America’s Second Home
From our earliest recorded history in the 1500’s to today, Sarasota has been a popular place to come and start a new stage of life.
In 1539, Hernando de Soto, armed with the King of Spain’s contract to conquer the Florida’s landed on the shores of the Manatee River. The area just south of the River, he named Zara Zota, because of the radiant effect of the water reflecting on the pristine white sandy beaches.
When de Soto returned to Spain, some of the volunteers who accompanied him, including many of African descent, chose to remain in their new found paradise, despite its lack of gold. Happy with the abundant fish and wildlife, they settled near and intermingled with the remaining native Americans, themselves a mismatched group of defectors from other tribes the Spanish named “Seminoles,” or runaways.
European settlers, fishermen, cattle ranchers, Yankees, escaped slaves and newly freed black men all found their way to Sarasota, many attracted by advertisements from the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company.
But our area’s biggest boom came in 1902 when the train arrived, bringing with it the city’s most famous re-locators – a family of circus performers and promoters by the name of Ringling. The seven Ringling brothers originally came to Sarasota to invest in land, but fell in love with the area and eventually made it the winter home for their traveling circuses.
Although the circus has since moved further north, the Ringling name lives on in street names, the Ringling Museum of Art and the prestigious Ringling School of Art & Design.
Today, Sarasota is considered one of the primary cultural meccas in Florida, boasting the Sarasota Ballet, the Sarasota Opera, the Florida Studio Theater, Florida State University’s Actor Conservancy, several repertory theaters, an annual street painting festival and one of the largest film festivals in the state.
In addition, Sarasota is home to the Mote Marine Laboratory, the Sarasota Jungle Gardens and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
And people are still relocating to our tropical paradise. According to Census estimates, Sarasota is the 11th fastest growing community in the United States. And that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of tourists and winter residents that flood into our little metropolitan area each year.
Unfortunately, all that growth often means that some of the ‘original’ residents of our new housing developments have to find new places to call home.
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