A Trip Down Memory Lane

Take a trip down memory lane in Sarasota, Florida. Take a look at the images and stories around Main Street in downtown. 

Sarasota Main Street 1887

Main Street dead-ended at the Sarasota House, the first hotel in the Sarasota Bay region. Built a year earlier, it remained a hotel until razed in 1924 for a bank building. The two indentical buildings at the end of the street was nearest present day Five Points. Adding a modern touch to downtown Sarasota was a newly built wooden sidewalk. 

Sarasota Main DwellingWell.com

Gulf Stream Avenue and Main Street 1886

The photo below reveals the fact that the Sarasota Bay area was mainly a fishing village in the nineteenth century. The fishing industry actually dissipated after the boom of 1886-1887, for steamer skippers never liked the trip from Tampa out into the open Gulf down to Sarasota. 

Gulfstream Avenue DwellingWell.com 1886

The Town Dock 1888

At the foot of Lower Main Street in 1888 featured the Vincent Brothers restaurant (left) for those townfolks and guests of the newly-built De Soto Hotel (right) who loved fried oysters. But business wasn't too good this year, for the "boom" of the 1886-87 had just ended. The Sarasota House (top right) was nearly deserted.

Sarasota Main Street DwellingWell.com

Looking Towards Five Points 1898

The photo below was taken from Palm avenue and Main Street looking towards Five Points which for many years had a watering trough for horeses and cattle that roamed outside their nearby pastures. The water from an artesian well drilled in the in the intersection of Five Points; its purpose was to provide water for the new De Soto Hotel. 

Five Point 1898 DwellingWell.com 

Without a Railroad 1899 

The area's only commercial contact with the outside world was the pier at the foot of Main Street. It was the first structure built by the Florida Mortgage and Investment Co., the Scot syndicate. Harry Higel, one of the area's most dynamic leaders at the turn of the century, bought the wharf and adjoining land in the 1890s for $1,500. 

Lower Main Street Sarasota DwellingWell.com 

The Bucolic Scene 1900 

Lower Main Street in 1900 belies the boom that was beginning in downtown Sarasota at the time. Most talked about event was the installation of the first telephone line in November 1899. Two phones were put in - one at the post office at Main and Pineappl, the other at Harry L. Higel's office down on the pier. The first call came from a real estate salesman in Manatee for the publisher of the Sarasota Times, extending congratulations. During this time George Blackburn built his new hardware store (left) at Main and Palm; Coarsey, Turner & Co. opened a general merchandise store at Main and Pineapple; H.B. Harris announced he had just opened up a barber shop, and real estate advertising stepped up its offer of 40-acre tracts on the outskirts at $3 an acre, and downtown bayfront lots at $200 - cash!

Lower Main Street 1900 DwellingWell.com 

Home of the Sarasota Times 1899

Opened by Cornelius Wilson and his wife (in doorway) on Main Street between Palm Avenue and Five Points. Wilson has been publishing the Manatee County Advocate but felt the Sarasota area was about to take off again and wated to ride up with it. He was right, partly because there was no place for Sarasota to go but up. Not more than a dozen families lived in the "town plat" area in 1899, and the areas, hovered around 300. Wilson never  missed an issue of his tabloid, and when he died in 1910 his wife continued publishing until 1923, when she sold out to T. J. Campbell and J.H. Lord.

Sarasota Times 1899 DwellingWell.com

Big Business in 1902

Big business was handled at the general store of Highsmith, Turner & Prime on lower Main Street. Selling everything from diapers to caskets, Prime reported doing "a mighty good business but very little of it for cash." He recalled one year selling $100,000 worth of good and taking in only $1,000 in money, the principal mediums of exchange being alligator hides, furs, sweet potatoes, chickens, and other produce. The partners then would convert this to cash by shipping all the stuff to market by boat. 

Main Street Sarasota 1902 DwellingWell.com 

Five Point Landmark Sells for $3,000 in 1903

Five Points landmark for 38 years was the Sarasota House, built at Main and Central in 1886 as a rooming house by the Scot land company. Last owner of the hotel was J. H. Lord, who bought it for $3,000 in 1903. The previous owner paid $500 for it three years earlier. Lord kept the Sarasota house until 1924, when he tore it down for the site of a bank, the First Bank & Trust Co., now the Palmer National Bank & Trust Co.

Bought for $3,000 in 1903 Sarasota 

A Chorus of "Ayes" 1905

A chorus of "Ayes" echoed out of Harry Higel's wharf office one night in October 1902, signalling "incorporating the village into a town and fighting for improvements we need so badly." The 1903 Legislature validated the incorporation, and Sarasota began its official history, starting with the election of Col. J. Hamilton Gillespie as its mayor. Sarasota even began to look organized, what with stores and houses filling both sides of Main Street from the Five Points to the pier. The 1905 photo below shows one of the town's first purchases - a street lamp haning over the fountain at Five Points. It was one of the three kerosene lamps, bought for $3.75 each; the other hung at the foot of Main and at the railroad depot. At left is the Bank of Sarasota, adjacent to Jim Flood's barber shop that soon would become the Badger Pharmacy. The town's first library in 1907 was on the second floor of this building. 

Five Points 1905 Sarasota DwellingWell.com 

Photo below shows lower Main street, viewed from the pier looking forward toward Five Points, taken the same year. Sarasota House is seen at end of street.

Five Points Sarasota 1905 DwellingWell.com 

Fishing in Dresses 1904

Back from an afternoon of fishing with their catch in 1904 are Dr. F. W. Schultz, his wife, and a friend. They are passing through Five Points. Under construction in the background is the present Badger Pharmacy building. The house in the rear belings to J. B. Turner, who ran a general merchandize store. The new Methodist church is at left. 

Five Points Sarasota 1904 DwellingWell.com 

The Badger Drug Store 1905

A famous landmark to Sarasotans for more than 50 years, the Badger Drug Store had its beginning in 1905 at Five Points. It was named by Dr. F. W. Schultz for his hometown state, the Badger state of Wisconsin. 

Badger Drugstore Sarasota DwellingWell.com 

Faith in 1906

Methodists are often recognized as having the first orgnanized church in the Sarasota Bay region. In the early days services were held in a frame building at Five Points with curcuit-riding preachers like Revs. George Glazier and E. F. Bates coming down from Manatee. By 1906 the congregation had progressed to buying this building, and adding a belfry and steeple, at Main and Pineapple. The church and site were sold to J. H. Lord five years later - for $1,600 - and the Methodists erected a new structure on Pineapple. The Methodists always have had a "downtown" church. Hamming it up for the photographer, four telephone workmen pose atop a pole while stringing line. 

Main Street and Pineapple Avenue 1906 DwellingWell.com 

Fire on Main & Palm 1908

Without a fire department, the town of Sarasota threatened to go up in smoke in 1908. The Bay View Hotel on the northwest corner of Main and Palm, only two years old, caught fire, and in minutes the 16 room wooden structure crumbled, shooting sparks across the rooftops of other frame buildings.  Without a volunteer fire department, not even a community hose, the townspeople watched and prayed. Nothing else caught fire.

Main and Palm DwellingWell.com 

Business on Main Street 1909

Business Block on lower Main Street in 1909 housed Blackburn's hardware store, a tailor shop, the office of dentist S.S. Curry, and J.B Chapline's real estate business.  It is now the First Federal parking lot.

Business on Main St Sarasota 1908 DwellingWell.com 

Hook & Ladder 1911

Horsing around with the town's new hook and ladder wagon in 1911. The photo was taken in front of J.W. Harvey's blacksmith shop on Main between Lemon & Orange.

Hook and Ladder 1911 Sarasota DwellingWell.com 

Parade at Five Points 1912

Awaiting a prade in 1912, the menfold mingled in the street and on the pier while the women clustered about the Belle Haven Inn at right. The view is looking toward Five Points up lower Main Street from the pier. Sarasota still was two years away from being designated a city, but great progress had been made since its incorporation as a town in 1903. Sidewalks and curbs were in, telephone lines up, water and sewer lines were being installed, and a seawall along Gulf Stream Avenue was ordered poured. The plentiful water oaks cooled the street but no one ventured out without a hat or parasol.

Five Point Parade Sarasota 1912 DwellingWell.com 

A Major Hotel

This hotel and improvement to the downtown in 1912 was construction of the Watrous Hotel on the northwest corner of Main and Palm. It later became the Colonial Hotel, and finally was torn down.

Major Hotel Sarasota 1912 DwellingWell.com 

Tallest Fireproof Building in Sarasota Burns to the Ground 1912

A full three stories high, the Tonnelier Building in 1912 became the town's tallest and most modern building. Occupants were the Palms Hotel, with 38 rooms, and the Palms Theater, the first indoor theater in the area. Considered fireproof because of its brick veneer walls, the Tonnelier building failed to prove it when the city suffered its worst fire in 1915. An old wooden structure at Main and Pineapple, used as a town meeting hall and church, caught fire and flames leaped down the north side of lower Main Street. A shoe repair shop went up, then a 5 & 10 store, then a fruit stand; flames hesitated only briefly against the walls of the Tonnelier before consuming all three stories. Adjoining the Tonnelier was the Sarasota Times building. Its presses were too big to be moved, but the fire never got to them. Volunteers contained it, without the help of the city's new fire engine; it was on order but not yet delivered. Damage was estimated at $100,000.

The Tonnelier Building in 1912 Sarasota DwellingWell.com 

Main Street and South Gulf Stream Avenue Beautification 1913

A public work day was declared November 6, 1913 by Mayor Harry Higel to beautify the newly created park at the foot of Main Street on South Gulf Stream Avenue. Owner Burns and George L.Thacker supplied loads of black dirt, with Burns turning over his team of mules to do the heavy clearing work. While the men graded the sandy area and spread on the rich top soil, the ladies (below) planted plugs of grass and flowers and served refreshments at the Belle Haven Inn. Workers' thirst were alleviated by youngsters who had formed a drinking water bucket brigade.

Sarasota Main Street and South Gulfstream Avenue 1913 

Sarasota Main Street and South Gulfstream Avenue 1913 

Commerce on Sarasota Bay 1916

Commerce First Developed out on the piers in Sarasota Bay so that by 1916 the wharf at the end of lower Main Street took on the appearance of an early-day industrial park. It housed machine shops, fish houses, auto and motor supplies and even a refining company. The 1921 storm washed away most of businesses.

Sarasota Commerce 1916  

A Full House

The opening of Sarasota's new theater - The Virginian, was on the north side of Main Street where Penny's used to be. The Virginian was established because the city's only theater, in the Hover Arcade on the pier, had been purchased for a City Hall. Movie-goers remember the Virginian as becoming the Sarasota Theater and finally the Ritz Theater. The Sarasota Minstrels opened the Virginian, but two weeks later films started playing, the inaugural movie being a five-reeler called "Jimmy Valentine." An extra attraction was the first installment of the thriller, "The Strange Case of Mary Page."

The Virginian Sarasota 1916

Traffic Jam at Five Points

After the parade, a huge traffic jam at Five Points.  The view is looking east on Main Street.

Traffic Jam Five Point Sarasota 1916 

Welcoming Parade at Five Points for World War I Veterans 1918

Welcome Buddies, reads the sign painted on the pavement at Five Points to signify the event. A welcoming home parade in 1918 for the veterans of World War I. The view is looking east on Main Street.  A flag pole was installed in the intersection.

Parade for World War I Veterans 1918 

World War I Ceremonies at Five Points 1919

Ceremonies at Five Points on the first Armistice Day in 1919. More than 200 Sarasotans joined the armed forces for World War I and all came back but one, a young soldier who died of pneumonia in camp.

Ceremonies at Five Points 1919 Sarasota 

Biggest Celebration in Sarasota's History 1919

Biggest celebration in Sarasota's history to that time was the 1919 first Armistice Day observance. Veterans marched down the street to Five Points for speeches around the flag pole that was erected to honor the servicemen, athletic events were held at the golf course, lower Main Street was blocked off for an evening of street dancing and the Woman's Club made plans to plant 181 water oaks on Main Stree from Orange Avenue to the east city limits, a section that was later dedicated as Victory Avenue.

Armistice Day Sarasota 1919 

Seaboard Comes to Sarasota

The old Seaboard depot at Main and Lemon, used for decades prior to the merger of the Seaboard with the Atlantic Coast line.  Arrival of the Seaboard in 1903 touched off a building spree in Sarasota but didn't have the same effect to teh south, in Venice, when a spur was built to that area in 1911. In fact, it angered the Venetians because the Seaboard ran its tracks right through the area and built its station a mile south, in the sticks, where few folks could get to it. In retribution, the people of Venice changed their town's name to Nokomis. But old-timers still attribute much of Sarasota's progress prior to the mid 1920s to Seaboard's arrival (the ACL came to town in 1924), mainly because roads into the area were atrocious.  The Tamiami Trail linking Tampa with Bradenton, Sarasota, Fort Myers, and then Miami wasn't inaugurated until 1928.

Seaboard comes to Sarasota 

Sarasota Skyscraper at Five Points 1924

Another "Skyscraper" started upward, at Five Points, in 1924. It was the First Bank & Trust Co., headed by J.H. Lord. The bank lasted four years, going under during the bust in 1929. Depositors were paid 18 1/2 cents on the dollar. Three days after it closed, it was reopened by Palmer National Bank & Trust Co. 

Sarasota Skyscraper Five Points 1924 

Aerial in 1925

This rare aerial photo shows Sarasota in 1925 when the Belle Haven Inn was still standing and the Hotel Sarasota was completed. The Inn was torn down that year, a year of tremendous building activity in which real estate sales soared to $11,420,000. Nobody knew then that this was the peak of the boom (sounds familar). The Mira Mar can be seen in the photo, two private bathhouses on piers, a pair of box cars loading up on the fish house spur dock, and the First Bank & Trust Company building, now Palmer Bank.  The Bandshell in waterfront park was also new.

Aerial Photo of Downtown Sarasota 1925 

Young City with No Traffic Problems 1926

A 1926 scene of Sarasota's Main Street looking east toward the Lemon Avenue intersection. A young city with no traffic problems, the train (left center) crossed this main artery many times daily.  The building with the Coca Cola sign was teh Ouida Hotel, later called teh De Soto Hotel, still standing today beside Norton's camera shop. A building on the south side of the street advertises Sarasota Theater's upcoming movie, a Zane Grey western, "The Thundering Herd."

Little Traffic on Main Street Sarasota 1926 

Sarasota State Bank

It was a humble beginning in this building in 1939 when it opened with total assets of $240,000. Reorganized into the Sarasota Bank & Trust Co. in 1951.

Sarasota State Bank 1939 

Downtown, Golden Gate Point, Bird Key, Lido Key & Siesta Key 1937

Here is Sarasota looking toward the islands and the Gulf of Mexico. Although the Ringling Causeway to the islands had been built more than 10 years earlier, the beaches remained relatively undeveloped because of the Depression. The stand of pines from which the bridge starts is Golden Gate Point. Bird Key, the first island, was inhabited only by the Ida Ringling North family. The Lido Beach Casino was still a year away from construction. Siesta Key is to upper left.

Aerial photo of downtown Sarasota, Bird Key, Lido Key & Siesta Key 1937 

The Bust That Set In

In 1926 this led to the Orange Blossom Hotel at Palm and Main. The building started out as a bank, the American National Bank in early 1926. It was erected by the building company that owned and razed the landmark Belle Haven Inn, which was on the site. In May 1928, the banks vice president announced "Due to our inability to realize on past due paper, coupled with a number of heavy withdrawals recently, we are unable to continue without probable serious losses." Depositors had $462,000 in the bank, but received back only 18 1/4 cents on the dollar. For several years the building stood vacant. In 1937 it was converted into the Orange Blossom Hotel. But in 1965 it, too was closed and again it was vacated, not to be occupied again until 1967. It reopened as the Orange Blossom Club Apartments.

The Bust That Set In Sarasota Orange Blossom Hotel 1937 

Another Sarasota Real Estate Boom 1940's

Downtown was the hub of city in the late 1940's and remained so until the housing boom took off in the mid-1950's with its emphasis on subdivisions and shopping centers. With World War II over, and winter visitors again coming to Sarasota, it became obvious to city officials they had to prepare for another spurt of growth. One decision included changing the city charter, providing for a city manager.  Another was planning for a new waterfront area, which included filling in Sarasota Bay far beyond Gulf Stream Avenue. Still another was working with Arvida Corporation, the Arthur Vining Davis firm that purchased much of John Ringling's real estate for development, particularly the offshore keys.

Another Sarasota Real Estate Boom 1940 

Is That the Gator Club?

Main Street 1940's Sarasota Looking East 

Air Force Bases in Sarasota & Venice?

Train Station of the Seaboard Air Line at Main and Lemon during World War II. Because of the many servicemen at the Air Force bases in Sarasota and Venice, the depot was at it busiest during the war.

Air Force Bases in Sarasota & Bradenton? 

Undeveloped Waterfront Land in Sarasota?

A small city by most standards today was Sarasota in the late 1940's when this photo was taken. The population figure was almost 20,000 and most offices and homes huddled around the downtown core. Little development is seen east of the courthouse (at top) and to the south (right). Even the property along the waterfront remained undeveloped.

Undeveloped Waterfront Land in Sarasota 1940's 

Downtown Sarasota in 1955

Some 10 years away from the filling of the waterfront, a new Ringling Causeway, and construction of condominiums along Gulf Stream Avenue and on Golden Gate Point.

Aerial photo of downtown Sarasota 1955 

Contact us at 941.822.0708 if we can help you buy or sell Sarasota real estate


Photos and information courtesy of Yesterday's Sarasota by Del Marth.


#1 By Debbie cristiani at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

My grandfather either owned or worked in blacksmith shop not far from the tackle box on main street

#2 By LAURA SUSAN RUNYAN at 8/20/2021 6:23 AM

My Dad worked at Palmer Bank & Trust Co. Grandparents moved house from M&J rd in Miakka City to Adelia ave. behind First Baptist church on Main st.
Thanks for sharing photo's of our hometown.

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