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SARASOTA'S HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOODS

Gillespie Park

When the city of Sarasota was platted in 1886, the Gillespie Park area was designated as an experimental farm to promote agriculture in the new city. The effort failed because the soil was unsuitable for farming, but beginning in 1913, residential subdivisions were platted in the area. The real estate boom of the 1920s brought many people to the neighborhood who built middle class homes of excellent quality and craftsmanship.

A focal point of the Gillespie Park neighborhood is the historic park named after J. Hamilton Gillespie, one of Sarasota’s early prominent citizens. The city created the park on 10 acres of undeveloped land purchased for that purpose in 1924. Gillespie Park was developed with special emphasis on recreation for children and, in 1926, won an award in the National Playground Beautification Contest. An oasis of trees and green open space, Gillespie Park now provides tennis courts, picnic pavilion, playground recreational facilities, and features a lovely meandering pond.

Laurel Park

(Bounded by Main Street on the north and Gulfstream Avenue on the south, between U.S. 301 and Orange Avenue.)

The history of this downtown neighborhood dates to the late 1800s when it was included in the original town plat. Most of the homes were built in the Craftsman Bungalow and Mediterranean Revival styles between 1900 and 1926 by circus performers, city officials and downtown business owners.

Now Laurel Park, with an active neighborhood association working for improvements and conservation districts, is coming to the attention of young professionals, artists and families who are purchasing and restoring its charming old houses.

Bungalow Hill

(Bounded by Hudson Bayou on the north and Bahia Vista on the south, between Orange and Osprey Avenues.)

When the city of Sarasota cast a speculative eye on the Bungalow Hill subdivision in 1915 with thoughts of annexation, the “Bungalow Hillers” responded by incorporating as an independent municipality and calling their little town Sarasota Heights. They had no intention of paying the high city taxes when they knew it would be many years before they would benefit from infrastructure provided by the city.

This very successful subdivision was platted in 1921 and called Bungalow Hill because it sat on a hill overlooking Sarasota Bay and most of the structures were the popular Craftsman Bungalow style.

Many significant early houses still remain in this lovely, quiet neighborhood. Rigby/LaPlaza Subdivision is a nationally and locally designated historic district on Osprey Avenue between Alta Vista and Bahia Vista Streets.

McClellan Park

(Bounded by Hyde Park Street on the north and Cunliff Lane on the south, between Osprey Avenue and the Sarasota Bay.)

An arched entrance with pergolas on Orange Avenue leads to Sarasota’s first suburban community. Katherine and Daisy McClellan’s plans for an exclusive residential area began with the purchase of 57 acres on Sarasota Bay early in 1915.

The McClellan Park neighborhood is interesting because of the wide variety of architectural styles that reflect its long growth period — Craftsman Bungalow style, Spanish style and Tudor Revival houses and houses built in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Of special interest is The School in the Park (at the former site of the McClellan Park School), which is surrounded by Oval Drive between Osprey Avenue and McClellan Parkway. Built in 1915 to serve as the clubhouse for the subdivision, the Craftsman-style wood frame building rests on an Indian mound. Many street names in this area reflect this heritage.

Granada

(Bounded by Siesta Drive on the north and Bay Road on the south, between Osprey Avenue and Tangier Terrace.)

“Lucky” Charley Tyson of Lebanon, Tennessee, came to town in 1924 and began buying up undeveloped acreage along Siesta Drive from Osprey Avenue to the bridge. Local folks shook their heads and wondered that anyone would pay so much money for all that palmetto scrub.

His keen judgment and hard work paid off. A year later, his beautiful Granada was, according to the contemporary press, “a beehive of energy, a picture of artistic merit.”

This lovely, quiet neighborhood now contains an interesting variety of styles — excellent examples of Craftsman bungalows and elegant Spanish styles.
Granada was a favorite of prolific architect Thomas Reed Martin, who chose it for his home and office in his later years. Referred to as the “father of Sarasota architecture,” Martin designed more than 500 structures throughout the county from 1910-1949.

Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores

(Bounded by Indian Beach Drive [27th Street] on the south and the Ringling complex on the north, between U.S. 41 and Sarasota Bay.)

During the 1920s land boom, wealthy New Yorkers bought choice waterfront lots in the new Indian Beach subdivision which was promoted as the “ultra-exclusive residential area” on beautiful Sarasota Bay.

As you travel Bayshore Road and its cross streets, you will see many beautifully preserved and important historic homes, large and small.

Also in this neighborhood, you will find the preserved, palatial homes of three early Sarasota movers and shakers side by side on Sarasota Bay — John Ringling, Charles Ringling and their good friend, Ralph Caples — and the Ringling Museum.

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