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Sarasota Draws Charms from Its Fascinating History

It’s fascinating to live in Sarasota and trace its quaint history, even for us in the Judy Kepecz-Hays team, long-time Sarasota residents. Looking back at the past comes even more charming now. Over the years, Sarasota has built around its name the identity of a superb place to live in, attracting an ever-growing number of new residents.

A glimpse of Sarasota’s name first appeared on a circa 1700s map from Spanish explorers showing “Zarazote” in the present-day Sarasota and Manatee counties. A subsequent chart of the area’s coast showed the name Boca Sarazota (Sarazota Pass) between Lido Key and Siesta Key.

Historians believe that the name Sarazota combines “Sahara” and the Native American word “zota.” The rationale here is that the Spanish explorers thought of the Sahara upon seeing the impressive sand mounds of the local coast. These explorers added the suffix “zota” which means “clear, blue, limpid, and beautiful” to the Native Americans then living in Sarasota.

Scottish Pioneers’ Imprint

While Spanish influence appears evident in the naming of Sarasota, it was a Scottish initiative that laid the framework for Sarasota’s development as a community. This came in 1885 when the Scottish firm Florida Mortgage and Investment Company. It promoted Sarasota as a settlement of migrants from Scotland.

This initial development, however, did not prosper, as most of the early Scottish settlers chose to move elsewhere. Nonetheless, the efforts of the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company provided the framework for the Sarasota that we know today. The company’s 1885 survey plotted the reference points for the present-day Main Street, Gulf Stream Avenue, and Five Points in Downtown Sarasota.

As significant, a prominent early settler from Scotland, John Hamilton Gillespie, decided to stay in Sarasota. Gillespie not only built one of the first luxury homes in Sarasota. Some sports historians also cite Gillespie for introducing golf in America with the first course he built in Sarasota in 1886.

 

Imprints of Palmer, Burns, Ringling

Notably, the golf communities in Sarasota are now one of the prime home-buying destinations in Florida. There are now about 30 Sarasota golf courses, most of which serve as the setting of high-end neighborhoods.

Many of these golf communities have been developed in Sarasota’s Palmer Ranch. This master development emerged from the over 80,000 acres in Sarasota that the Chicago socialite, Bertha Honore Palmer, purchased in 1910.
Mrs. Palmer’s Sarasota presence helped inspire other entrepreneurs to invest fortunes in Sarasota. One of them was Owen Burns, a North Carolinian and later Chicago resident. Burns figured in the early development of downtown Sarasota as well as St. Armands, Lido Key, and Longboat Key.
John Ringling and his famous circus likewise contributed to molding Sarasota as one of the growth areas in Florida’s property market during the early 1900s. In 1917, Ringling purchased for development St. Armands and built the causeway linking it to mainland Sarasota. Later, in 1927, Ringling also moved his circus winter quarters to Sarasota.

Up to today, the legacies of Ringling, Burns, Palmer, and Gillespie still can be enjoyed by Sarasota residents. Happily, too, these historic and charming attractions help drive market interest in the prime sales listings of the Sarasota real estate market. To learn which these properties are, call or e-mail our Judy Kepecz-Hays Team so we can promptly set a showing.

Later, in 1927, Ringling also moved his circus winter quarters to Sarasota.
Up to today, the legacies of Ringling, Burns, Palmer, and Gillespie still can be enjoyed by Sarasota residents. Happily, too, these historic and charming attractions help drive market interest in the prime sales listings of the Sarasota real estate market. To learn which these properties are, call or e-mail our Judy Kepecz-Hays Team so we can promptly set a showing.