For all you history buffs out there, I assure you that Sarasota culture dates back to forever. I enjoy discovering the backstory for places that I find intriguing, and I found a story about Bird Key that mimics the love story behind the Taj Mahal. It all happened an exclusive island nestled between Downtown Sarasota and St Armands Circle.
In the early 1900s, a 12-acre island named Bird Key peeked a few feet above the shallows of Sarasota Bay. Thomas Martin Worcester, purchased the island in 1906, and he and his Scottish wife, Davie Lindsay Worcester, wintered in Sarasota.
In 1911, Worcester began work to build a mansion on the island, a first for Southwest Florida. He dredged a channel through grass flats and used dredged material to create a foundation for his vision — an island estate named New Edzell Castle after his wife's ancestral home. Sadly, Davie Worcester died before her palace was completed. However, Davie wrote a letter from Sarasota describing in detail the birds, fish and vegetation that could be seen on the approach to Bird Key.
A couple of years after Davie's death, her husband opened New Edzell Castle with a formal reception and visitors exclaimed about the electric and gas lighting, steam heat and hot & cold water.
Soon Thomas Worcester left Sarasota. John Ringling, the circus magnate who envisioned so much of what became Sarasota, bought Bird Key, Otter Key, Wolf Key and other mangrove islands to own all the keys west of the City of Sarasota. The mid-1920s charted the Florida Land Boom and John Ringling dived right in. The circus impresario wanted to turn New Edzell Castle into the summer White House for then-President Warren Harding, who died before his friend could make that happen. Instead the mansion was where Ida Ringling North, John Ringling's sister, lived until she died in 1950.
John Ringling built the first bridges and roads from downtown Sarasota to St Armands Key and began developing Ringling Estates, which opened in 1926 just as the Florida Boom ended.
By 1936, John Ringling had died, and it took 10 years for his estate to clear probate. During that year, Bird Key remained undeveloped. Finally in 1959, Arvida Realty began developing Bird Key as the jewel set in the waters of Sarasota Bay.
Photo courtesy of the Sarasota History Center
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Listing information last updated on May 21st, 2018 at 3:00am EDT.