Abbe]. (Ah yes, you do not know that I am in love and aspiring to marriage; well, we will come back to this point …) “

Anton Kleinoscheg and his wife, Carrie Abbe, described Sarasota's hard life during the colonization period.

“The most beautiful wedding in Sarasota”

The first mayor of the city of Sarasota, John Hamilton Gillespie and Blanche McDaniel were married in Sarasota on May 23, 1905, at the Episcopal Church. The Sarasota Times called it “Sarasota’s finest marriage”, calling Gillespie “the mayor of golf” and Blanche “the charming and accomplished daughter of the judge and Mrs. RP McDaniel.”

The newspaper reported that their love affair started at the Sarasota Golf Links, which Gillespie had fitted out, and offered: the most to be congratulated for the sweet and loving companion he won. After a festive breakfast at their future home, Rosebourne, the couple were driven to the Seaboard train depot, “where they boarded a private car and were washed away amid a rain of rice, old shoes, golf clubs and good wishes “.

They would spend their honeymoon in Washington and then travel to New York City, where they took the Anchor Line Caledonia steamboat to Scotland, Gillespie’s birthplace.

Sarasota’s father

A very significant real estate transaction was noted on the inside page of May 26, 1910, Sarasota Times. Mr. Owen Burns, described as a wealthy Chicago banker who stayed at the Halton Hotel (formerly Halton Sanitarium) on Gulf Stream Avenue, purchased the assets of John Hamilton Gillespie, including the Gillespie House, the bank building, golf courses and other valuable properties like the Halton, which he will transform into his family home. The purchase price was $ 35,000 and Burns became the owner of what would be 75% of today’s city limits. It would become Sarasota’s first major developer and a key player in Sarasota’s success in the 1920s, positioning itself as a premier destination for wealthy snowbirds.

For his part, John Hamilton Gillespie, who had been sent to Sarasota by the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company to revive the bankrupt Scottish colony in 1886, planned to travel to Scotland for a well-deserved rest. The gentleman who was the first mayor of the city of Sarasota and built the first golf course in Florida, and one of the first in the country, will be remembered as Sarasota’s father.

“Death by whiskey”

On October 26, 1911, Mr. Charles E. Hall of Tampa passed away. He was found seated at a table in a room in Higel Dock (near present-day Marina Jack). According to the newspaper’s headline, “Death Caused by Whiskey” was the cause of Mr Hall’s untimely death.

He and two friends had been playing cards all evening and drinking while playing. Hall, despite the protests of the others, poured himself a particularly large glass of demonic whiskey, swallowed it, and laid his head on the table. The others thought he was asleep. One left and the other went to bed. An investigation was conducted and determined: “We, the jury, find that Chas. E. Hall, deceased, died of overdosing on whiskey while in a state of physical weakness. It was determined that the whiskey had been sold by Jason Burke, who was tried. However, someone provided Jason with a hacksaw, and he escaped from prison and escaped. The deceased, who had worked for the Sarasota Cigar Company, was 39 years old.

Lower secondary curriculum

Here are the books and curriculum for Sarasota High School in 1914: Grade 10 Classes: Composition and Rhetoric by Lockwood and Emerson; Classics, to be supplied; Milne’s secondary algebra; the general history of Myer; Walker’s Caesar; Physical geography of Houstor. Grade 11 classes: History of English Literature by Halleck; Classics, to be supplied; the simple geometry of Wentworth; Six Cicero Prayer of Allen & Greenough; Carhart’s & Chutes’s High School Physics, revised edition; the general history of Myer; Townsend Civic Government of the United States; Fraser & Squair French Grammar. Twelfth grade classes: History of American Literature by Halleck; Classics, to be supplied; the American story of Adams & Trant; Wentworth’s simple trigonometry; Virgil of Knox, Aeneid; the chemistry of Brownlee & Fuller; the civilian government of Yocum, Florida; Fraser & Squair French Grammar. Some programs!

Under mosquito nets

The Velvet Highway, the road leading to Venice from Sarasota, was completed in 1918 as part of a $ 250,000 bond issue to build 34 miles of hard paved roads between Sarasota, Venice, Bee Ridge and Fruitville, all from small communities in Manatee County. The laborious task was made easier by the newly patented cutting plow designed by African-American inventor Henry C. Webb of Bradenton. This facilitated the removal of thick saw palmetto shoots, which previously had to be removed by hand and hoe pulling.

The first Tamiami Trail before the so-called Velvet Road was paved between Sarasota and Venice.

Describing the work involved, AK Whitaker, in “One Man’s Family” wrote: – at nightfall in his bed under the mosquito nets to avoid being eaten alive.

Although the road was only 9 feet wide, requiring one oncoming vehicle to stop to allow the other to pass, it was a big improvement and has been dubbed the Velvet Highway.

A fresh start costs $ 1,247

A brochure published by the Sarasota-Venice Company in 1915 assured readers that anyone wishing to make a fresh start in the area could do so for $ 1,247 and detailed the costs as follows: temporary house and furniture $ 600; clearing of 5 acres $ 200; fence, all on one side, half of three sides $ 112; edging ditch, half of three sides, varies according to special conditions, about $ 50; 70 feet two inches well $ 35; horse and tools $ 250.

And after you arrived, it was very cheap to live with. You could easily grow your own food, hunt game, fish and raise poultry. Firewood was readily available and only light clothing was needed. “An energetic worker, even inexperienced, can be virtually certain of success with $ 2,000 in cash.” The brochure noted that almost all of the residents of this neighborhood have come here with next to nothing, and “failure here is relatively unknown.”

A testimony from CM Robinson highlighted the potential for a hardworking person to be successful in Sarasota: “If a man can’t make a living here, he can’t do it anywhere. I ran away from a ship in Key West and came here and made it. If they worked here like they have to in Georgia and Alabama, they would all get rich. It is the easiest country to live in and the easiest to move forward.

The new Côte d’Azur?

Trying to come up with a memorable nickname for Sarasota, Sarasota Times writer / editor Rose Wilson noted that St. Augustine would always grapple with the “ancient city,” which forever linked it to the past; that Jacksonville had chosen “Gate City” as a wise choice.

A license plate displays one of Sarasota's earliest nicknames.

For Sarasota, she thought the suggestion of writer Robert C. Ginins of “Riviera City” was a splendid choice. This part of the south of France (the Côte d’Azur), he said, was our only rival in beauty and climate. Wrote Rose, “Suppose your city is listed as ‘Sarasota, the City of the Riviera’, you can count thousands and thousands of educated, wealthy, and traveled people who will instantly respond to the magic word ‘Riviera’. take the name before “any lesser community takes it as their own and deprives Sarasota of its surest name to earn its laurels.”

Over the years, other names have applied: Sarasota, A City of Glorified Opportunity; Sarasota, the seaside town favored by nature; Sarasota, the air-conditioned city; Sarasota, a land of opportunities and resources; Sarasota, the city of homes.

A 1925 Chamber of Commerce brochure has become poetic: “Sarasota County is a land of young hearts. Romance, beauty, poetry of the most beautiful rhymes of nature are synonymous with this land of the heart’s desire.

Jeff LaHurd grew up in Sarasota and is an award winning author / historian.

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