Sarasota’s 1st golf course……….

We can thank John Hamiliton Gillespie for bringing the game of golf to Sarasota.  Gillespie arrived in1886 and soon after he laid out a two-hole practice course near today’s main post office on Ringling Boulevard. The 9-hole course was constructed after the turn of the century with a clubhouse added in 1905.

Aside from being the man credited with saving Sarasota, he was the first mayor of the town and known throughout Florida as the “Golfing Mayor.”  He was indeed avid about the game. He laid out courses in Kissimmee, Jacksonville, Winter Park, Tampa and Cuba and wrote articles for the “New York Golf” and “Golfers’ Magazine.”

Apparently he was known to remark to men who responded to him that they did not play the game – “Mon, y’re mission half ye life.”


Here is the layout of Sarasota’s 1st golf course on a 1967 ariel photo.  Laurel Park is off to the right.  The last street on the right is Morrill.  (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)  Posters of this photo with the course are available at William Hartman Gallery on Palm Avenue.

Gillespie 3

For more information about “The Colonel” John Hamilton Gillespie pick up a copy of Jeff LaHurd’s book “John Hamilton Gillespie, The Scot Who Saved Sarasota” at Bookstore1 on lower Main Street.

Woman’s Exchange……….


Woman’s Exchange


A landmark in Sarasota and an anchor building in Laurel Park’s national historic district – The Woman’s Exchange.  The not-for-profit organization benefiting the arts has occupied the building since 1969.


539 S. Orange Avenue – Building in the rear is todays spanish Oak Apartments


The structure was constructed in 1925 for the Sarasota Herald Newspaper – today’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune, our city’s longest running newspaper.  This building, along with several industrial and commercial buildings, and the Sarasota County Courthouse, which was briefly housed on Oak Street, created a pocket of commerce in a growing residential area during Florida’s Land boom.

WE2Sarasota Herald Building


In the 1980’s the city surveyed and inventoried its historic properties and selected 24 buildings that it felt exemplified Sarasota’s history to be preserved for future generations.  Those 24 properties became the first in Sarasota to be honored by inclusion on our nation’s most prestigious list of valuable historic buildings and sites – The National Register of Historic Places.  The Woman’s Exchange building is one of those honored properties.



Going Backwards………..


It certainly seems appropriate on throwback Thursday to post pictures of the Hover Brothers’ Arcade built in 1913 on Sarasota Bay at the foot of Main Street.  It was the seat of our government, Sarasota’s City Hall for many, many years.


It was just this week that Sarasota’s newly appointed City Commissioners took on one of their first major issues – a neighborhood sewer lift station.  All five commissioners voted to spend an outrageous sum of money to build none other than a replica of the Hover Brothers’ Arcade building.  This disneyesque structure will house nothing more than the mechanics of one, yes, just one, of our neighborhood sewer lift stations.

The sewer lift station is being located in Luke Wood Park.  Ironically a previous City Commission voted to locate this neighborhood lift station on this land that was gifted to the people of Sarasota in 1931 for the sole use as a recreational park.


 So here you have it in a nutshell!

Our city tears down a perfectly good building on its bay front.  The City disregards the intended use of land generously gifted to them for all citizens to enjoy by relocating a sewer station to the middle of it and now they are going to recreate the building they tore down 47 years ago at an astronomical price to move our waste.

hoover-demoDemolition of the Hover Arcade – City Hall in 1967

What’s next?

I suppose when the next sewer lift station needs replacement our city can recreate the train depot and for the next one, The El Vernona / John Ringling Hotel or the Mira Mar.


Hover Brothers’ Arcade from the City Pier

Orange Avenue after 1908

orange av

This is a terrific view of Orange Avenue looking south from Ringling Boulevard.  The street immediately on the right is Cross Street.  The street further down on the left is Morrill.  At the corner of Orange and Morrill stands the Church of the Redeemer.  It was moved to the site in 1908 and remained there until 1944.  Today’s Laurel Park is off to the left beyond the Church of the Redeemer.

The map below may help to orient you to the view.


Coming to Sarasota……….

Sarasota’s bayfront would have greeted you with this landscape 127 years ago……


It was 1887 and John Hamilton Gillespie was beginning to revamp a fishing village on the west coast of Florida called Sara Sota into “the prettiest place on the coast of America”.  In the distance you get a peek at the town’s new hotel, The DeSoto.


The hotel was sold in 1902 and reopened with a new name – The Belle Haven Inn.  Almost a decade would pass before the demand for rooms was greater than what were available.

belle haven inn$(KGrHqN,!k0FD4Q1jDDNBR!D0BgeK!~~60_57

A new wing was added to the rear of the hotel in 1911, a year after Owen Burns arrived to make Sarasota his home.  Mr Burns’s vision and drive would ultimately transform Sarasota beginning with improvements to the bay front including a seawall.



The Belle Haven Inn sat on land that is today the location of The Orange Blossom  Condominium at the corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue. And yes, The Orange Blossom was originally a hotel – one of many that lined Main Street and Palm as Sarasota grew into a sought after winter resort destination.

The Hotel Orange Blossom Sarasota

Happy Birthday Owen Burns!

145 years ago today the man who truly transformed Sarasota from a sleeping fishing village was born – Owen Burns.  He arrived in Sarasota in 1910 for a visit and stayed for the rest of his life. At one time he was the largest landowner in Sarasota having acquired the immense holdings of the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company.Owen Burns Jeff LaHurd’s book “Owen Burns, The Man Who Bought and Built Sarasota” is a wonderful read filed with photos and a terrific map of Sarasota marking the locations of the significant improvements Mr. Burns was responsible for.

Burns and family 2Owen and Vernona Burns and family on the porch of their home which was located at the corner of Gulfstream Avenue and Tamiami Trail.

Below is the Herald Square Building Mr. Burns built opposite his Burns Court Bungalows along Pineapple Avenue just outside the Laurel Park district.

herald sq

Much of today’s Laurel Park was platted by Mr. Burns in the 1920’s.  Portions of the neighborhood, including Washington Park were also developed by him.

Owen Burns ad 1924

For more information visit:  or on Facebook at: Owen Burns Celebration.  If you are looking for a copy of Mr. LaHurd’s book on Owen Burns try Bookstore 1 on lower Main Street in downtown Sarasota.

Happy, Happy Birthday to a very special man!