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The eventual rise of Longboat Key

by Roger Pettingell

Longboat Key: Circus times to today

Our story picks up from last week on the history of Longboat Key

Ritz-Carlton hotel in 1952
Ritz-Carlton - Ringling's dream of a grand hotel on Longboat Key ended in the late 1920s. The structure was demolished in 1964 to make way for Arvida's new Longboat Key Club with its many amenities

While John Ringling had eyes on developing his circus on the mainland, he had a keen sense for the barrier islands as a real estate developer. He was the visionary for bringing his circus to Sarasota in 1927 and purchasing land in the Sarasota area. It was that period before then in which he purchased much of the south end of Longboat Key, an undeveloped Bird Key, St. Armands Key and a couple smaller keys. He set out to create a grand playground for the rich to vacation in this slice of paradise.

A short time before then, another developer Owen Burns had his own plans for developing Sarasota and the barrier islands, starting with the development of the Lido Key Beach. Before World War I, under his Burns Realty Company and the Burns Construction Company he was instrumental in its development and the area now known as Burns Court in Sarasota.

He and Ringling together were working together to manage the tremendous growth they had seen for the area. This is where we pick up from last week on the early years of Longboat Key, and progress to what is today Longboat Key.

St. Armands Circle was a vision Ringling had for shops and dining. He purchased a home under construction to be used for Warren G. Harding as a winter White House for the president. This was a great growth spurt for the area during this period of the roaring twenties. Ringling also set out to construct the first Ringling Bridge from Sarasota to St. Armands Key in 1925. It was then that his grandest illusion was forming, the construction of a Ritz-Carlton branded hotel that would be the invitation for the rich and famous.

Tragedy struck in many forms. In 1921 a hurricane devastated the area and created a New Pass inlet that now separates Lido Key from Longboat Key. Ringling may have used this as an omen to build his Ritz-Carlton on the southern edge of Longboat Key overlooking New Pass. A bigger set-back may have been the economic breakdown and land bust during the Great Depression that started in 1929. It didn't stop there, there was the death of his beloved wife, Mable, also in 1929. The project was abandoned and the empty shell of this great hotel would sit idle for many years. John Ringling himself would pass on several years later.

One of the remaining Whitney Beach Cottages
Progress Continues - One of the remaining Whitney Beach cottages on the Longboat Key Arts Center site was moved to make way for a new development. A new Arts Center behind the Publix is in development.

One of the first developments on the island began in 1935 when Gordon and Lora Whitney purchased Gulf to Bay property on Longboat Key and built 13 cottages on the northern end of island. These were resort-style properties with a tennis court for use by guests. Whitney Beach was popular and even used during WWII to house servicemen. The resort would close in 1957 and some of the cottages moved to different locations. One of the last remaining cottages was moved to the northeast corner at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street. It will be repurposed as a Longboat Key historical museum and greeting center for visitors entering from Bradenton and Anna Maria Island.

Longboat Key would make modest gains in the years following, certainly not at the fervor pace that Ringling had set. Development was slow to a point that even in 1942 the U.S. Air Force saw the barren land on Longboat Key and determined it would be a great location for use as 50-caliber target practice at the beginning of World War II. For a few hours a day P-40 aircraft would strafe the mid-section of the island in their practice sessions.

The town had seen moderate growth following the war and the town would vote to incorporate in November 1955 by nearly a unanimous vote of nearly 100 citizens. Eight commissioners were elected that day, the Honorable Wilfred LaPage was selected among them as the first mayor of Longboat Key. The anniversary is next week.

Longboat Key was to see its next growth spurt. Arthur Vining Davis, with his namesake company by combining the first two letters of his name, Arvida Corporation, made a major investment in Longboat Key by buying up Ringling property holdings from Bird Key to mid-Longboat Key. In the years following the 1958 purchase, the 91-year old Davis with his corporation made great strides in the development of Longboat Key. It was a modern era of growth.

Under Arvida's commitment, Bird Key was forming from a small area of land to a tropical island of well-planned canals and streets. Dredging and land fill expanded the land mass from 12 acres to 250 acres by the early 1960s. Stately homes were built to attract celebrities. The Bird Key Yacht Club was formed in 1959 to become a center post of activity. Today Bird Key is a family-oriented community where you can visit with neighbors on the street, walk your pet or take a relaxing ride on a bike in this gated community.

Arvida was also responsible for the development of Country Club Shores on the south end of the island with its series of canals with direct access to the bay. Arvida was responsible for much of the Bay Isles development, with communities that were distinctly different from each other. Bay Isles is a gated set of communities and its owners have deeded access to the Bay Isles Beach Club. Grand Bay, with its six buildings on the bay is a prime example of this luxury development. Fairway and Marina Bay offer similar lifestyles. Corey’s Landing has its villas with maintenance-free living. Next door is Queens Harbour with single and two-story upscale homes.

New Guard Gate
Longboat Key Club - The old guard gate to Longboat Club Road is in the foreground of the new entrance structure under construction by Ocean Properties

Arvida soon began one of its biggest projects where the abandoned Ritz-Carlton hotel started by Ringling sat deteriorating. It demolished the structure in 1964 and started its plans for the Longboat Key Club where the degrading structure stood. An 18-hole golf course was built near the structure. The Longboat Key Club is now comprised of two championship golf courses, marina in a protected harbor, tennis courts and fine restaurants. Ocean Properties purchased the resort in 2012 and plans are underway to expand with hotels and family residences, discussed in this REALTALKplus™ article.

The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort was also beginning its rise in the 1960s. It would grow to become one of the world’s renown centers for training rising stars in professional tennis. Celebrities gathered there to relax. George Bush stayed at the resort on September 10, 2001 before attending a class demonstration at Booker Elementary School the next day. It was there that he was informed of the hijacking of American airplanes. The Colony fell into bankruptcy and eventually closed in 2010.

Longboat Observer update
Colony Beach & Tennis Resort - Developers faced with obstacles to develop the abandoned property.

But the Colony may rise again. The Orlando company, Unicorp National under its president, Chuck Whittall, have plans to demolish the existing buildings to build a set of 78 luxury residences and a 166-room hotel on the site. Many of the buildings have been taken down, but Unicorp faces some legal hurdles with ownership rights of some units. The completed resort will be run by St. Regis, which manages some of the top hotels in the world and is part of the discussion in this REALTALKplus™ article.

This new growth helps to spurt some luxury home sales, including four new listings last week. Three qualify as Coldwell Banker Global Luxury properties for their price and luxury features. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
604 Mourning Dove Drive $2,495,000 Video Photo Slideshow
1465 Hillview Drive $1,995,000 Video Photo Slideshow
260 N. Shore Rd, #4 $1,695,000   Photo Slideshow
519 Bayview Drive $849,000 Video Photo Slideshow


Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing


Longboat Key Early Years

by Roger Pettingell

Beginnings from Indians to Depression

The Longboat Key formation by early settlements of migrating northerners

Shell mounds in Sarasota and Longboat Key
Early Shell Mound - This mound in Sarasota is evidence that Indians once inhabited Longboat Key

As in today, Longboat Key was used as a vacation destination long before the European explorers landed on the island. As comical as that may sound, there is evidence that native Indians came to Longboat Key to escape persecution or as we do in modern times, travel to a warmer climate. Studies of bone, pottery, with hunting and fishing artifacts lead archaeologists to believe that these early settlers were living on Longboat Key anywhere from 1,000 BC to 800 AD.

There is even evidence they vacationed here. But not from the north, but from the neighboring mainland areas that surround Longboat Key. It may have been paradise to them then just as it is now. Most of this evidence has been gathered from the area around what is now known as Bay Isles. This includes the area of Queens Harbour, Corey’s Landing and Grand Bay.

The skeletons that have been found depict a tribe of very large people. The remains of Indians as tall as 7 to 8 feet have been uncovered. Of the five tribes in the area, anthropologists suggest that either the Timucan or Calusa tribes were most likely these early settlers. Their diet consisted of mostly seafood as you might expect, but I read one account that indicated tiger and deer bones have been unearthed.

It is suggested that any remaining Indians were forced out when European settlers discovered the island and began inhabiting it around the time of Hernando de Soto. The two tribes either fled or were wiped out by small pox and other diseases. Although no official historical records were kept, de Soto’s chief scout Juan Anasco may have been the first. He was commissioned by de Soto to explore the area of Tampa Bay and the surrounding islands.

There is no confirmation but wrecked vessel parts found in the area of Whitney Beach on the Manatee County northern end were believed to belong to Anasco. A current Longboat Key road was named for the scout, Juan Anasco Drive is on a canal that opens to Bishops Bayou. It is even suggested that de Soto himself explored Longboat Key with Anasco in 1539 but moved north to the Palma Sola area when they could not find fresh water.

Thomas Mann home
First settler Thomas Mann and his thatched roof house

Although some locals from the mainland traveled to Longboat Key in the years after, it wasn’t until 1888 when Thomas Mann acquired 144 acres through a homestead claim that Longboat Key had its first full-time settler in recorded history. A few years earlier, Colin Witt was granted 7 acres on the north end and Rolin Witt claimed 57 acres on the south end. Their settlement on the island was postponed. Elizabeth Mann, the wife of son James Mann, was granted land in 1892 and along with others, Longboat Key had its first population growth. The Mann’s meager survival came from farming the land on Longboat Key.

Communities were seeing their first formations. Longbeach on the north end was platted on old maps. Other plats were named Long Beach, Long Boat Beach, Long Boat Key and Longboat Key. They converged and is now considered one town Longboat Key, celebrating its 63rd anniversary as an incorporated town on November 13. The island town is divided into two counties, Manatee and Sarasota. It is one of three cities in Florida with this distinction.

The beginnings of Corey’s Landing, now behind the gates of Bay Isles was forming its growth in 1904. Corey’s Pier was a stopover of the first regular steamer to frequent the island, the Mistletoe. Byron Corey was operator of the pier and the location of the island’s first post office in 1907, with Corey as its first postmaster. His regular trips to Sarasota for mail was on his own boat the Vilas. Corey was also a produce farmer and shipping entrepreneur. Today Byron Lane in Corey’s Landing offers exclusive views of the bay and flows through a stretch of Harbourside Golf Course, one of two championship courses of the Resort at Longboat Key Club. Named for the steamship, Mistletoe Lane runs parallel to Byron Lane.

At the turn of the century Longboat Key experienced more growth and was becoming known for its resorts and winter homes. The fertile soil made for tropical fruit growth which was transported by steamship for sail on the mainland. Boat was the only transportation for tourists to visit Longboat Key but had limited room accommodations. The Jordan Hotel on Broadway began its operation in 1913 and had become the place to stay on the island. Named for its first owner, Rufus Jordan, the hotel was renamed the Longbeach Hotel after its 1925 sale.

Soon after, famed circus promoter and real estate magnate John Ringling put his eye on Longboat Key and sought to create a destination for the rich to come and play. His first bridge to Lido Key was built in 1925 so his target audience could find their way to the key. The bridge was replaced two times after the initial bridge, the most current is a Sarasota landmark 60-foot segmental bridge completed in 2003. Ringling started his grand endeavor in 1927 to build the best destination hotel in the world, and market it under the Ritz-Carlton trademark. But the great depression plunged the country into economic chaos and the project was abandoned months after its start. Its shell was demolished in the 1960s and a new wave of development started for the next chapter of Longboat Key.

The Legacy of John Ringling was covered in my 2016 REALTALKplus™ article and the iconic bridge in this 2018 REALTALKplus™ article. A light and lively poem in 2016 on the History of Longboat Key was penned by our own Mary Kay Ryan, director of customer care.

Much of the history of Longboat Key has been preserved by the Longboat Key Historical Society. The organization has been looking for a new home and is hoping to receive enough funding to purchase the land at the intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street. There they have moved a displaced cottage that once belonged to the historic Whitney Beach Resort. This was one of 13 cottages built in the 1930s by Gordon and Lora Whitney.

1710 Kenilworth Street
West of Trail - 1710 Kenilworth Street, Sarasota

I listed three new homes for sale on Longboat Key and Sarasota last week. The first is a rarely-available 3BR townhouse residence located directly on Longboat Key’s Gulf shores at 260 N. Shore Rd, #4, offering stunning modern upgrades. Begin your dream home or a renovation project in my second listing at this waterfront site in Country Club Shores. Just a stone’s throw away from Sarasota’s open bay waters, this 3BR/3BA is located at 570 Yardarm Lane. In my third listing immediately enjoy a luxurious lifestyle West of the Trail! This newer, 4BR home at 1710 Kenilworth Street is in a sought-after, centrally-located neighborhood. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
260 N. Shore Rd, #4 $1,899,000   Photo Slideshow
570 Yardarm Lane $899,000 Video Photo Slideshow
1710 Kenilworth Street $889,000 Video Photo Slideshow


Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing


The Ringling Bridge - An icon for Florida

by Roger Pettingell

The third bridge is a visitor attraction

Designed as a transportation function but with beauty over Sarasota Bay

Ringling Bridge by Boat
View by Boat - The Ringling Causeway Bridge is majestic if viewed from the air, land or boat. The segmental box girder bridge has 11 spans for an official length of 3,097 feet. Its width accommodates two vehicle, bicycle and walking lanes in both directions.

Everyone has their favorite Sarasota icon to visit, whether it be Ca’ d’Zan at the Ringling Museum, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Opera House or Marie Selby Gardens. Most have at the top of their list the Ringling Causeway Bridge that provides the main thoroughfare between Sarasota and the barrier islands of Bird Key, Lido Key with St. Armands Circle and Longboat Key. It’s been photographed from almost every angle with spectacular shots at sunset or night. It’s been walked across, biked across, run across and driven across. There is even a Segway tour over the bridge.

Now it spans 60 feet high over the Sarasota Bay and in a 2015 count transported an average of 35,000 vehicles per day. And in peak season that means more cars travel the two lanes in both directions. The two draw bridges to the north on Cortez Road and Manatee Avenue are aging but still handle high traffic volumes. The latest proposal is to replace the Cortez Road bridge with a similar style bridge as the Ringling, 65 feet in height.

Original bridge built in 1925
The original bridge was built in 1925 as transportation between mainland Sarasota and the increasing popularity of the John Ringling attractions in the keys. Sarasota County Historical Resources photo.

The Ringling Bridge actually had been a draw bridge at one time. It was the second bridge in the history of the iconic causeway that first started in 1925, constructed by its namesake John Ringling. As it has been passed down through local lore, John Ringling used his circus elephants to pull the raw materials to its proper locations to build the bridge. He used his own money for construction of the bridge that would provide transportation to support his dream of Lido Key and Longboat Key development. It was one lane in each direction with a wooden divider separating oncoming traffic. Fishermen would line the bridge which Ringling donated to the city in 1927.

The first bridge would last a mere 34 years. One lane of automobile traffic was insufficient and boat traffic was increasing, in 1951 it was decided to take on a new eight-year project of constructing a drawbridge with two lanes of traffic in each direction at a cost of $20 million. Near the end of its lifespan the bridge was opening at a rate of 18 times per day to boat traffic, stifling both modes of travel around Sarasota and the Gulf of Mexico islands. The original bridge was razed after its completion in 1959.

Recent aerial photo of the John Ringling Bridge
The bridge is photographed from many angles.

With increased boat traffic, combined with the increasing popularity of the keys, a new solution was in the works near the turn of the century. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put forth a generic design for a new bridge. Citizens of Sarasota took sides, one supporting the original plan against a start-up organization that wanted to make a statement with a new bridge of its own design. One side of this five-year debate was concerned with cost and changes to the skyline. In opposition, community leaders argued that Sarasota would become a world-class travel destination with a spectacular looking bridge. The compromise may have offended both sides. That divide has coalesced over the years into a unified feeling that this structure is a source of pride for Sarasota.

The Ringling Bridge replacement project took two years and was completed in 2003 with a $68 million price tag. Its design is a segmental box girder with 11 spans for an official length of 3,097 feet. The 106-foot width accommodates four lanes of car traffic, bike lanes in both directions with a separation wall on each side for walking or running. The Florida Department of Transportation owns and operates the Ringling Causeway Bridge.

At the base on the Sarasota side there is a free T.J. “Tony” Saprito Fishing Pier where anglers regularly haul in their saltwater game. To support the fishermen, Harts Landing is a small bait and snack shop that is accessible from the pier or by boat dock. Its origination dates back to 1934 when the original Ringling Bridge started at Golden Gate Point before heading west to Bird Key and beyond. Harts Landing was moved to its current location following completion of the second bridge. This establishment serving the fishing community opens every day of the year from 6:30 AM to 6 PM. A park under the bridge is often visited by sightseers and locals exercising their family pets. Benches line the seawall.

Foot races challenge runners
Races over the bridge challenge runners twice a year.

There are two annual events for experienced runners that challenge your ability to climb the height of the bridge. For the past 15 years in January the YMCA has coordinated a four-mile route that crosses the bridge and returns to Sarasota at the half-way mark in Bird Key Park. A one-mile fun run uses the bayfront of Sarasota as its course. Both races start and finish around the area of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. In March, First Watch of Sarasota has a festival for its race, beer garden and concert for runners at the finish. There are three options to race. The half marathon has its runners climb the Ringling Bridge, circle around St. Armands, then return to Sarasota where they head north along scenic Sarasota Bay roads before returning to the Centennial Park area. A two-person relay option covers the same USAFT-certified course of 13.1 miles. The first runner in the relay has the option of joining the anchor within one-tenth of a mile at the finish and cross together. Runners in the 10K race travel the same route over the bridge but end near Centennial Park without travelling the full distance into northern Sarasota.

The Observer put together this video, the history of the Ringling Bridge with interviews. The Ringling Bridge is an attraction for visitors and fortunate Sarasota homeowners alike. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing


Home Showcase XXI - Bird Key

by Roger Pettingell

Homes for sales on this historic island

Bird Key homes that meet the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury standard

History of Bird Key
Bird Key - Video chronology in REALTALK™ #99

Bird Key, an unpretentious 12-acre plot of land that was inhabited by waterfowl and grass flats in 1911, may have the most celebrated history of the barrier islands. It is a history that started that year with the construction of a single home that was developed from land that was dredged out of a channel that split the island. The New Edzell Castle was ahead of its time in building technology with hot and cold running water and lighting that could easily be seen from the mainland.

Famed circus magnate and land developer John Ringling purchased the castle and the land in 1920 to help support his quest to grow Sarasota as the vacation spot of the world. His focus was in land development from Sarasota to Longboat Key, with Bird Key between the two in Sarasota Bay. He was responsible for building a bridge connecting Sarasota through Bird Key to his newly developed St. Armands Circle on Lido Key. It would be the first of three bridges that connected the land masses.

Arvida Realty was buying up land in the area and in 1959 purchased Bird Key. It would transform Bird Key into the luxury hotspot in the area with 511 single properties with its growth to 250 acres and a series of interconnecting canals. A trip by boat around the island today will show off the wealth and luxury lifestyle that exists on the island.

It has been highly sought for its proximity to the mainland and St. Armands. Residents find a family atmosphere where couples can be seen regularly walking the streets with their pets and children. There is one manned guard gate as an entrance to Bird Key and patrols combine for additional security. The Bird Key Yacht Club is of the highest marina standards. It is a social club with swimming pool and tennis courts.

670 Mourning Dove Drive
Direct bay access at 670 Mourning Dove Drive

I currently have seven active and pending listings on Bird Key and all meet the standards that Coldwell Banker has set for its Global Luxury brand. These homes are marketed world wide through Coldwell Banker system. My most exclusive home for sale is an estate on one lot and a second lot that has been preserved for its lush landscaping. The asking price for 622 South Owl is $8,995,000. Today I introduce two waterfront homes with direct boat access to the bay, one on coveted Mourning Dove Drive and the second is a custom-built home on Partridge Circle.

Overflowing with charm and allure, this stunning home, offering more than 4,000 square feet of designer living space will impress you at every turn. This estate at 670 Mourning Dove Drive is ideally situated just three homes in from Sarasota Bay. The avid boater will enjoy the 100-feet of frontage on sailboat-deep waters, a newer seawall and dock with shore-power, as well as a 16,000-pound lift. Built in 2006, this beautiful estate features custom finishes inside and out, including imported stone accents, ceiling treatment of exposed maple beams, Fine Art chandeliers and sconces, handscraped solid-wood maple and Travertine tile flooring, impact-glass windows, French doors and much more. It is offered at $2,895,000.

438 Partridge Circle
Custom built home at 438 Partridge Circle

From the stone marble accents, 14’ ceilings and luxurious finishes, to the private garden portico with heated swimming pool and spa, you will fall in love with every aspect of this custom-built waterfront home at 438 Partridge Circle, listed at $2,195,000. Built by luxury home builder Las Casitas in 2004, the expansive floor plan features a living/dining room with double-sided gas fireplace, Travertine tile flooding, gourmet eat-in kitchen, home theatre, office and four bedroom suites. You will appreciate the open pool deck, private outdoor dining and lounge areas, 28’ boat dock, lift and two Jet Ski lifts as the perfect finishing touches.

Last week I listed a gorgeous five-bedroom home in Corey’s Landing behind the secure gates of Bay Isles. It is located directly on a stretch of Harbourside golf course at 3426 Mistletoe Lane. You can see this home as a 3D virtual floor plan tour to look around this home as though you were walking through it. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
3426 Mistletoe Lane $1,349,000 Video Photo Slideshow


Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing


Annual Circus Ring of Fame this Saturday

by Roger Pettingell

Promoted as Sarasota's ties to the circus

Six new members will be added to the Circus Ring of Fame

Circus Ring of Fame in St. Armands Circle
Circus Ring of Fame - Two days of celebration for the circus and its performers starting on Friday.

The circus comes alive this weekend on St. Armands Circle. This area was the heart of the circus when John Ringling made Sarasota its home at the beginning of the 20th century. Ringling made Sarasota his home and had Ca’ d’Zan built in the northern part of the county. Near his home on the shores of Sarasota Bay the Circus Museum was constructed. And the tradition continues, this Saturday the circus band will perform and six new inductees will be honored in the annual Circus Ring of Fame ceremony. Also fitting is that St. Armands Circle was part of the plan by Ringling to make this area a major tourist destination.

Daily visitors browse the circle of plaques that surround the park at its center. They represent each of the circus aerialists, trapeze artists, wire walkers, ad men, clowns and now even circus animals there that hold a place in the history of the circus. In all, this year’s class of inductees will join the previous 110 inductees that have been honored since its beginning in 1987. And the list is impressive.

This year famed aerialist Reggie Armor will be honored. He started his career with stunt work in films and joined the circus in 1951 at the age of 22. By the time he was 29 he became one of the most recognized trapeze flyers, known for perfecting the three-and-a-half acrobatic flight. He passed away in 2010 to be honored posthumously.

Dora Rogge performed her circus act with the famous Rogge Sisters in London, known to the world as Rogana, the Baroness of Balance. Her balancing act of end-to-end dagger and sword thrilled audiences in the late 1950s. In the next decade Dora broke away from the act to perform solo around the world and traveled with her husband, the famous ringmaster, Frank Foster, Jr. She will be inducted under her married name Dora Foster.

Co-owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show from 1936-1967, Henry Ringling North, continued the circus his famous uncle created. Brother John Ringling North was inducted in 1988, the second year of existence for the Ring of Fame. Their mother was the sister of John Ringling, Ida Loraina Wihelmina Ringling, who married Harry Whitestone North. Henry was married to Gloria de la Feld and eventually became an Irish citizen. When the circus was sold to the Feld family, he remained as a consultant to the company. To this day Feld Entertainment maintains a massive warehouse and their worldwide headquarters just north of Bradenton in Palmetto.

Groups are eligible for induction, including the Pedrolas Troupe of five original members. Their shows included contortionists, high-wire acts and clowns. It is said that one of the founders, Rudolf Mootz, named the troupe Pedrolas for the first name Pedro, which he liked. Other original members included Willie and Peter Mootz, Gerda Meyer and Beppo Wallenda. Rudolf and Gerda married and had a daughter Dagmar, who joined the two as a wire walker at the age of five. After appearing overseas for years, the family combined with the Mills Brothers Circus in 1958.

A marketing and tour strategist for Ringling and Feld Entertainment, Allen Bloom, promoted the circus with advance posters in town designed to attract spectators to The Greatest Show on Earth by promoting the circus as a fun and family experience. He also modernized live event promotions for the entertainment and sports industries. He died at the age of 72 in 2008.

In order to propose a candidate for induction, there is a process but anyone can nominate “an individual or a group/act of two or more, may either be active or retired and living or deceased.” But animals are also considered stars by the Circus Ring of Fame Foundation and so the horse Starless Night will be inducted this year. This is the honor for an animal that was a circus horse and appeared in movies, but the committee also felt it was important to honor all the performing animals. Starless Night was trained and presented as a high school horse by Capt. Wiliam Heyer. A high school horse is known in dressage for its leaps from a standing position. Starless Night was seen in the parade of the movie, The Greatest Show on Earth.

Those are the inductees into the Circus Ring of Fame. There is a plaque of particular significance this year in St. Armands for the man who founded the Circus Ring of Fame, Larry Marthaler. It may be a somber occasion this year as he passed away in March of 2016. He envisioned the Ring of Fame in 1987 to promote our ties to the circus, while he was serving as a founding member of the Greater Sarasota Tourism Association, now Visit Sarasota County.

You can actually meet the inductees and their representatives on Friday at the Showfolks Club of Sarasota, 5204 North Lockwood Ridge Road. A meet-and-greet starts at 10 a.m. followed by entertainment provided by the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA) and the Musical Box Society International (MBSI). Breakfast will be served and a flea market with circus memorabilia is planned.

The CPAA and MBSI performers will be on hand Saturday with their instruments on display, beginning in St. Armands Circle at 9 a.m. At 1:15 p.m. there will be an induction prelude by the Windjammers, presented by director Andrew Glover as the Sarasota Circus Band Concert. The plaque unveiling will begin as the induction ceremony starts at 2 p.m. All events are open to the public, including those at the Showfolks Club on Friday, which is rarely open to the public.

Spotlight- Golden Gate Point

by Roger Pettingell


History leads up to a Point resurgence

Wonderful location with splendid Ringling Bridge views

The Phoenix, completed in 2001
Spectacular views - Nighttime view of the Ringling Bridge from a residence in the Phoenix.

When the most current Downtown Community Redevelopment Authority report came out on June 15, the small peninsula of land known as Golden Gate Point was added as an addendum. After all, it is in downtown Sarasota and secondly, it is seeing its own redevelopment. New communities such as the recently completed ONE88 and the one deep in construction that is Aqua, are to be followed by plans of other communities on this area of land barely larger than a city park. The point is once again one of the most sought after residential locations in Sarasota.

Golden Gate Point is rich in history, mostly through the original efforts of two men that had visions for Sarasota. John Ringling owned the land in its earliest of days, a small strip of land with little development. After the sale to Owen Burns in 1910, the point saw its first development. Burns dredged the bay and began to fill in the strip to increase its size, a process that would not be allowed today. He installed a seawall to encase the peninsula. These two men were the driving forces behind the growth for Sarasota to become a journey for all northerners to vacation and eventually look to retire.

In the 1920s progress accelerated. The name was changed from Cedar Point to its current name. Ringling remained involved and together the two men built a bridge connecting Lido Key and Bird Key to the mainland through the middle of Golden Gate Point. Fast forward to 2003 when the bridge completed its second reconstruction, with its current connection point as an extension to Gulf Stream Avenue. The name John Ringling Causeway remained but credit was also given to an activist that lobbied for the fixed-span bridge and a secondary name of Gil Waters Bridge was added as a compromise in 2008. Today the bridge is a spectacle in itself, particularly for owners of residences on the west side of Golden Gate Point who enjoy views of the bridge at sunset.

But soon after the original bridge was built, Sarasota and the country began facing rough times. Over-speculation of land in Florida sent a signal to Wall Street, one reason for stocks plummeting. The stock market crash in 1929 led to the Great Depression. Ringling’s beloved wife Mable died that year. Property lots on Golden Gate Point were unsold and progress was halted. Ringling lost most of his money in these hard times and he abandoned some of the projects he was passionate about. He eventually died in 1936 and placed in a temporary storage facility as a pauper in New Jersey. His and Mable’s body were eventually returned to Sarasota and they now rest together on the Ringling Museum of Art grounds.

Majestic Bay and Aqua on Golden Gate Point
The Majestic on the left was completed in 2004. Next to it is Aqua, nearing completion. Click on the image for Golden Gate Point condos for sale.

Today Golden Gate Point is thriving again. Single-family homes mostly line the interior of Golden Gate Point Road that circles the peninsula. Outside on the coast of these 22 acres of land is excitement toward new construction with existing mid-rise condominiums. In 1973 Sarasota limited the heights of buildings on Golden Gate Point to 75 feet. ONE88 was completed this year with eight residences of contemporary style on five storys. The new Aqua building with an expected October move-in date is eight storys with one residence per floor. These two buildings face an incredible night view of the Ringling Bridge and the luxury homes on Bird Key.

At least two more are on the drawing boards. Allure at 111 Golden Gate Point on the interior of the loop will be a unique set of four-story townhomes with a three-car garage and patios on the first floor. Level two is called Seduction and features a gourmet kitchen overlooking the living room and Junior Master Suite. The master and third bedroom are on a split-floor plan of the third floor, fascination. The fourth floor has an entertainment area and options for spa or pool on the outdoor patio. The three buildings and 11 residences are before the planning commission to be issued a permit shortly. Also on the interior, Golden Gate Point Ventures, LLC have applied for a site permit for 609 Golden Gate, approved in June. The plans are for eight residences in a four-story building.

There is an association of owners on the peninsula to help foster its beauty. Formed in 1955 the Golden Gate Point Association is a non-profit with voluntary membership. The group holds regular meetings and social events. What a great place to live. It is within walking distance to most of downtown Sarasota.

My most recent lifestyle preset search was created for properties on Golden Gate Point. Click here for a list of the current residences for sale there. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for more information on Golden Gate Point condominiums or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Legacy of John Ringling

by Roger Pettingell

John Ringling, his legacy in Sarasota

Tuesday is his 150th birthday celebration at The Ringling

Lush landscaping
Lush landscaping - Mable Ringling designed much of the landscaping on the grounds around Ca' d'Zan.

In the soul of John Ringling there was an entertainer. On the surface there was an elite businessman, art lover, world traveler and visionary. If he would have been alive tomorrow, he would be celebrating his 150th birthday. There will be celebrations and The Ringling will light up tomorrow to honor the man that once owned nearly a quarter of Sarasota land mass.

John the entertainer grew up in Iowa with seven siblings, five of which formed a musical group in which John would play the bass viol. At the age of 18, he was the youngest member of The Yankee Robinson and the Ringling Bros. Double Show. They would tour the countryside traveling great distances to perform.

The band transformed into a circus act. John was the act’s clown, but his business savvy had served him well and he became the advance man for the Ringling Bros. Circus. By 1907 he had learned the art of investing quite well, with his brothers purchasing the Barnum & Bailey circus that year. His investments were wide and included the Madison Square Garden in New York city.

In the 1920s he was part of the Florida land grab in which speculators were buying land at record paces. It was his vision to make the Sarasota area an attractive winter resort. It began with the purchase of 20 acres in northern Sarasota but eventually grew to include Bird Key and Lido Key. Myth or truth, it was said that he used his circus elephants to transport materials to build what is now the Ringling Bridge. This bridge would serve as the causeway between the main island and the two keys that he owned at the time.

At the same time he was building his wealth in the circus and purchased the American Circus Corporation in the same year the stock market crashed in 1929. It was also the same year that his beloved wife of 24 years, Mable, had died of diabetes and Addison’s disease. It was the beginning to the end of a great legacy.

Center for Asian Art
Grand Opening - The Center for Asian Art was designed to resemble jade sculptures.

John and Mable had amassed great wealth, building the famous home in which they lived. Mable was born in a small farm town between Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio. The town is hard to locate on a map, either under the name of Buena Vista or Moons. While they were constructing their mansion on Sarasota Bay, Mable was heavily involved in the construction decisions. Their home on the expansive grounds of The Ringling, Ca’ d’Zan, is open for tours. Ca’ d’Zan is Venetian for The House of John. In 2001 the home underwent a major $15 million restoration, funded with generous public donations.

The two had also amassed a great collection of art work by the masters. They would travel the world to purchase directly from art owners or through auctions. The auction houses they frequented the most were around 636 Fifth Ave, New York, their northern home and now the site of Rockefeller Center.

Today, much of the grounds around the home remain as they were when John died of pneumonia in 1936. After years of neglect, Ca’ d’Zan was restored to its original grandeur. Also on the grounds is The Museum of Art, a dedication to the art collection of John and Mable. His education in art was formed with his association of dealer Julius Bohler and through his book collection that now makes up a large portion of the library within the museum. This month a special Center for Asian Art opened at the end of the museum. The 25,000 square foot, three story pavilion has a lecture hall with 125 seats and will display a rotation of art work.

Walker House
Special Paul Rudolph recognition - A replica of the Walker guest house was built on the grounds.

In 1948 the circus museum was opened with a collection of Ringling memorabilia, much of which was donated by circus performers who had moved to Sarasota when Ringling relocated the headquarters here from Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1927. When you visit the Circus Museum, be sure to catch the film Life and Times of John and Mable Ringling, narrated by the actor Hal Holbrook. A circus model of 44,000 pieces, special exhibits and an interactive gallery complete with high wire walk help celebrate the grand age of circus while John was The King of the Sawdust Ring.

The Historic Asolo Theater was built with décor from a theater built in 1798 in the Italian town of Asolo. The original theater was in Queen Caterina Cornaro’s castle near Venice. The queen had been married to the King of Cyprus.

Last year a replica of Dr. Walter Walker’s guest house on Sanibel Island was constructed on the grounds to demonstrate the skills of the Sarasota School of Architecture students and renowned architect Paul Rudolph. The original Walker House is still in use by the Walker family as a beach house where it was built in 1952 on Sanibel Island.

150th birthday celebration in the courtyard
Courtyard celebration - The 150th birthday celebration will be held May 31 in the courtyard.

Possibly one of the most important structures on The Ringling grounds is one that many visitors don’t see. It is the headstones of John and Mable in their burial grounds behind the Secret Garden. For 55 years the couple had been interred in different eastern United States cemeteries before they were moved to The Ringling grounds in 1991. John’s sister is also buried on the grounds.

The birthday celebration of his life will take place in the courtyard of the Museum of Art tomorrow from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets are required by calling (941) 358-3180 or visiting the website through the link here.

Hope you are celebrating a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. My new listing last week is new construction on the Gulf of Mexico beach. This 5BR/5.5BA estate is on target for an August completion date but ready now to make final design decisions. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
6857 Gulf of Mexico Dr $3,995,000 Video Photo Slideshow


Community spotlight - Bird Key

by Roger Pettingell

Bird Key, rich in local Ringling history

The island exemplifies the luxury waterfront lifestyle

Highlights of Bird Key
Bird Key spotlight - I explore the highlights of the island in my video of Bird Key last year.

When I think of the definition of luxury property, I would put it in terms of a good community, safe lifestyle, quality homes and kind neighbors. That is how I describe the Bird Key community in this YouTube video I uploaded last year in July. I’ve recognized Bird Key for these features, I’ve lived there for the last eight years.

Bird Key also has one of the best locations in Florida. It is just minutes to the heart of Sarasota with its bustling lifestyle, turn west out of the Bird Key entrance and you are close to St. Armands Circle with its fine dining and shopping experiences. You are close to the best beaches in the world and some of the finest cultural arts in the United States.

It is also a luxury to have one of the finest school districts in the state. Southside Elementary has a 10 rating out of 10. Students then graduate to Booker Middle School and Booker High School with its fine academics and sports programs. The high school is a National School of Merit "A" School, A 5-Star School. The Tornadoes have five state basketball championships to boast.

Entrance to Bird Key
There are multiple levels of security on Bird Key beginning with the front gate.

The small island was home to many seabirds when it was discovered for its land value by Thomas and Lindsay Worcester in 1917. Thomas purchased the entire 13-acre island from the state of Florida for a mere $25. The famous circus family, the Ringlings, also played an important role in the development. John Ringling purchased Bird Key from the Worcesters in 1922, and the family lived on the estate until its sale in 1959 to the Arvida Corporation. Arvida was responsible for much of the island development and construction on the south end of Longboat Key. I began working for Arvida in the 1980s.

Conceived with the idea that deep water canals would bring more value to the land, the Arvida Corporation built up the island, turning it into 250 acres of prime real estate when it began its expansion after the sale. The island is now accessible from the mainland at the western edge of the Ringling Causeway bridge.

This is a place where apparent value is ever increasing. Those with wealth seek Bird Key for their permanent homes or as a winter haven from the cold. Notables such as TV host Jerry Springer, tennis star Martina Navratilova and AC/DC rock star Brian Johnson have all called Bird Key their home.

Camaraderie exists among the residents. There may be a vintage home next door to new construction, keeping the community quaint but constantly on the move with modernization. I present comparative market analysis (CMA) reports back to 2008 on this website. Buyers and sellers have access to market trends through a history available in these reports and can track the value in these properties over the last eight years.

Boating is a good pastime for residents. Bird Key supports its own yacht club with its fine tennis courts, professional instruction, marina and dining facilities. Weddings with their receptions are common on weekends in the space provided at the private yacht club.

604 Mourning Dove Drive, Bird Key, Florida
Immaculate waterfront home on Bird Key - This updated home for sale is on one of the most prestigious streets on the island.

There is one entrance to the island, a manned guard gate. Security is also enhanced through regular patrols of its own security team. In many aspects homeowners feel safe, protected from the mischief they witness on television.

In the last year I sold five homes on Bird Key, including one for $4.5 million at 602 South Owl Drive. I currently have one home for sale on the island, an immaculate waterfront home with designer finishes on my street at 604 Mourning Dove Drive. It lists for $2,995,000, another good value on the island.

I have three new listings from last week that I have to announce. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
6855 Gulf of Mexico Dr $3,999,000 Video Photo Slideshow
3010 Grand Bay Blvd, #461 $1,795,000   Photo Slideshow
2350 Harbour Oaks Drive $599,000   Photo Slideshow


Harbor Acres - Sarasota community spotlight

by Roger Pettingell

Sarasota's eclectic gem overlooking the bay

Inspired city leaders of the 1930s helped form Harbor Acres

Aerial view of Harbor Acres in Sarasota
Harbor Acres from the air - Waterfront dockage exists on many homes of Harbor Acres. Click on the image above to see the video in REALTALK™ #56.

Developed from dredging of Sarasota Bay, Harbor Acres was formed with two peninsulas that extend into the bay, creating a boater’s paradise with deep water access to the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This prestigious community overlooks Bird Key, which ironically was also created from dredging projects by some of the great city planners of the day. To the north, the structure of the Ringling Bridge can been seen through a panoramic view with all of its magnificence. All three of these projects were centered around the 1920s real estate depression in Florida that preceded the Great Depression, after the 1929 stock market crash and world financial crisis.

While the infamous John Ringling and Owen Burns were developing the land between mainland Sarasota and Longboat Key, Sarasota mayor Earnest A. Smith had his goal for enriching the city through opportunities created by the depression. Soon after the stock market plummeted, nature created another disaster in hurricane form that devastated Sarasota. The combination of the two initiated a trip to Washington by Smith in an effort to solicit funds under the New Deal and its “Alphabet Soup” programs created in the first hundred days of President Roosevelt's administration. At the time land was cheaply available as owners were unable to pay back loans, drastically dropping their value. Washington was convinced that Sarasota required Federal help to rebuild, and Smith returned to Sarasota with WPA funds to update public utilities and purchase the inexpensive land. He was also given funds to buy land and build a civic center, now the site of the Municipal Auditorium on Tamiami Trail at the Boulevard of the Arts intersection.

1378 Harbor Drive, Sarasota, FL
Many homes in Harbor Acres are new construction such as this new listing on Harbor Drive.

Smith had aspirations for the southern sections of Sarasota and wanted to expand to the area “West of the Trail.” Sarasota Memorial Hospital had been built in 1925 and the area toward the bay was ideal for the doctors of the hospital to build their homes. He served the citizens of Sarasota as mayor from 1931-1937 with an accomplished resume of projects that would inspire the next generation of city leaders. The city would soon change its charter in the 1940s to form a Commission-Manager form of government that holds true to today. A mayor is not directly elected by the people but a panel of five commissioners. At the time cities were evolving to avoid the corruption that was created under other administrations such as Tammany Hall of New York City.

The impetus for Harbor Acres was picked up again after World War II. Some of the first homes that were built in the late 1940s are still in existence today and because it is close to the hospital it was once referred to as Doctors Acres. Doctors still reside here, either as attending physicians or as retirees. The composition of different styles bring together old and new Florida for a quaint community that is preferred for its limited restrictions on deeds. Harbor Acres is also attractive to home buyers as it is close to the rich cultural life of Sarasota, fabulous dining, recreation and boutique shopping experiences.

REALTALK #56 - Harbor Acres
REALTALK™ #56 - Harbor Acres is spotlighted.

In REALTALK™ #56 last week I talked about the evolution of Harbor Acres and its transition to new construction with waterfront and luxury garden homes. Many of the homes here are now built to newer building codes and have many modern conveniences. Waterfront homes in Harbor Acres typically have boat docks and pools with square footage starting at 3,500. There was a sale recently of an updated home of 1,775 square feet, an original 1954 home on Orange Avenue that is the eastern-most boundary road of Harbor Acres. Because these homes are in high demand it was on the market six days. Even homes on the lower end of the scale in this community go quickly. I do not expect that the home I have listed at 1378 Harbor Drive on the water will stay on the market long either. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you would like a tour or have a property to sell or buy in Sarasota or Longboat Key. Click here for active listings in Harbor Acres.

Sarasota New Construction Updates

by Roger Pettingell

Projects Moving Forward in the Area

Sarasota Downtown CRA Report Updated

Sarasota Downtown Community Redevelopment Area (CRA)
Sarasota Downtown Community Redevelopment Authority Area (CRA) with 29 new projects in construction or development mapped out.

I hope your holiday season is a good one. This is the last week of the year and my last Monday article for the year. It’s good we end 2014 on a high note with the new construction of condominiums in Sarasota and on Longboat Key.

Sarasota released its current status this month for the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), approximately one square mile of land area. There are 29 projects over one half of a million dollars within the boundary that begins at 10th Street on the north, with many of the projects between Pineapple Avenue on the east to Sarasota Bay on the west. These are projects that are currently in construction or in development and reflect a total estimated cost of one half a billion dollars.

This area represents a bonanza for residential purchases, unlike anything we have seen since 2006. The estimate is that there will 1,434 new residential condominiums and townhouses when all the projects are completed. The update also reported nearly 1,000 rental apartments, over 1,000 hotel rooms and over a quarter million square feet of commercial space will be added in this downtown area.

The first completion date is the fall of 2015 when the Jewel is expected to be ready for occupancy. The Jewel is an 18-story commercial high-rise with 19 residential condominiums for sale at the corner of Main Street and Gulfstream Avenue, within a short walking distance to the water’s edge and Marina Jack, next to Café Epicure.

The "Vue Sarasota Bay", near the Ritz-Carlton on this high profile plot of land at Route 41 is well under way with 141 residences expected upon completion in the winter of 2016. The CRA also reported the Quay, an amazing undertaking near Vue Sarasota Bay. It was announced this month that an agreement with developers GreenPointe Communities of Jacksonville requires a completion date of January 30, 2017 for the Quay with plans for 175 hotel rooms, 38,972 square feet of office space and 189,050 square feet of commercial space. The mostly 15-acre vacant land has been the subject of foreclosures and speculation. Moving forward the Quay will be a major project that will include 695 residential condominiums

ONE88 Residences on Golden Gate Point in construction
ONE88 Residences - Eight residences are in process on Golden Gate Point overlooking Sarasota Bay.

ONE88 Residences overlooking the John Ringling Causeway bridge and Sarasota Bay is nearest completion, possibly in March of 2015. It is located on Golden Gate Point and not included in the CRA report. However, it is also within a short walk to Marina Jack, downtown restaurants, shopping and nightlife of Sarasota. Its eight condominiums start at $2.59 million for a suite over 3,000 square feet under air. Two penthouse suites offer 575 square feet of west balcony square footage on the fourth floor and a rooftop area of 1,657 square feet, for a total of 5,447. A community pool with deck extends out to the Sarasota Bay and boat docks. Sunset views should be stunning when ONE88 Residences is completed.

December also was witness to the groundbreaking of INFINITY on Longboat Key. Architect Mark Sultana in Sarasota led the design of 11 residences at 4765 Gulf of Mexico Drive expected to be completed in January of 2016. Three and four bedroom units starting at 3,380 square feet of living space, with two penthouses of 6,370 square feet are for sale and can be purchased through our office.

Construction of the Aria at 2251 Gulf of Mexico Drive is also proceeding on the grounds of the historic Villa am Meer estate, a home built in 1935 by the architect of the Ringling Museum of Art. Nearly one million will be spent to restore the home as a club for the residents of the 16 condominiums now under construction.

The new construction provides an exciting time for downtown Sarasota and keys residential development. It is another step in fulfilling the dreams of John Ringling and Owen Burns, who collaborated in the 1920s to establish this area for major land development. Look for more updates to the developments planned in Sarasota and on Longboat Key.

I have over $67.5 million in residential sales for 2014. Let me put my experience to work for you, call me today for your exclusive tour, (941) 387-1840. We wish you and your family the best for the holidays and happy new year.

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Why Choose
Roger Pettingell?


  • Over 33 years as a top producing REALTOR® on Longboat Key and in Sarasota.


  • Number 1 single Coldwell Banker agent in all of Florida for 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017
  • Number 1 Realtor on Longboat Key and Bird Key for 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018
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About Roger Pettingell

Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate is your Longboat Key, Florida Luxury Real Estate Specialist. Roger provides his real estate expertise to sellers, investors, developers, and buyers in the Sarasota area including Anna Maria, Bird Key, Bradenton Beach, Casey Key, Cortez, Grand Bay, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Marina Bay, Osprey and Siesta Key. Search for homes, luxury homes, condominiums, investment property, development property, and vacant land and lots on the Longboat Key, Florida and the surrounding area.