20 Things You Didn't Know about Sarasota

Here are 20 interesting things you probably didn't know about the Sarasota, Florida area. This list came from 1065ctq.com

1. The founding of the town of Sarasota was conceived in Scotland by officials of the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company, Ltd., which purchased approximately 50,000 acres in this region, from Hamilton Disston. the town plat was drawn in Edinburgh, and the first sales from it were made in Scotland and England in the late summer and fall of 1885.

Sarasota, Florida old pictures

2. Do you remember when U.S. 41 ran up and down Sarasota's Main Street?

 Downtown Sarasota, Florida 

Did you know there use to be a casino on Lido? The Lido Casino was built in 1940, and demolished 1969.

Lido Key Casino

3. A large cavernous building built on the corner of Fruitville Road and US301 in Sarasota the mid 1920?s was originally home to an automobile agency. The building was then an American Legion Post (and rumored gambling hall) before being turned into Old Heidelberg Castle, a restaurant which sometimes had a 20? trampoline in the middle of it. The German food and nightly dancing to the "Oompah" band continued into the 1990's. Eventually it succumbed to the reality of modern Southwest Florida commerce, and was demolished. The land is now a Walgreen's Drug Store. 

Old Heidelberg Castle

4. At the intersection of Main St and Palm, there was not only once stood The Sarasota Hotel, but also a drinking fountain for local livestock.

Sarasota Herald

The area still serves a great place for drinking of a different kind.

Palm Avenue/Main Street 

5. On September 13, 1919, the 100 French freighter Bay Ronto was caught in a hurricane, 36 miles west of what is now the Venice airport. 48 crew members escaped in lifeboats as the Bay Ronto took on water and eventually broke up, sinking upside down in 110ft of water. To this day the Bay Ronto is a popular diving wreck, but has recently been home to packs of bull sharks.

Bay Ronto

6. Does anyone remember the South Trail Theater on 41, south of Clark Rd? We're told the adult theater catered to Southwest Florida's seniors.

Sarasota Adult Bookstore 

The theater was most famous for the controversial arrest of Pee Wee Herman's Paul Rueben's. 

Pee Wee Herman 

Sarasota History 

7. Punta Gorda Fun Fact: Really the sign says it all.

Bahia Del Espiritu Santo 1513

First White Man Dies in America

On this day May 24, ships were sent to seek to mainland colony site and to sound and chart the newly found "Bay of the Holy Spirit" (Charlotte Harbor). For three weeks explorations continued seldom by land. There were at lease three meetings with the Caloosas: once they offered "guanin" (low gold) and skins for trade and promised more. But in other meetings fighting erupted and "several indians" and one Spaniard were killed. Thus the first white man died in America - victim of Indian arrows, and the place of his death was called "Matanca" (Pine Island).

Punta Gorda Sign

8. Snow in Sarasota? Did you know Sarasota's first settlers traveled from Europe through the port of New York, then by train to what is now Sarasota. They planted their first crops to begin sustaining their food store, but were quickly thwarted. On January 9, 1886 there was a snowstorm in Sarasota which caused widespread damage, causing most of the original settlers to abandon the area before it began... for fear of starvation. Those who stayed and toughed it out became the forefathers of the Suncoast. I wonder if that is Siesta Key

Horses in Snow in Sarasota 

9. On February 21, 1956, a young man making a name for himself played multiple performances at the Edwards Theater for .76 cents. On some visit Elvis ate at The Waffle Stop near downtown Sarasota.

Elvis in Sarasota


10. The Edwards Theater is now known as the Sarasota Opera House, and is still located at 61 North Pineapple Avenue in Sarasota.

Edwards Theatre/ Sarasota Opera House

11. Did you know that in addition to 12,000 year old Paleo-Indian skeletons, the bones of a saber tooth tiger have been found in underwater caverns at Warm Mineral Springs in North Port.

Warm Mineral Springs in North Port

12. A generation old legend tells the story of a Nazi U-Boat that several times came through Boca Grande Pass during WWII, and ran up into the mouth of Charlotte Harbor. Though no proof exists, there's ample Military record of U-boats traversing the Gulf Coast, and sinking up to 56 vessels in Florida waters.

Nazi U-Boat 

There was once a WWII U-boat lookout, both at the Boca Grande lighthouse and at the Lido Casino in Sarasota. Additionally, military records show the sinking of one Nazi U-boat, the U-166 (pictured), in waters south of the panhandle.

Germ U-Boat Sarasota 

It's widely accepted that U-boats patrolled rivers throughout the world during WWII, and even just recently, one was found at the bottom of the Labrador River in Canada. Could there be a U-boat still on the Suncoast? (the wreck of the U-166 Oct 2003)

Sarasota German U-Boat

13. Sarasota Fun Fact: Within a 20-mile radius in Sarasota, there are more Zagat-rated restaurants than anywhere else in Florida.

Downtown Sarasota Florida

14. Did you know what is now the community of Lake Sarasota, East of I75, near Proctor, was once home to Sunshine Springs & Garden complete with Swan boats, water-skiing elephants, and a beach.

Sunshine Spring and Garden 


In addition to a housing community, the lake is now home to Oak Park Elementary School.


15.  An area east of Rotunda in Charlotte County, known as Mound Key, is thought to be an ancient Indian burial ground. It's also speculated that it's crab-like design was at one time a Paleo-Indian made canal system where ancient canoe trade took place between tribes from the panhandle, and tribes located in what is now Charlotte County. Several significant archeological finds have been made here. Unfortunately the site has also been damaged, and is a target of looting by amateur treasure hunters.


16. The infamous Southwest Florida pirate Jose Gaspar, also known as Gasparilla, never really existed. He was a part of a fictitious fireside legend told by a man named John Gomez, that was subsequently retold as fact in a marketing brochure in 1904 to promote Tampa's first Gasparilla Pirate Festival.


17. The North Jetty Fish Camp concession in Venice is actually constructed from a trolley car originally built in St Louis in 1912. The car ran the transit lines in Tampa until 1916.


It was then shipped by steam barge to the North Jetty, where it would function for decades as a bait shack, before becoming the Venice institution that is the North Jetty Fish Camp concession.


18. Who remembers in 1964 when (at that time) Florida's largest theme park, Floridaland, opened it's doors?

Florida Land 

Floridaland in Osprey hosted 50 acres of gun fighting in the streets...

Florida Land 

...mock hangings at Hangman's Hill...

Florida Land  

...can-can dancers, a dolphin show, and live monkeys.

Florida Land

Floridaland closed its doors in 1971 due to mounting pressure from animal activists, competition from a new theme park called Disneyworld, and a new interstate called I75 which didn't create an off-ramp to Osprey. The site is now near Oscar Sheerer Park and Bentley's Boutique Hotel. (photos: http://www.moldville.com)

Florida Land 

19. Who remembers seeing a movie with a car load of friends at the Trail Drive In?


Opened in May of 1949, the Trail Drive In operated for almost 40 years.


Due to declining revenues and a changing Sarasota, the Trail Drive In closed in 1988.


On it's land is now a storage locker facility, and the Hilton Garden Hotel next to the USF Sarasota - Manatee campus on US41, heading toward Bradenton.


20. The Asolo Repertory Theatre was initially located in Asolo, Italy just outside of Venice. Built in 1798 by Italian impresario Antonio Locatelli, the theatre stood in the former audience hall of the castle of Caterina Cornaro, the former Queen of Cyprus. In 1930, the Asolo Theatre was dismantled and put into storage. In 1949 the State of Florida purchased the theatre which was crated and shipped to Sarasota. The Asolo Theatre opened its doors here on January 10, 1958. The theatre has since been moved to its current location on the Ringling grounds and is now known as The Historic Asolo Theatre. Photo: http://www.baltimoresun.com/




#1 By craig moser at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

I remember eating at The Old Heidelberg Castle with my future wife and her parents who moved to Venice from Germany. It's shame it's no longer there. I also remember the South Trail Theater (where peewee was arrested). Before it was a xxx theater I went to see "The Fox and the Hound" , a Disney movie, for a birthday party.

#2 By Dan Liddy at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

Moved to Sarasota in 1949 and attended 4th. Grade at the old Central Elementary on Golf St. My family actually lived on Lido beach near the old Casino. The Holiday Inn sits on our property.I believe at least 1/4 of the population of Sarasota was conceived at the old Trail Drive In. The whole city was closed on Wednesday afternoons. The only store open on Main Street was the Rexall Drug pharmacy.

#3 By Maynard Hiss at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

The quote "Floridaland closed its doors in 1971 due to mounting pressure from animal activists, competition from a new theme park called Disneyworld, and a new interstate called I75 which didn't create an off-ramp to Osprey. " is inaccurate. The extension of I-75 south of Tampa did not occur until about 1980, so could not have been affected by I-75 not having an off ramp.
The movie Honky Tonk Freeway was filmed in part in Sarasota about 1980 prior to the opening of I 75. In the movie there is a scene on I-75 (which was not yet complete) where an overpass is blown up to prevent tourists from by passing the fictional town. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1755&dat=19810801&id=mk80AAAAIBAJ&sjid=AGgEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3042,65891

#4 By Dan Liddy at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

In about 1947 the movie"On An Island With You " was filmed at Lido Casino in the pool. Esther Williams was the star. My family was fortunate to meet her, and on a weekend off, she taught sickly little me a bit about swimming. Beautiful lady.

#5 By lee at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

In 1951 Cecil B. DeMille made The Greatest Show on Earth about the circus in Sarasota.
Dorothy Lamour lived in our house in Harbor Acres, some of our neighbors were in the crowd scenes.
In it were Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charleton Heston, Emmett Kelly, and lots of other circus stars.
Great movie.

#6 By Dan Liddy at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

I had forgotten about that, My friend Joe Haley and I were in the scene when the show opened. We were 6th graders rushing into the bleachers. I believe Joe still has the tape. It took them all morning and part of the afternoon to get the shot they wanted.
My dad was a doctor here and treated both Cornell Wilde and Betty Hutton during their stay here. And I agree with Lee, it was a great movie.

#7 By Bruce F Harting at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

Hey, I was in one scene also! The scene in the Big Top when Cornell Wilde fell from the trapeze... My class from Central School sat I the bleachers and jumped up as he fell.
Ok, things about SRQ....... My father, Ferd G. Harting built the first hamburger joint on the south end of New Pass Bridge in 1943. At that time, it was just four small apartments. My Dad remodeled the northern most one into a restaurant. The other three he remodeled into living quarters for our family. My Mom ran the hamburger joint and my Dad caught fish for the restaurant. We lived there until 1948 when my Dad sold all of it to Dan Bird and his wife Daisy.

#8 By Dan Liddy and Stephen Heintz at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

Being a teen in Sarasota was innocence personified. We didn't have drugs, or gangs. We had our teen hang out that was "The Smack" but we all called it "Smacks". It was an open air drive-in on Main Street and Osprey. When kids had nothing to do they'd show up at Smacks, where you could get a hamburger and fries for less than a dollar.
Six hush-puppies were 25 cents.

Sarasota's first FM Radio station went on the air
in the fall of 1959 from studios on 5th Street off Central Ave.
It had a one thousand watt transmitter with an (effective radiated power) ERP of 3,650 watts. Announcers were Jimmy Grant and Stephen Heintz. Mel Augustine and
Grant were two of the four partners in the venture.

In the '50s U.S. Highway 41 was the major road to Sarasota. At
what is now 10th street, there was a "road house". It was called
the Broadway Bar, because that part of 41 was
called Broadway. You could drive right
to the "take out window" in front, order your bottle of liquor
("Package Goods") and drive off with it. I had my first legal
drink there with some buddies who had also just
turned 21. Later the place made great Pizza. Today it is a Publix parking lot.

It, like the Gator Bar on Main Street,
was suspected of being a Brothel. I had a part time job on Saturdays and Sundays
delivering on a bicycle, Telegrams for Western Union. On Sunday we opened at 9 a.m., worked till 11 and then in again
at 4 and work till 7. When I opened at nine, the girls from the
Gator gathered at the fire escape and counted their money.
One of the faces that was there frequently on Sunday morning,
was Ross Boyer, the sheriff. With his beer belly, bald head and thick glasses he was not easy to miss. Standing on that escape
one could look across Lemon and see the Sarasota
Police Dept. and they could see the girls counting their money.

#9 By Mark Schneider at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

I wish my brother Kurt (RIP) could join his friends in these comments. I note that the Lido Casino was not a gambling casino, but instead instanced the original Italian meaning: "a building or room used for social amusements." One amusement was the Miss Florida pageant, which was held there circa 1958, I think. As far as I'm aware, the Asolo theater had no Sarasota site prior to its opening on the Ringling grounds. The opening was the subject of a spread in Life Magazine of Feb. 17th, 1958. The Old Heidelberg used to be a VFW hall. You could go there to watch live wrestling matches. I remember watching "Gentleman John Heath"--the St. Martha's coach--wrestle there.
I wonder if the "Edwards Theater" was not the "Florida Theater" when Elvis played there. I used to ride my bike downtown on Saturdays either to see a movie at the Florida or to see a double feature at the Ritz. Those were among the only places, aside from banks, that you could experience air conditioning in the 1950s.
I remember that Smacks, which I was too young to patronize, had a reputation as a vector of delinquency. Parents wanted it closed down.
One of my Sarasota memories is riding my bike down Orange Avenue from Harbor Acres toward downtown on my way to school and watching all the black maids descending from busses. Sarasota was thoroughtly segregated, with balconies for blacks at the movie theaters, and with black kids in "Newtown" winding up eventually at Booker High. I do not recall ever meeting a black person of my age. I have a firm memory of the drinking fountains and restrooms at the Trailways bus station being segregated. Along the same lines, the hotels on Lido did not accept Jewish patronage. It certanly was another era, remembered fondly in so many ways...but obviously not all.

#10 By JW at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

The Edwards theater was also called the Florida Theater which is where all of the HS kids went on Saturday afternoon for a movie

#11 By DanLiddy at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

Yes, I remember it as the Florida Theater, and attended the Elvis Presley show there. There were about 10 other folks in the audience and he stopped midway through the show to ask for some applause for the band. It was pretty pathetic. Movies were 10 cents back then, and we raised HELL when they raised the price to 11 Cents.

#12 By Evelyn Bispham Huntington at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

I recall all of the above comments. The Bisphams lived on Longboat from 1910-22 when there were only 12 families there. The hurricane of '21 washed over the island, ruining their farm, so they started the Bayside Dairy on south 41, eventually selling it to become The Landings. The dairy moved to Bispham Rd south of Stickney Pt, which later became Gulf Gate. Then, my brother, Cy Bispham moved the dairy out Clark Rd., later to become Serenoa Golf Community.
As teenagers, we would climb over the wall of the now Field Club and play Hide and Seek. Lots of fun and we never disturbed anything.
I recall Lido Shores when it was a vast area of shell pits.. Many car axles were broken there when kids would recklessly drive fast, bouncing and crashing up and down the pits.
On north Beneva Rd,, before 17th St., there was our first airport on the left and Ringling Circus Grounds on the right. For 25 cents , on Sundays, we could spend the afternoon at the Circus watching rehearsals and help feed the animals.. What a marvelous town in which to grow up !!!

#13 By JAMES MACKAY at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

We moved to Manatee County in 1948, but had a Sarasota mailing address, because the Sarasota/Manatee County Line was moved south from Bowles Creek to its current location so the Airport would be in both counties. We lived with my grandparents in a house where the Goodwill used car lot is now. I remember walking down to the Trail Drive In with my grandfather when it was under construction. It was only a mile from where I grew up, and I patronized it well into adulthood, before moving to Tampa. For those of you that may have forgotten, "The South's Largest and Brightest Screen." had three apartments in the base of it that one can see clearly in the picutre.

#14 By jw at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

Does anyone remember the drive-in on Bee Ridge Rd that offered air conditioning in your car?

#15 By JW at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

I Jose Gaspar is not real where did Captiva get its name?

#16 By Dan Liddy at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

Captiva is the Spanish word for 'captive'. Yes Gaspar is a myth, but the dozens of other Spanish explorers that came here give it validity. DeSoto, Ponce De Leon, Sr Martinez Ybor, and many others.

#17 By Dan Liddy at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

For JW: - - -I remember a drive in on Stickney Point Rd. (or Clark rd. ) I think it was called the Siesta Drive-In. It didn't do as well as the Trail though. and was only open for a few years. It was near where Gulf Gate Shopping Ctr is now. I don't remember the a/c part though. Maybe I simply didn't go there later on. I left for college in 59.

#18 By Laurel Jeter at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

My memories are as a child growing up in the 1960's in Neptune Beach, Fl, near Jacksonville, coming to Sarasota with my parents to spend our summer vacation each year. We stayed at the 'Town and Beach' motel on Golden Gate Point, which before being torn down for the huge condo complex with the gold dome, had become a retirement home for Catholic Priests. Fond memories of fishing with my Dad, learning to water ski in the bay, and shopping at St. Armand's with lunch at a dime store that served great hotdogs (maybe called 'Tail of the Pup?'. I also remember going downtown in Sarasota to shop in a hardware store with mounted animal heads on the wall. You had to pass Lucille Ball's house when going over the causeway and I always hoped to catch a glimpse! Now in my 50's, my husband and I head to Longboat Key each August for a week at our timeshare, Little Gull Cottages, still enjoying the lovely Gulf side of the state. Thanks for many great memories!

#19 By Brian Hyde at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

My grandparents retired to Sarasota in 1926 from Ithaca, NY. My grandfather, an architect, built a small house on on the bay on Sunset behind where the Ritz now stands. Today that land is part of Lawrence Point, having been bought by David Lawrence when my grandparents died. I used to swim in Mr. Lawrence's pool when I was a kid. My grandfather, Clarence Augustine Martin was the dean of the architecture school at Cornell University and when he moved to Sarasota he collaborated with Ralph Twitchell, the architect of the Lido Casino, to design the now iconic seahorses there. He also collaborated with Thomas Reed Martin (no relation) and was co-architect of the art deco Municipal Auditorium. My grandmother, Gertrude Martin, was the dean of women at Cornell and was very active in Sarasota community activities and charities. She was one of the founders of Happiness House, a charitable endeavor located near the airport. In the fifties she was named Sarasota Citizen of the Year.

I have many fond memories of Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key and downtown in the fifties and sixties. The fishing was good back then!

Nice to remember the old days of Sarasota - today I live in a Tim Siebert house designed in 1957, prior to that I lived in a Lido Shores 1950s model home which I bought furnished from the original owners. That house is gone now and a McMansion has taken it's place. Oh, well, progress.

#20 By Carol Martin at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

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#21 By Joanne Koehn at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

I'm moving to beautiful Sarasota. This history is so important! Thanks!~ Joanne

#22 By P. Welch at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

My parents moved to Sarasota in the mid-fifties. I vaguely remember celebrating one of my birthdays at a restaurant off of Tuttle and near Fruitville which at that time was a two lane dirt road. This restaurant, if my memory serves me accurately, had tables centered around a circus ring and there must have been some kind of circus acts going on but the thing I remember most was that the kids were able to take a ride on a beautiful white horse around this small circus ring. They would strap on some sort of safety harness that prevented you from falling. It was the coolest thing! And it seems like years later this same place became a Chinese restaurant. Does anybody out there remember anything like that or did I just have a wild dream???

#23 By /Betty Davies at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM


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#24 By M McDaniel at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

The restaurant that you are thinking of was Canestrellis. They were a circus family and have a current facebook page. It was sold and became the original House of Chong Chinese Restaurant

#25 By Dianne Jones at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

I don't remember if this drive-in was Sarasota or Bradenton. I'm thinking it was on US301. They turned it into a church, you sat in your car & listened to setvice. It was really full on Easter Sunday. Anyone remember that & what drive-in it was. In the early 90's downtown, Sarasota, it used to have Mas Brothers & other stores. All indoors, so it must of been a mall type place. We'd go there every weekend when they tried making it a indoor flea msrket. Anyone know the history?

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