Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Street Where You Live-Some History

I grew up on the north side of Sarasota amongst the banyan trees, near the Ringling Museum. My wife and I frequently take drives there and throughout Sarasota to see the new developments and reminisce about the old homesteads and streets where we lived and played. Sarasota can be at times, a challenging place to find your way around so we got curious about street names and the history surrounding them.

Downtown Sarasota has super-cute street names named after tropical fruits like Orange, Lemon and Pineapple Street. And then there are the numbered streets and those streets that don’t seem to go through and then pick up again further on. I found a great explanation of all this written by Don Smally, a well-known builder and engineer, in Sarasota’s History Alive newsletter and I quote the article here:

Growth in the metropolitan Sarasota area was putting a burden on the Post Office because of the duplication of street names. Mosby’s work preparing new property maps presented an opportunity to correct the street-naming problem. The Post Master, Gordon Higel asked the County to help him straighten out the mess that existed and to allow him to control the naming of new streets. I was asked to work with him. There were duplications and inconsistencies in numbering that also needed correcting. We devised the following plan: 

East-West thoroughfares would be renamed 'Streets'
North-South thoroughfares would be renamed Avenues
7th became 1st Street
The old 5th became State Street
Roads would remain Roads

There were complaints. “Avenue” sounded classy, while "Street" sounded ordinary. “Why should I have to change my street name from 12th to 6th Street?” "Why should I have to change my address from 2604 to 1804?” The Postmaster prevailed, the changes were made, and all new developments followed the new method of naming new streets. Another major change had to do with the requirement of naming any through road that lined up with existing roads to use the same name, even though miles might separate the two. An example was Beneva Road which had stretches and gaps and was called Oriente north of Fruitville Road. Starting at 17th Street (which used to be 23rd Street) Beneva was the name down to U.S. 41 at Vamo Road. An exception was made for Swift Road. It was allowed to remain even though it lined up with Tuttle Avenue. There was confusion for a while but eventually everyone got used to the new system.

And then there is a lot of old history of our streets names based on landowners and developers ‘way back when.” Examples are the Bertha Palmer family, (Palmer Blvd, Honore Ave., Webber St., Lockwood) and the Burns family who arrived in 1910. Owen Burns closely followed Bertha Palmer to Sarasota and with two purchases, he quickly became the largest landholder within what now is the city, therefore many of the huge Sarasota properties she owned are in what now is Sarasota County (which did not exist during her lifetime). Many of its roads bear the names she put on the trails she established. She did participate, however, in speculation in the city along with others, purchasing undeveloped land in great quantities, and many parcels bear her name or that of her sons among those in abstracts.

And the history of all of our neighborhoods is entirely fascinating from the street names to the famous people who lived in them. For instance, do you know why there’s an Ocean Boulevard on Siesta Key when the city isn’t near any ocean? Turns out the street was named after Captain Louis Roberts’s wife, whose given name was Ocean Hansen.

It was a lot of fun researching this and the fact remains that Sarasota is not the easiest place to find your way around. Thankfully, most of us have navigation systems…and lifetime Sarasota residents like myself who know their way around! So if you are thinking of buying Real Estate in Sarasota, I will be glad to show you around my home town and find you a great home!

Sources and Credits:, Sarasota History Alive, The Sarasota Herald Tribune/Jeff LaHurd

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hometown Englewood, Florida

My wife and I spend a lot of time enjoying quiet, long weekends on Palm Island in the Englewood, Cape Haze, Florida area. Over the past 10 years of spending time there, we have fallen in love with Englewood and the surrounding areas. Growing up in Sarasota, I remember the quiet streets and long stretches of beach here with very few people and I think this is why we love visiting Englewood. As a life-long Sarasota resident, Englewood reminds me so much of Sarasota in the 1950’s. The population then was just under 19,000. The population of Englewood now is just under 15,000, hence ‘that feeling’ I get! 

Englewood was originally planned as a “grove town”. In 1896 the original platt for the town of Englewood was recorded by the three Nichols brothers. They had purchased almost 2,000 acres bordering on Lemon Bay and had grandiose ideas for a planned community they named for their hometown outside of Chicago. Englewood was to be a thriving Florida “grove town”. The Nichols brothers aimed for a lemon growing area since lemons were in high demand for treating scurvy and influenza, both serious health threats at the time. Lemons then were very costly because they had to be imported mostly from Spain so the Nichols saw good profit in their production. The entrepreneurs’ game plan was to sell residential acreage, on which to build homes, for $30 an acre. But the buyer had to agree to also buy another 10 acres of grove land on which to grow lemons. Everyone was to make money, the Nichols brothers on their real estate sales, the buyers on the lemons they would produce. Many small citrus trees were actually planted in the area. Everyone agreed it was grand scheme except Mother Nature. Severe back-to-back freezes killed all the immature lemon trees that had been planted. The lowest temperature recorded was 14 degrees.

With the failure of the groves the Nichols brothers quickly changed their plans and started promoting Englewood as a resort area featuring excellent hunting, fishing and water activities. Englewood became one of the first winter resort spots in Florida. The Nichols built a beautiful upscale hotel complete with a ballroom overlooking Lemon Bay catering to wealthy and adventurous tourists. Several well-known people of the day came to visit but the success was short lived. The Englewood Inn burned to the ground in 1909. That left no place of proper elegance for the kind of visitors the Nichols brothers had been attracting. Besides, getting to Englewood was extremely difficult. As train lines became more common in Florida it was easier to go somewhere else; after all, these early tourists were the kind of people who had their own railroad cars. So ended the Nichols brothers’ dreams of a grove town and then, a wealthy northern tourist trade for Englewood. The only citrus legacies the area has been left with are the two beautiful names; Lemon Bay and Grove City. In Sarasota history, there was a similar theme to the history - The Higels hotel burned down in 1917…it one of his biggest investments was the town of Siesta Key. 

But as we all know today, both areas are thriving resort towns. But the Englewood area still has that wonderful, small-town flavor and I always enjoy showing property there. With regard to real estate, Englewood, and the surrounding areas of Manasota Key, Placida and Cape Haze are typically more affordable in the luxury home market. Now that I have gotten to know the Englewood area well, I have also expanded my real estate business into the area. So…if you are looking to buy or sell a home in Englewood, Cape Haze, Placida, Manasota Key or Casey Key, Florida, contact me and I will show you a delightful, quiet, beautiful beach town with beautiful, waterfront homes.