Tuesday, February 19, 2019

It's a Jungle Out There Tarzan!

Sources and Credits: Sarasota History Alive, Wikipedia, The Story of Sarasota

My dad built homes in Sarasota in the 1950’s-60’s and the first home he built that I remember was on Bayshore Road near Jungle Gardens.  I recall loving that neighborhood, mostly because of Jungle Gardens. Our little house (pictured at the left) was practically across the street from it and my boyhood friends and I often snuck in the back gate and had many adventures amongst the gardens and wildlife. We didn't know enough to be afraid of the alligators nor did we have much appreciation of all the exotic tropical plants and trees. We were just being Tarzan! And little did I know back then that the area has been used by people since prehistoric times! 

According to research conducted by the Sarasota County Historical Commission for the Indian Beach Historical Marker, the area has been used by people for at least 5,000 years! And this Florida attraction has current roots that run deep. To step into Sarasota Jungle Gardens is to take a step back into time…more than 80 years back in time. 

The concept for Sarasota Jungle Gardens first came in the early 1930s when a local newspaperman named David Lindsay purchased 10 acres of land just west of U.S. 41 with grand plans to develop the virgin subtropical jungle into a botanical garden. Along with partners Pearson Conrad and H.R. Taylor, Jungle Gardens opened on New Year's Eve 1939. According to Karl Grismer in "The Story of Sarasota," the developers added thousands of plants to those already found growing in their natural state. At first called "The Sarasota Jungle," the attraction opened early due to public demand. The December 31, 1939 Sarasota Herald Tribune reported that "The garden, containing more than 3,000 varieties of plants from all parts of the world is being thrown open today only because of many requests from people who would like for their holiday guests to see Sarasota's newest and most beautiful attraction." On the following day, the Herald reported in a follow-up story that "hundreds of visitors thronged at the Sarasota Jungle, luxuriant garden spot on the Indian Beach Road at Myrtle Avenue yesterday to view Sarasota's newest attraction."

My wife also has a connection to Jungle Gardens… a humorous one. Her dad, artist John Hardy, was studying at Ringling College of Art at the time and as a ‘starving artist, also worked for David Lindsay at the Sarasota Herald Tribune as Art Director. (Her mom was Mr. Lindsay’s Executive Secretary). As a third job, John was hired by Mr. Lindsay to work at Jungle Gardens for grounds maintenance, which really meant walking around with a machete cutting weeds. One day, one of the peacocks decided to attack him and he smacked it with the side of his machete and down it went. (Peacocks can be up to 5 feet tall!). He was pretty sure he had killed it and when he found out from they guy working with him that it was Mr. Lindsay’s favorite bird, he was sure he would lose two much needed jobs. But thankfully, the bird was fine…he eventually got up and probably had a little headache, but her Dad kept his job at the Gardens and at the Herald Tribune. Mr. Lindsay never knew about ‘the attack’!

Over the years, the South Florida attraction changed hands several times. In 1971, Sarasota Jungle Gardens was purchased by Arthur C. Allyn. His daughter, Dorothy Tinney, and her family operate the Gardens today. Sarasota Jungle Gardens boasts more than 100 birds and animals, and features bird and reptile shows four times daily as well as a Tiki Garden, Shell Museum, Gift Shop and CafĂ©. Promotional literature boasts that it is the only Florida attraction which allows its Flamingo's to roam freely. Sarasota's Indian Beach neighborhood, with its featured attraction, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, has been a pleasant place to visit since prehistoric times, and remains so today. So when I visit that part of Sarasota showing property, I give a fond nod to our little house on Bayshore Road and to Sarasota Jungle Gardens…thanks for the boyhood memories! 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Out with Old...in with the New!

Happy New Year! 

The New Year is often a natural time for reflection. One way or another, January is the time for assessment and sorting things out in several ways and with good intentions. Out with the old, in with the new. The phrase literally means to MOVE FORWARD...The phrase suggests that in order to move forward, one must purge, remove or let go of one thing, with the expectation of gaining something else. Not necessarily. When it comes to memories, I prefer to hold on to mine as I embrace all the new stuff around me. This can refer to physical objects. It can also apply to relationships, mindsets…and even the town where you grew up.

If you've spent any time with me, there is a possibility that I have said things such as, "I remember when none of these buildings were here”, or “this used to be a dirt road.” It can be interesting to hear stories about how my hometown used to look, and how things used to be, and I like to believe that the pictures I paint in my head of Sarasota back in my childhood, and then share with you, are accurate. I think that this is probably something most people go through who have lived in the same town for a lifetime. Sometimes you have to let go of the old while keeping the memories and embrace the new. Change can be good. And Sarasota certainly has changed! From the Sarasota Herald Tribune: "Dozens of projects, some cresting to the maximum 18 stories, are permanently changing the appearance of the city in a post-recession surge of building sparked by pent-up demand and unbridled confidence in the future". And then there is Lakewood Ranch and the many developments east of Sarasota that I couldn't have even imagined when I was a youngster in Sarasota. 

Many of my days selling Real Estate are spent driving around Sarasota, my hometown. Driving past an area that used to be a baseball field when I was a kid or noticing trees have been cleared off in cow pastures or orange groves and new homes are going up still surprises me sometimes. New roads have been built and old homes torn down, buildings have been revamped or are occupied by new businesses, people have moved, construction is going crazy and new paint is drying everywhere. As I reflect on all of this, I am struck that back in the day, Sarasota was paradise and today…it still is!  Every time I drive across the Ringling Causeway from St. Armand's I am stunned by the city view and how beautiful (and different from the old days) it is! To paraphrase the famous Sarasota author, John D. MacDonald: A person living in Sarasota for a long time, looks around and sees a larger, busier place that is all grown up from their first memories; The person just arriving from the urban northeast sees a brand new paradise of warm weather, sandy white beaches and beautiful sunsets. I don't take living in this paradise for granted - ever! So if you are looking to buy a home and share my paradise, call me! You will love it here!