Sarasota’s Iconic Sea Horses….



These sea horses never appeared in Laurel Park however residents of the neighborhood frequented Lido Beach and the Casino complex during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and knew them well.

Lido Pavillon 1

The majestic eight-foot tall sea horses first appeared in Sarasota at the Lido Beach Casino. They were the design of the building’s architect, Ralph Twitchell. The sea horses were cast of concrete in molds created from full-sized, hand drawn templates. They were then attached to the façade of the casino to create an eye-catching motif on the second story promenade of the building. For almost 30 years they stood as sentinels casting an eye out to sea and affording the perfect backdrop for a magical photo portrait in paradise.

original S-horses

The Lido Casino was demolished in 1969. Before it was completely razed a number of the sea horses were carefully removed. They are privately owned. The building is gone, the sea horses disappeared from sight but the memory of them remained for all who enjoyed the marvelous Lido Casino complex.

Picture 61-1

A cherished photograph is of Esther Williams hanging off one of the marvelous horses at the Casino.  She was in Sarasota taking a break from shooting a Tarzan movie in Florida.


In the 1980’s the developer of the Quay project on Sarasota’s bayfront brought the delightful iconic figure back to the community. The majestic sea horses were again cast in concrete, from the original design and attached to the Sarasota Quay. The Quay opened in 1987 with eleven sea horses adorning its entryway and main plaza.


Once again these magical statues became the backdrop for photographic portraits. Visitors and residents, young and old came to the Quay and posed for a picture with them.


History has a way of repeating itself. The sea horses again lost their home after 20 years. The Quay was demolished in 2007. This time the horses were rescued by citizens interested in seeing the icons returned to the community.

sea horse down


IMG_0272 - Version 2

In 2009 two sea horses were installed at Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium in celebration of the opening of a new and fascinating exhibit on sea horses and to recognize the value Mote contributes to defining Sarasota as a unique and exceptional community. The year 2009 marked the third time the sea horses made a welcome appearance.


Thanks to a generous donor another sea horse has reappeared and is permanently installed for all to enjoy at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s home on Fruitville Road.


Another sea horse is now on temporary display along Palm Avenue, in front of the William Hartman Gallery.   It is becoming a popular photo backdrop for shoppers and strollers on the street.


Sarasota’s majestic horses

75 years old!

Welcome to the Laurel Park Historic District website devoted to offering information about a special place in one of Florida’s most unique and exceptional cities.   Coastal Living calls it the “Dream Town.”   So enjoy digging through the pages and reading the blog below………….


Laurel Park is one of Sarasota’s oldest downtown, urban neighborhoods. Located between Orange Avenue and Washington Boulevard south of Morrill Street, it is approximately 50 acres stretching over nine city blocks in Sarasota, Florida.


Single-family homes, duplexes and small apartment buildings dating back to the 20s line the original brick paved streets. Architectural styles include Frame Vernacular, Masonry Vernacular, Bungalow, Mission Revival, Colonial Revival, and Mediterranean Revival. While primarily residential, the neighborhood includes some businesses and was once the home of Sarasota’s County Courthouse and Sarasota’s daily newspaper, The Sarasota Herald.


Posted in Uncategorized

Form-Based Code for Laurel Park

Here is an update to the  “Form-based code post I wrote last year………… It is a recent article by Robert Steuteville, Better Cities and Towns that is worth adding to the original post- Form-based codes offer predictability.


The City of Sarasota is finally working to update and improve the existing zoning code.  To accomplish this, they are looking to use form-based code.  The Urban Design Studio, a newly formed department in the City of Sarasota has been charged with the task.  This modernization of Sarasota’s code can have positive effects on the future development of the Laurel Park National Register Historic District and the entire area known as Laurel Park, currently zoned RSM-9.


So what is Form-Based Code?

The Urban Design Studio defines it as:

A form-based code (FBC) and its districts are different than conventional zoning. Conventional zoning designates permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another, and while it separates uses it is difficult to determine what the built environment or community will look like upon build out.  A Form-based code fosters predict-able buildings and high-quality public spaces by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. The zone districts or Transects are regulations, not mere guidelines, adopted into city or county law.  Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and public spaces such as parks, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in words and clearly drawn diagrams, metrics and other graphics.  

Interestingly, in 2007 Sarasota County Commissioners voted to add form-based code to the county’s zoning as an option for mixed-use and commercial development.  According to Sarasota County’s website:

The code is uniquely designed for Sarasota County and addresses the connection of:
  • buildings and pedestrians to the public realm,
  • the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another,
  • the scale and network of streets and blocks.

Sanborn 1

Old Sanborn Map – portion of  today’s Laurel Park


In older neighborhoods such as Laurel Park where the history of development spans decades with no one code applied throughout, the flexibility of form-based code makes terrific sense.

Laurel Park is a neighborhood where:

  • setbacks vary from property to property
  • architectural styles are diverse
  • portions of the neighborhood lie in a flood zone
  • there are a variety of sidewalk, curb, apron, and street types
  • rights-of-ways vary

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is a wealth of information to quickly understand how form-based code works and can be applied.  The Form-Based Codes Institute  is an obvious and a tremendous resource for information:

555 S. Osprey








More information is available in these articles:

Dialing-in your zoning to fit your community by Tony Perez

Why design guidelines on their own don’t work by Kaizer Rangwala

Form-based codes – new approach to zoning  published by Smart Growth Tactics

Finding the right path through design review by Kaizer Rangwala

Ways to fail at form-based codes: Don’t articulate a vision by Hazel Borys



Why are Laurel Park’s Historic Structures now being Regulated?


Laurel Park became the City’s seventh National Register of Historic Places District March 11, 2008.  It took 3 years, the work of many volunteers and came at a cost to the City of more than $15,000 (paid consultants) to survey, create boundaries, record the history and make application for the State of Florida to submit to the National Park Service for determination.

1630 oak

Before moving forward with the application meetings were held, articles published, and notices were sent to Laurel Park’s property owners to explain the process and the advantages of becoming a National Register Historic District. It was made clear to the owners by the City-hired consultant and City staff that designation would not impose any restrictions on what owners could do with their property.

Designation is an honor. By becoming a National Register District Laurel Park joined a prestigious list of more than 86,000 properties across our country and 1,602,903 resources whose history is now recorded and woven together to form a great heritage quilt of historic fabric throughout the United States.

Womans Exchange

To learn more about the National Register go to Dwight Young’s article in Preservation Magazine.  It is a fantastic read!

There are 270 structures in Laurel Park’s National Register District that are designated as “contributing” to the Historic District, and 2 properties that were individually nationally designated prior to the district designation.


After Laurel Park was awarded the National Register District designation the City then enacted an ordinance that created regulations which now affect the owners of both the Individually designated national structures and those 270 structures that contribute to make up the District.

Division 8 of the Sarasota Zoning Code applies to historic preservation.  It was written to regulate locally designated individual structures and local districts.  The words National Register were never in the code prior to 2009 and today they only show up in two sections of the code.

Sec. IV-822


and Sec. IV-824


Minutes from the City’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board meetings confirm the lack of  authority to review Individually designated  National Register properties or properties that contribute to National Register Districts even after 2009……….

“Chair Hall noted that, at the last meeting, members were exploring the idea of increasing protections to historic resources within the City; particularly those listed individually on the National Register that are not locally designated and those listed as contributing structures to National Historic Districts that are also not locally designated.  Those structures do not go though local review by this board.” Jan. 11, 2011

“Historic preservation protections in place in the City’s ordinances do not extend to National Register Properties.” Dec. 14, 2010

“It came as a surprise to citizens that nationally nominated properties are outside the reach of this Board.” Oct. 12, 2010

City staff, in the person of the City’s historic preservation planner, appears to be taking a different approach.  More recent HP Board meeting minutes below find the historic preservation planner explaining why a structure is before the board for review…..

“the proposed demolition was before the HPB due to being a contributing structure to the Laurel Park National Historic District…”March 10, 2015

329 s osprey

329 S. Osprey

“329 S. Osprey…when the Laurel Park Historic District was created the structure was listed as a contributing structure, and that is why it was coming before the HPB.” Feb. 10, 2015

But staff seems to pick and choose what is regulated and what comes to the HBP Board. The structures below, all contributing structures to the Laurel Park NRHD, did not come to the HP Board for review.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.18.15 PM

1902 Laurel Street

1902 Laurel St. – a 1920’s contributing structure – Demolished 3/2014

1652A Oak St. – a 1925 contributing structure – Demolished 6/2015

1910 Laurel St. – a 1925 contributing structure – Demolished 10/2010

Let’s back up a little…..Prior to 2009 if you wanted to demolish your historically designated structure in Laurel Park and your structure was on the Florida master site file, which it likely is, you had a 45 day demolition stay after filing for a demolition permit with the building department.  This stay was created to allow time for the City’s HP Board and local historic preservationists to contact interested parties who might move and reuse the structure rather than demolish it.  After that 45 day period the property owner was free to proceed with the demolition.

So, what started as a way for the City, interested parties and preservationists to have time to find options to reuse historic structures vs. demolition has morphed into a burdensome, often hardship, situation by creating requirements for the structure owner to have to comply with. The 2009 demolition ordinance creates a 120 day stay period and the HP Board has the authority to extend the time to a year.  The City requires a review of the building by the City’s historic preservation planner. The City has the right to require mitigation. The City may, and often does, require the owner appear before the City’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board, hire a preservation professional to document the building history, and obtain written quotes from a certified house mover for relocation of the structure and quotes from a salvage company to remove anything that can be repurposed. The City also charges an additional fee for an historic structure to be demolished, over an above the demolition fee. Whoa!  That is a big dump on owners who never expected and were never notified they would have this responsibility.

Ohio Place

We live in a great small city.  It’s comparable in size to Charleston but it has nowhere near the amount of, or quality of, historic structures.  Sarasota is not a community that values historic preservation due in large part to the lack of public discussion, inclusion and neglect of noticing residents about structures deserving of preservation.

In Laurel Park, property owners have little idea of the status of their old homes and even less about what incentives or benefits are offered to them to preserve and retain these small bungalows and cottages. Even the neighborhood association makes no effort to help the residents to understand what is designated in the district.

There are actually incentives and benefits offered by the City to preserve historic resources such as relief from building codes and an exemption from FEMA so you can add on to a historic structure in Laurel Park’s flood zone without having to build up.  Who would know???   Where is the discourse, the education, the promotion?  The City’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan has an entire chapter on Historic Preservation with goals and objectives that states the City will do just that.

This past May was preservation month. Every year in May communities and cities and states throughout the United States take the month to celebrate, honor and  promote historic preservation.  In the City of Sarasota, not one event was scheduled.


The regulations imposed on nationally designated structures should be removed.
They were enacted without notice to those most affected by them.
They are applied unequally and they fly in the face of the City of Sarasota’s voluntary program to preserve our historic resources.

The 3rd Historic Designation in Sarasota …….


 Burns Court National Register District


In the City of Sarasota there exist 2 types of historic designation offered to help preserve and  recognize the city’s valuable historic resources. One is national designation – listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  The other is local designation offered by the City of Sarasota.

542 o

Local Designation in Laurel Park


What is confusing and misrepresented as a designation is a listing called the Florida master site file – FMSF for short.  It is not an official designation.  It is not a designation at all.

1526 harbor dr

FMSF Listing Harbor Acres (built 1948) – demolished


FMSF is a state archive for resources in Florida that are 50 years old or older. It’s simply an inventory.  It contains more than 196,000 cultural resources and more than 21,000 manuscripts.  Anyone can submit a resource to the FMSF – anyone!  For preservation researchers, the FMSF can be a goldmine of information.  But for communities who attempt to utilize it as a standard in their local ordinances the FMSF can create quite a quagmire.


It is not consistently updated, submission forms are riddled with inaccurate information and the inventory does not cover all resources in the state or the City of Sarasota that are 50 years or older by any stretch of the imagination. Establishing any review authority based on a list that has no standards and no requirements is extremely problematic.

The City of Sarasota has included the FMSF in their preservation ordinance and uses it as a standard for review almost on par with the City’s locally designated historic properties. This why it is often erroneously referred to as a historic designation.

1370 Harbor drive

FMSf listing – built 1950 – yet this is clearly a newer structure and demolition of the original house was never recorded on the fmsf


On the upside – FMSF properties are offered relief from the building code in the City of Sarasota. Listing on the FMSF offers owners virtually all the same exemptions and latitude that the City provides to locally designated property owners such as easy zoning code variances and relief from building codes.


Excerpt from  –  Zoning Code City of Sarasota

FMSF zone code

A FMSF property owner can decide whether to go through the City’s review process to take advantage of the perks, while owners of locally designated structures must go through review whenever a building permit is necessary for alterations. I confess, I own a locally designated property and the review is not a big issue – but if you are considering applying to locally designate your property, why would you choose to spend the time and money to do that when you can receive the same benefits by simply listing the property on the FMSF and escape mandatory review?  Ah, but you would miss out on the bronze plaque and your property being recognized on a  list on the City’s website!

Edmondson_0015 - Version 2FMSF property preserved and enlarged through the exemption from the 50% rule


The pièce de résistance of inclusion on the FMSF in the past was if you owned a property listed on the FMSF that is in a flood zone, the property was automatically, without review by the City’s HP advisory board or the administration, exempted from the 50% rule and substantial improvement. You could add on without elevating the new addition saving thousands in the construction cost to elevate! Many very small, functionally obsolete cottages on great pieces of waterfront which would ordinarily be bulldozed were preserved because of this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 4.26.54 PM

Indian Beach Lane – Built 1935 – Not on the FMSF


On the downside – property owners  whose property has been listed on the FMSF face a rude awakening if they wish to demolish their building.  The city requires a review of the building by the City’s historic preservation planner.  The City has the right to impose a stay of 120 days and require mitigation.The City may and often does require the owner appear before the City’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board, hire a preservation professional to document the building history, get quotes from a certified house mover for relocation of the structure and quotes from a salvage company to remove anything that can be repurposed.  The City also charges an additional fee for a FMSF structure to be demolished, over an above the demolition fee.

3714 & 3708 flores

House on left FMSf  (built 1938) – House on right is not FMSF  (Built 1951)


For property owners the biggest problem is they likely don’t even know their property may be on the FMSF.  No one notifies you when it is listed.  The City doesn’t publicize or promote it. It’s not in your deed, its not part of the property appraiser’s information on your property.  You have to be savvy enough to know the list exists.  For years the only way to find out was to contact the state’s preservation office. More recently, the City has put the FMSF list on their website.

1103 &1115 s orange

  House on left is FMSF (built 1915) –  House on Right is not FMSF (built 1950)


What is shameful is the condition of Sarasota’s FMSF list.  It is not maintained, not regularly updated and it is far from being comprehensive.  By using the FMSF list to regulate what properties in our city can receive valuable relief from the building code and what properties may be subject to a demolition stay and the added expenses to mitigate before demolishing a structure are incredibly unfairly applied.  While your 1964 house may be on the FMSF it is quite possible your neighbor’s house built in1936 is not.   Many old properties have been overlooked. Many properties have not been surveyed.  If the city code is to be fairly applied then all properties built before 1965 need to be listed on the FMSF.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 4.33.39 PM

House built in 1980 is ERRONEOUSLY listed on the FMSF


Owners of individually designated and contributing properties in the City’s National Register Districts have a somewhat unique situation. The City’s preservation ordinance and code pertain to locally designated individual resources and locally designated districts.  The City’s zoning code does not regulate nationally designated properties or districts except in one, and only one section of the code – Section IV-822.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 2.46.01 PMIn 2009 the City amended the zoning code to be able to administratively regulate  national register historic resources individually and within a national district.


More than likely your nationally designated property whether individually designated or contributing to a national district is also on the FMSF. Your historic property is subject to whatever regulations the City has mandated for FMSF listings.


National Register of historic places Contributing Structure


So when you and your neighbors agreed to have your neighborhood designated a national register district and were told the designation would not impose any obligation on your property, or restrict your basic right to use and dispose of the property as you see fit that was and is true from a national /federal level.  It is not true from a local level.  As is the case here, the City of Sarasota considers your property a FMSF listing and has amended the zoning code to regulate your historic resource.

Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 4.21.34 PM



So how exactly does a property get on the FMSF?  Over the years the City has hired consultants to do windshield surveys of the City’s historic resources in specific neighborhoods around the City.  Some of the listings are done fairly thoroughly, others not so. As national districts are proposed and their resources identified, they too are added to the FMSF.  Individuals can also add properties to the list.  It is the responsibility of the City to maintain the city’s FMSF listings.


Dolphin Street Structure circa 1902 – Demolished but FMSF listing Remains


Can a property be removed from the FMSF list?  Nope.   According to the State Historic Preservation Office ” The FMSF holds public information gathered, processed, and organized partly or wholly at public expense. Granting such requests would be similar to deleting public tax records at the taxpayer’s request.”


Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 4.38.36 PM

You can request information about a particular FMSF  listing by contacting the State Historic Preservation Office via email: The office is extremely helpful and quick to respond.

FMSF forms are  also available online if you wish to file one for your 50 + year old resource. For more information on the Florida master site file visit:

Laurel Park’s New City Commissioner!

Congratulations to Ms. Liz Alpert who was sworn in today as the City of Sarasota’s District 2 City Commissioner.  She already deserves many thanks for deciding to run and for holding a clean, fair and respectful campaign.  It is a welcome change to have a working business person representing us.

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 7.14.51 PMphoto credit – The Observer Newspaper

Additional congratulations go out to Shelli Freeland Eddie who challenged the appointed City Commissioner, Stan Zimmerman and unseated him to represent District 3.  She too ran a wonderful campaign earning the votes to represent Sarasota’s citizens.

Many thanks to both City Commissioners!!!

Sarasota’s big top………..

In honor of World Circus Day, April 18, 2015 a reminder of Sarasota’s spectacular circus days……….

201circuswinterquarterspictorial1946In 1927 John Ringling moved the winter quarters of the circus to Sarasota.  The move would forever change Sarasota.


It wasn’t unusual to be stopped at a railroad crossing in Sarasota by the circus train coming or leaving town.


The winter quarters was located on the east side of Beneva Road just north of Fruitville Road.  It was a formidable training center for the artists and champions of the circus.


In the 1950’s a huge metal sign was erected to attract visitors to the unique facility.  The sign and the quarters no longer exist.  The circus moved its home to Venice then on to Tampa. Today Ringling Bros.and Barnum & Bailey Circus winter headquarters is close by in Ellenton bringing an even greater circus presence to the area.


 Winter quarters performance


Circus families established homes in the Laurel Park area, in the colorful mobile home park in what is today’s Payne Park and throughout the city.  They brought with them a tapestry of cultural backgrounds.

F Elslander_JRNorth

John Ringling North with Father Elslander blessing the circus.


It was common to pass the performers on the street.


Circus acts premiered in the dining room of the John Ringling Hotel.  Captain Heyer on his steed, Starless Night would trot right in the front entrance to perform during dinner.

Starless Night

Today Sarasota is most fortunate to have the circus again taking a significant role in the community.  The Circus Arts Conservatory including the Sailor Circus Academy and Circus Sarasota are internationally recognized organizations promoting, teaching and performing the art in our very own back yard!


To truly get a feel for the enormous part the circus has played in the growth of Sarasota, The Circus Museum on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum campus is worth a trip and another.  It is a special place for children of all ages!