Sarasota, Florida has one of the nicest downtowns on the Gulf Coast, a charming Main Street with shops, restaurants, and dozens of historic buildings. Interestingly, the city’s charming downtown has been generally overlooked as a tourist destination. Instead, signs on Interstate-75 point drivers to historic St. Armands Circle or the Marie Selby Memorial Gardens. However city fathers and civic leaders hope that situation will soon be rectified, as a portion of the city center was recently added to the list of treasures recognized in the National Register of Historic Places.
The new historic district, bounded by First and State Streets and Orange and Gulf Stream Avenues, is a collection of commercial buildings constructed between (circa) 1909 and 1959 and includes landmarks such as the Kress Building, the Roth Cigar Factory, the American National Bank Building (now Orange Blossom), and the Sarasota Opera House. The historic structures represent a wide variety of architectural styles including Art Deco, Art Moderne, Commercial Modern, Masonry Vernacular, Mediterranean Revival, with subtypes that include Italian Renaissance and Mission, Neoclassical and Neoclassical Revival, and Sarasota School of Architecture.
Unique “high technology” walking tours are currently being developed to show off the new district. Tourists will be provided with a map that specifies a walking route, identifying each historic building along the way. At each stop, visitors will be able to call on their cell phones to hear a recorded message about that particular building. Each year, more than $3 billion are spent in Florida on heritage tours. With the designation, Sarasota hopes to capture a portion of those tourism dollars, while showing off their unique downtown, which incorporates parks, fountains, and sculpture throughout the new historic district.
Photos courtesy of Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut Travels