Friday, October 28, 2016

The "Scary Bridge" to Siesta Key

Bridges in and around Sarasota and it’s world class beaches have played an important role in the development of Sarasota. My wife is a fourth generation Sarasotan and remembers her grandmother telling her stories about her great-great grandfather, who was one of the first physicians in the area. It was routine for him to row a boat or take a ferry (like the one in the photo below, top left) to reach Siesta Key and other barrier islands to tend to his patients. The trip by ferry from downtown Sarasota to Siesta (formerly known as Sarasota Key) took 20 minutes. It was not until 1917, that the first bridge was built between Siesta Key and the mainland. By 1927, the original Siesta Key Bridge was replaced with a more substantial structure, and the current drawbridge (on the infamous list of Ugliest Bridges) was built in 1972.

I remember the second Siesta Key bridge well…I called it the ‘pipe bridge’ because of the metal railings. It tended to be scary to drive across – it was very narrow with a sidewalk only on one side, and it was very close to the water. My wife’s father who lived on Siesta Key remembers staying on a bit too long as a hurricane was spinning in the gulf. When he finally decided to evacuate the family, waves were literally crashing over the bridge as he drove across Sarasota Bay to the mainland.

Many times, when approaching the north bridge, you’ll have to put your car in park while the bridge lifts for boats to pass.  It used to be annoying to me, but now I find that it is a relaxing event to watch the sailboats pass by. If you are looking for a home on Siesta Key or the mainland in Sarasota, give me a call and I will show you around and tell you some stories about growing up here in my beautiful hometown of Sarasota, Florida.

Credits: Sarasota History Alive, Florida DOT, Sarasota: A History, by Jeff LaHurd,

Friday, October 21, 2016

Reeling 'Em in on The John Ringling Causeway

There are so many fun things to do in Sarasota, Florida and not surprisingly, one of the most popular is fishing. When I was a kid, that’s exactly where you would find me…on the John Ringling Causeway Bridge, fishing with my uncle. And I am talking about the FIRST bridge – the old, wooden one. When I moved to Florida at age two with my family, it didn’t take long for all our ‘long lost’ relatives to come visit us in sunny Sarasota and head out to the Ringling Causeway bridge to fish. It was as much a bridge for people as for cars. When word spread that the fish were running, both sides of the bridge quickly filled with anglers ready to reel ‘em in.

The John Ringling Causeway Bridge was opened for the first time in 1925 by John Ringling himself. The purpose was to get buyers from the mainland to the barrier islands, especially Bird Key, to buy land he had for sale. The John Ringling Causeway Bridge has been a unique part of Sarasota's history for more than 80 years.

There have been three Ringling Causeway bridges. Construction on the first Ringling Causeway began in 1925. Ringling opened this first new bridge by driving his famous green Rolls-Royce over the Ringling Causeway on January 1, 1926.

By 1950, it was becoming clear that the original Causeway was not up to the task of handling the increasing traffic. Bird Key was booming along with the rest of the nation, and thousands of ex-GI's who had trained in southwest Florida moved there after attending college on the GI Bill. In early 1951, the State Road Board decided that a new bridge was needed to replace the original Ringling Causeway. The first bridge was torn down. It had cost $1,000,000. The new Ringling Causeway, a draw-bridge, opened in 1959 at a cost of $20,000,000.

Bird Key and the other barrier islands became hugely-popular boating communities in the last half of the 20th century and by the year 2000, the Ringling drawbridge was opening as many as 18 times a day. Traffic was snarling, and the situation grew increasingly aggravating and even dangerous. A plan was developed for a high-span, segmented, precast concrete Ringling Causeway. Work on the third John Ringling Causeway in 2001 and completed the work in 2003. The $68,000,000 bridge is a visually stunning masterpiece of architectural design and is now known around the world as a symbol of the greater Sarasota area. The City of Sarasota and private donors tossed in $1,500,000 for landscaping. The landscaping and bridge are both magnificent and appropriate, as the John Ringling Causeway remains the only way to get “by land” to beautiful Bird Key.

If you are looking for a home in Sarasota, on Bird Key, Lido or Longboat Key, Florida, give me a call and I will share some beautiful properties in paradise and tell you some fun facts and stories about my home town.

Credits: St. Armand’s Circle Association, CNN iReport, Chelsey Lucas , Sarasota County Department of Historical Resources, Jeff LaHurd,,

Friday, October 7, 2016

Getting a Building Permit at Marina Jack's?!

Before I went away to college at the University of Florida and subsequently went into the Air Force, I worked with my dad. I got a great education from him. He was a builder in Sarasota in the 1950’s and 60’s. He built one spec house at a time, sold it and began another. At first, I helped with all of the menial tasks that an apprentice in the construction/carpentry trades would encounter in a craft/apprentice environment. The mindset of this arrangement was to ensure a full and comprehensive knowledge in training to be a craftsman. It was a carryover from my grandfather, who was a German trained master cabinet maker. While certainly not fun at first, I did learn the construction trade in depth and this valuable knowledge has aided me in my profession as a Real Estate agent in Sarasota, Florida.

I started learning the building trades the summer of my 12th year and I clearly remember going with my dad down to the foot of Main Street where The City Pier, which housed Sarasota County Building Department was at that time, to get permits. In those days, believe it or not, the building department was right where Marina Jack’s is now!  And getting a permit was much different in those days. Dad knew everyone in the Building Department and we would just walk in, chat for a few minutes and walk out with our permit.

The City Pier has quite a history. It was one of the first projects undertaken when the colonists arrived in the Sarasota area from Scotland in late December 1885. The only way to travel between Sarasota and points north was by boat, and without a docking facility, the young community would be isolated from its neighbors and the rest of the world. This pier was once home to the Hoover Arcade, the City Fire Department and City Hall. At one time, it also housed Dave Broadway’s Oyster CafĂ©, an ice cream parlor, the Lyric Theater and various other offices. In 1948, the building was devoted entirely to City Hall.

Until 1967, the city's business continued to be conducted in the old Hover Arcade at the foot of lower Main Street, with its inviting archway onto the city pier as it had since 1917. The city manager, Ken Thompson, hired in 1950 was still at the helm guiding Sarasota through these transitional years. From 1917 until 1967 when it was razed, the iconic building became an enduring symbol of Sarasota and one of my favorite boyhood memories.

The entire Sarasota Bayfront began taking on an upscale appearance with the construction of Marina Mar at the City Pier site, known today as Marina Jack. It was built to put “Sarasota on the yachtsman's map” along with the addition of Island Park. Within a short period construction began and was completed in 1965. Marina Mar sold to Jack Graham and Jack Anderson, and the name was changed to Marina Jack. The complex had 110 boat slips, and could berth vessels up to 65 feet long. The marina was the only one between St. Petersburg and Boca Grande that was capable of handling the larger vessels. The restaurant afforded diners panoramic view of the downtown skyline westward to Bird Key, which it still does today.

There are many beautiful residences of all kinds near and around our iconic Bayfront, so if you are looking for a home in Sarasota, let’s meet at Marina Jack and I will share some wonderful stories about My Home Town and help you find your dream home.

Credits: The Sarasota Historical Society , The Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jeff LaHurd, Sarasota Magazine, Sarasota History Alive