Sarasota may be located in Florida, but in no way is it just another coastal city. While Florida is mainly centered around its seaside appeal, Sarasota is much more. This burgeoning metropolis has carved out its niche and leverages its historical background to create a culturally robust city filled with art, theaters, museums, and gardens.
But Sarasota was not always this thriving urban city. Before it was an artist mecca and an almost retiree haven, this landmark lined city was a fishing village, a native Indian home, and even a Spanish conquest.
Sarasota boasts the enviable title of being home to some of the earliest human beings who inhabited Florida’s Gulf Coast. Long before the Europeans, by way of the Spanish, laid claim to Sarasota, it was occupied by Native tribes, including the Calusa, Tocobaga, and Timucuan. They were the first to discover the abundant fruits, wild game, and fish.
In 1539, Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto stumbled upon the South Tampa region. It is often theorized that de Soto named the area Sarasota, which means Radiance of Soto, with Zara being the Arabic word for Radiance. The validity of this is not entirely known as there have been many other recorded names throughout history, including Zara Sota.
After de Soto’s naming troubles, news of Sarasota’s wellspring of natural resources spread, and soon, fishermen and traders decided to travel from near and far and settle down. Cubans Americans were the first to establish fishing villages called Ranchos in the area. These Ranchos maintained a consistent fishing and turtle trade with merchants in Havana, Cuba.
A failed naval base in 1819, epidemics and the departure of the indigenous Indians saw Sarasota’s development grind to halt. It wasn’t until 1863 -1868, with the investment of key individuals, that Sarasota began to grow exponentially. Due to the contributions of William H. Whitaker, John Webb, Lewis Colson, J.H. Gillespie, and Mrs. Bertha Honore Palmer, Sarasota flourished into the urban gem it is today.
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