History of Sarasota

Sarasota History

Known for its mild climate and beautiful white sand beaches, Sarasota has a rich history that has shaped its modern personality. From its museums and shopping districts to its sprawling golf courses and marinas, residents who move to the area are here to stay.

Sarasota holds a reputation as Florida West Coast’s center of art and literature. Its numerous theatres, art galleries, bookstores, and the famed Ringling Art Museum allow the city to thrive as a growing attraction for the art and literary community. Residents also enjoy quality education, with the city home to several elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities.

The City’s Namesake

Many experts believe that the city’s name came from “Zarazote.” The word comes from a Spanish map that arrived in London when the British controlled Florida in 1763 that read “Zarazote” over the modern Sarasota and Bradenton area.

The map also used the name “Boca Sarazota,” or Sarazota Pass, to label the area between the Siesta Keys and Lido. By 1850, both the islands and the bay were marked Sarasota for more recent maps.

The First American Settlers

The Floridian peninsula officially became a part of United States territory in 1819, and later gained statehood in 1845. The construction of Fort Armistead, the first Army installation in the area, turned it into a strategic military location.

William Whitaker, an established war veteran, became one of the first settlers of Sarasota and established his residence on Whitaker Bayou during the 1840s. During this time, several other prominent families also began looking to the region for new land and opportunities.

The Pioneer Families

In 1888, Sir John Gillespie of Scotland established the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company as the city’s first financial establishment. He encouraged people, particularly those from the northern states, as well as Europe, to settle in Sarasota. Gillespie built the area’s first golf course, initially located in Sarasota’s current downtown area.

Owen Burns of Maryland, another well-known developer, helped establish the Sarasota you know today. He, along with another pioneer, John Ringling, attempted to develop the surrounding barrier islands. However, this venture exhausted his resources and forced him into bankruptcy before he could complete his vision.

During this time, other residents helped develop the land, including the Browning family, the Webb family, Lewis Colson, and Bertha Palmer.

Times of Hardship

Unfortunately, the Sunshine State was as severely affected during the Great Depression, along with the rest of the United States. The area also suffered during the 2008 US housing crisis.

Still, despite its past struggles, the city continues to thrive with plenty of new and exciting developments for its visitors and residents.

Sarasota Today

Tourism continues to contribute significantly to Sarasota’s economy, as people flock to the area for vacation every year. With museums, theatre, golf courses, trails, beaches, and more, there’s plenty to do and see.

Sarasota is now home to over 400,000 residents, showing that it’s more than just a tourist destination. The city mixes everyday pleasures with unique attractions to create a balanced community for visitors and permanent residents.

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