The Federal Building on Orange Ave. in Sarasota is one of the rare
fine pieces of architecture left in the area.
Sarasota Intercoastal Medical Group
The first house wealthy Mrs. Potter
Palmer stayed at in Sarasota was a sanitarium on Sarasota Bay,
unbeknownst to her.
Sarasota's first skyscraper, First
Bank and Trust Building circa 1924.
And yes apparently there was a USS
Sarasota used in WWII. It transported the sick and medical supplies.
Crosley the inventor
Powel Crosley Jr. built his palatial winter residence "Seagate" on
Sarasota Bay in 1929. The 11,000-square-foot Mediterranean
Revival-style mansion contained 10 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. It was
reported to be the first residence built in Florida using fireproof
steel frame construction.
The family wintered here until 1939 when his wife Gwendolyn died in
her upstairs bedroom of a lung ailment. Thereafter, Crosley leased
the mansion to the government to quarter men learning to fly World
War II fighter planes.
Enterprises that permitted Crosley his affluent lifestyle are
delineated in the following summaries.
A resident of Cincinnati, Crosley's business career blossomed in
1916. With a loan from his father he bought the American Automobile
Accessories Co., a mail-order business.
His best seller was a flag holder that held five American flags and
clamped to auto radiator caps. World War I generated patriotism and
thousands were sold.
Crosley's philosophy was to produce items that everyone could use,
and sell them inexpensively. By 1919, he had more than 100 employees
and his brother, Lewis, became his general manager.
Radios were next. When his son asked for a radio, Crosley thought
$130 for a small radio was excessive. He bought a book on radios and
studied it. He started producing the "Harko Jr" radio that sold for
$9 in 1921. By 1924, the Crosley Radio Company was the world's
largest manufacturer of radios.
Broadcasting followed. Crosley founded and operated WLW -- the most
powerful radio station ever built. Until the federal government
ordered its power reduced in 1939, the 500,000-watt station could be
heard anywhere in the world.
An impressive list of entertainers performed on WLW, including Red
Skelton, Doris Day, Jane Froman and the Mills Brothers.
In 1932, Crosley entered the refrigeration field. His "Shelvador"
refrigerator was the first refrigerator with door shelves.
In 1934, Crosley became president of the Cincinnati Reds Baseball
Club. The club was in financial trouble when Crosley stepped up to
the plate to ensure the Reds would stay in Cincinnati.
Crosley prevailed upon the National League to allow the Reds to play
seven night games under lights. The first night game drew more than
ten times the normal weekday attendance. Other major league clubs
scrambled to electrify their ball parks.
Later Bill McKechnie became the Reds' manager and led the team to a
National League pennant in 1939 and to the 1940 World Series.
In 1935, he backed construction of the Crosley Flea – a "compact"
airplane. The Smithsonian Museum currently has one in its inventory.
At the 1939 Worlds Fair, Crosley exhibited his "Redo" machine. It
wasn't commercially successful and he took it off the market. Today
the invention is better known as a fax machine.
When Crosley's car debuted in 1939, its size was similar to today's
sub-compact. It sold for less than $400. His post-war Crosley Motors
produced a sedan in 1946 that sold for $853.
In 1945, Crosley sold the Crosley Corporation to AVCO. It included
all manufacturing plants and Station WLW. Powel's share was some $12
million. He kept his Cincinnati Reds and planned to continue
Crosley died March 28, 1961, of a heart attack.
In the early 1900's you could stay at the Palms Hotel in downtown
Sarasota. Photo: Courtesy Sarasota Historical Dept.
Thompson's contributions to Sarasota
Mark D. Smith, archivist
At the turn of the 20th century, Sarasota was a small fishing
village with just a few hundred people. Even though the area was primitive,
Sarasota was attracting people who saw the area's potential. Charles N. Thompson
was such a person.
Thompson was the manager of the Sells-Forepaugh Circus in the mid 1890s. Over
his career, Thompson was manager of Hegenback and Wallace Circus, Sells Brothers
Circus, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and the Ringling Brothers Circus, which he
managed for six years.
Thompson had heard stories from his friend, H.C. Butler, about
how wonderful Sarasota was. Butler had built a winter home in the Indian Beach
area in 1891. Thompson said that he was interested and would visit the area
during the circus winter season.
In the winter of 1895, Thompson and his wife traveled to Tampa. They wanted to
see what their friend Butler was talking about. Thompson rented a boat and left
Tampa Bay for Sarasota Bay. He docked at the Butler dock and stayed with the
Butlers while looking the area over. Butler told him of a 154 acre track just
north of Indian Beach, owned by Anna M. Clark, which was for sale for $1,650.
Thompson bought it and later bought 30 acres more.
The following winter Thompson and his wife came to Sarasota and
began to build their winter home. Thompson would talk about his winter home
throughout the circus world. Being friends with the Ringling Brothers, he would
boast of his home in Sarasota.
Ralph Caples, agent for the New York Central Railroad, also owned land in
Sarasota. On Nov. 3, 1911, Caples bought the Thompson home and some additional
land. Caples sold the Thompson estate less than three months later to John
After selling his home, Thompson built a second home next to it.
He sold other sections of his land to Charles Ringling in 1915. Ultimately he
sold the site of his second home to Charles Ringling so that he could build a
home for his daughter, Hester Ringling Sanford.
Thompson had many interests in Sarasota and one was land development. In 1914,
he began plans for a new subdivision for the African-American community called
Newtown. According to Karl Grismer's "The Story of Sarasota," Thompson and his
son Russell "began developing the subdivision of Newtown, not to make money but
to provide the blacks with better places to live. Previously their principal
living quarters had been in the Overton district (today's 6th Street and Lemon
Ave). The rundown buildings were, in his mind, a disgrace to Sarasota."
The Sarasota Times reported on April 22, 1915, that "240 lots
with streets have been laid out and sales are on easy cash payments. Already 132
lots have been sold and half dozen houses built. Lots have been donated for a
Methodist and Baptist church and school house, the deeds to be given whenever
the buildings are erected. Newtown is the name of this subdivision which is
exclusively for the colored people, who intend to erect homes there as fast as
their means will allow."
Thompson continued to develop his interests in Sarasota until
his death in 1918. Although not as well known as the Ringlings and Caples today,
Thompson played a pivotal role in the development of early Sarasota.
Sarasota's Wilson house
Lorrie Muldowney, historic preservation specialist
Tucked away on the southeast corner of Ringling Boulevard and S.
Orange Avenue is a small unassuming house that rests in
the shadow of
Sarasota's recently restored Federal Building. When the home was purchased in
1907, as a residence for Dr. Cullen Bryant "C.B." Wilson and his wife Fannie,
the Federal building did not yet exist among the scattered residences of S.
The house was constructed in 1906 and quite likely designed by architect Edgar
Ferdon, who was practicing in Sarasota in the early part of the 20th century.
The building was enlarged in 1913 with a roof top addition to create a full
second story which according to family members was used to house seriously ill
patients. When the second story was added to the building, the chimneys at each
end of the structure were retained but mostly enclosed within the second story.
Today these chimneys are only visible at the apex of the roof and appear as
bands of cast stone and brick.
The house is notable for its long association with the Wilson
family and use of pressed stone, a precursor to today's concrete block. Pressed
stone, sometimes called rusticated block, was frequently manufactured on-site
with portable molds. Although this material is evident in a number of early
Sarasota homes, the stone on the Wilson house is unique for its larger size.
Dr. Wilson was a lifetime resident of Sarasota, born in 1878 in old Miakka, the
son of state senator Augustus Wilson and Callie Crum Wilson. Augustus Wilson
moved to Old Myakka in 1877 from Polk County. After his arrival he served as the
first postmaster in what is now Sarasota County, as well as an Indian Agent for
the State of Florida. Perhaps most significant, Augustus Wilson was the Florida
Senator who introduced the bill to create Sarasota County in 1921.
Dr. Wilson was educated at the Florida Military Institute, the
University of Florida and the University of Alabama Medical School. He married
Fannie Reaves, daughter of C.L. and Martha Tatum Reaves of Fruitville in 1904
and began his medical practice in Sarasota in 1906, one of the first physicians
to practice in the area. He served on the board of Sarasota Memorial Hospital
from the time of its founding in 1924 to the time of his death in 1941.
An article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in February of 1941 at
the time of his death described Wilson as a man and as a physician who "enjoyed
the respect and confidence of everyone." The article continued by stating that
"the old time family doctor held in high esteem and today largely cherished as a
memory was exemplified in his practice of medicine." His son Dr. Reave Wilson
continued the family's medical practice after World War II.
Today the house is at a significant crossroads, located on a site slated for
development, its future is uncertain. If it cannot be retained on-site the only
hope for its preservation may be relocation. An appeal for its preservation has
been made to the City of Sarasota Planning Board and Historic Preservation Board
by Wilson family member and local attorney, Clyde H. Wilson Jr. who has enlisted
the assistance of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation.
The home is listed in the National Register of Historic Places
and is being offered for free to a qualified applicant. For more information,
call Joel Freedman, at 955-9088.
For additional information on this subject or another relating
to Sarasota County's history, call 861-1180. The History Center is located at
701 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236.
Horses may be faster on U.S. 41.
-- Ann Shank, Sarasota County History Center
COURTESY ART / SARASOTA COUNTY HISTORY
CENTER "Engraving of North Florida Natives" by Theodor De Bry in 1591 is based
on drawings of the French explorer Jacques LeMoyne in 1564.
As we face the daily challenge of heavy
automotive traffic, it stretches the imagination to envision a
day when a horse provided the fastest land transportation.
Before Sarasota County came into existence in 1921,
blacksmiths, horseshoers, and livery stables provided the
services comparable to those of today's service station and
car rental agency.
Alex Browning, one of the colonists who came from Scotland in
1885 to settle the new town of Sarasota, included in his later
memoirs a variety of anecdotes that reflect the early
Soon after the arrival of the colonists, Ham
Whitaker (whose parents, William and Mary, are considered the
first white settlers of present Sarasota County) built a
livery stable on the corner of Main and Palm, where Sarasota
News and Books is now. That is where the Manatee County
sheriff would board his horse (and charge the town for the
cost) when he was called in to deal with "serious trouble." It
is also where Browning "hired" a horse for his first trip to
(then) Braidentown with a friend, Art Jones. Along the way
Jones engaged in a race with some others they met along the
trail. Jones, on his Cuban pony, won.
Within a few years, the front of the livery
stable was converted into a pool room. Young women would
gather there in the evenings to watch the young men play,
until one night when Hugh Browning shot an alligator and
dragged it in front of the pool room door. In his memoirs,
Alex recalled that the women "squealed" when they stepped on
the dead gator and never returned to the pool room at night.
A young man's horse was as identifiable as his car is today.
Browning knew that Emile Whitaker was visiting Browning's
sisters whenever he saw Whitaker's horse "Jeff" outside the
Sarasota's first post office was located in
Charles Abby's store south of Hudson Bayou and west of the
Osprey road. After the colonists arrived, they pressed for the
post office to be moved to Main Street. With the move, the
mail no longer came to Sarasota by boat, but instead came by
horse and buggy from the community of Manatee three days a
week. There were no bridges, so the driver would ford creeks
at the shallowest places. Even then, the water might rise
above the buggy's floor and the driver would stand on the seat
to keep dry.
Browning recalled some less desirable events
of the horse and buggy days. "Occasionally a bunch of cowboys
would get lit up on sugar cane skimmings and ride up and down
the street, shooting pistols from their galloping horses,
using all kinds of foul language."
The local prankster, "Old Man Bacon," engineered a more benign
event. He used Jack Tatum's blacksmith shop as the source of
brass filings, which he used to trick the townspeople into
thinking there was gold underground. When an artesian well was
being dug at Five Points (the intersection of Main, Pineapple,
and Central), people found glittering "gold" specks in the
sludge. The gold fever faded as word spread that the gold was
actually brass filings that Bacon had scattered on the ground.
Dr. C.B. Wilson brought the first automobile
to town in 1907. The horseless carriage gradually replaced its
predecessor, but even through the Boom period of the 1920s,
the local directories listed blacksmiths among the businesses
that served the community.
For additional information on this subject or
another relating to Sarasota County's history, call 861-1180.
The History Center is located at 701 N. Tamiami Trail,
Sarasota, FL 34236.
Sarasota's historic architecture
Lorrie Muldowney,Historic Preservation Specialist
Sarasota County has a rich legacy of historic architecture
beginning with the simple frame vernacular structures of our post civil war
settlement era and culminating, with the World War II era Sarasota School of
Sarasota's earliest rural buildings, were executed as simple wood frame
vernacular structures. The frame vernacular style was the common wood frame
construction of self taught builders, often passed from one generation to the
next. Early examples like the Tatum House, now located at Crowley Museum and
Nature Center were constructed using rough hewn siding, simple wooden windows,
and large porches with broad overhangs to provide shade.
In town, buildings constructed before the turn of the century --
like the Bidwell-Wood house located today on Florida Avenue -- exhibit stylistic
influences not seen in the simpler, rural architecture. These stylized details
include steeply pitched roofs and cross gables reflecting the popular Gothic
Revival Style of the time. Another example of an early 'stylized' building is
the Guptill House located at Historic Spanish Point which features modest Queen
Anne detailing including decorative shingle accents.
By the 1920's Sarasota architecture moved away from wood frame
vernacular to embrace the exotic revivals of the 1920's Florida Land Boom. The
roots of Mediterranean-influenced architecture in Florida can be traced to the
Spanish, Italian Renaissance, and Moorish Revival churches and hotels in St.
Augustine developed by Henry Flagler and others during the 1880's. Best
described as the Mediterranean Revival Style, examples can be found throughout
the county and display influences from the Mission, Moorish, Monterrey and
Italian Renaissance styles. Many residences were built in this style from simple
bungalows to John Ringling's mansion Ca' d'Zan.
Equally popular, was the simple bungalow which arrived in the
U.S. from East Asia in the early 1900's. During the first three decades of the
twentieth century the bungalow became the most common style of residential
architecture in the United States. Sarasota bungalows are modest in size when
compared to examples found in California. They are characterized by a horizontal
emphasis, with large front porches and exaggerated porch piers.
After the end of the land boom in the late 1920's limited construction occurred
in Sarasota until the World War II era. Residential design during the period was
simply executed with available materials and little design influence, or relied
heavily on borrowed revival styles particularly the Classical and Colonial
Most recently Sarasota's modern architectural movement, the
Sarasota School of Architecture, has garnered attention in the popular press. A
notable example of the style is Jack West's Sarasota City Hall located at 1565
First St. Characterized by the extensive use of glass to create transitional
indoor/outdoor spaces, and broad building overhangs and site planning to
maximize shade. The style dominated Sarasota architecture from 1941 to 1966.
Both the earliest frame vernacular style and the latest regional modern movement
are distinguished by designs that were executed in harmony with nature, using
native materials, site planning, and design to celebrate the virtues of a
For more information on Sarasota's architectural styles and
appropriate rehabilitation treatments, consult Sarasota's Design Guidelines for
Rehabilitating Historic Structures available at the Sarasota County History
State of Florida Archives asks for help in identifying
historical photos. Do you know this couple near a trailer park?
Once popular Hover Colony has long been
Sarasota County History Center
In the early 1900s, if groups of people came to the Sarasota Bay region for the
winter from the same family or location, they were sometimes called "colonies."
One of those was the Hover Colony, which included members of the Hover family
from Lima, Ohio.
Dr. William E. Hover was the first of his family to visit Florida, having come
in 1902 to clear a throat infection. Two years later, he sailed south from Tampa
and found land along Roberts Bay, 80 acres of which he purchased for $550.
Two brothers, a sister, two cousins and their families followed. Together, the
extended family owned about 100 acres between what is now the Landings and the
Field Club in Sarasota. Pine and citrus groves were on the back of the property.
The cleared front of the property contained the family's five houses along the
bayfront and a dock. The homes faced the bay because at the time they were
built, most travel to and from them was by boat. A 1910 news article noted that
the Hovers' 28-foot launch, powered by a 7-horse power engine, aided the
brothers in their numerous fishing trips to the Gulf.
Typically, members of the Hover Colony arrived in Sarasota by train after the
Christmas holiday and stayed through April. (Some of the Sarasota Times'
announcements of the family's arrival describe their coming by private rail
car.) Mary Dille, whose mother was the Hover sister, later remembered that on
her first trip to Sarasota in 1906, her family got off the train at Main Street
and walked through the sand to the dock and the family boat.
Although their contemporaries knew them as the Hover Colony, later residents
recognized the Hover family name because of the Arcade building, which included
Sarasota City Hall from 1917 to 1967.
In 1911, William, Oscar and Frank Hover purchased the pier at the foot of Main
Street from Harry Higel, early Sarasota mayor and real estate developer, for
$5,000. They widened and lengthened the pier and introduced some commercial
enterprises, including a machine shop, oil tanks and a fish supply shop.
In 1913, they built the $20,000 arcade, a two-story structure of yellow brick
with red tile roofing. Two 40-foot towers flanked the archway through which one
could drive from Main Street onto the dock. Dave Broadway's restaurant and ice
cream parlor occupied the northern part of the ground floor and the Lyric
Theater occupied part of the southern portion. The second floor housed offices.
By 1916, the Sarasota
City Council recognized the need for a city dock, but realized there was no
appropriate land available. With voter approval of a bond issue, the following
year they purchased the Hover Brothers' pier and Arcade for $40,000.
Initially, city government offices left their rented locations and created City
Hall in the Hover Arcade. Four years later, the city fire department moved in,
along with administrative and judicial offices for the newly established
Sarasota County government. Reflecting the rapid population growth during the
1920s, county offices moved out of the Hover Arcade to temporary quarters and
then permanently to the 1927 courthouse, and city offices expanded into the
In the late 1920s, William, Oscar and Frank Hover made their Sarasota homes
their permanent residences. By the time the Hover Arcade was demolished in 1967,
these founders of the Hover Colony had died.
After fill had been added to the bayfront to provide space for the construction
of Bayfront Drive, the arcade no longer provided the connection between bay and
city and no longer provided sufficient space for City Hall. What had been a
well-known name in the first quarter of the century then faded from the public
Crosley's estate linked to several owners
Norm Luppino, chairman,
Crosley Estate Foundation
The secluded bayfront property in south Manatee County known as
Seagate is celebrated as the site where Powel Crosley Jr. built his palatial
winter estate in 1929. One of the 20th Century's greatest entrepreneurs, Crosley
owned the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and was a pioneer in the manufacturing
of radios, compact cars and the Shelvador refrigerators.
Before Crosley's association, this site attracted another nationally prominent
citizen and was once envisioned to be an exclusive residential suburb.
Crosley's 63-acre estate was part of a 279-acre tract that
extended north to what is presently Whitfield Estates.
In 1915 it was purchased by Bertha Palmer, one of the nation's wealthiest and
most prominent citizens. Bertha was the widow of famed Chicago businessman
Potter Palmer, who was the namesake for the renowned Palmer House Hotel.
An enormously successful business person in her own right, Bertha was an early
Sarasota pioneer and a large land owner whose name today is linked with Palmer
Ranch and Historic Spanish Point. Bertha died in 1918 and never utilized the
property for any known purpose.
During the 1920s Florida Land Boom, the property became one of
the most sought after pieces of real estate in the area. After Bertha's estate
sold it in May 1924, a buying and selling frenzy ensued in which incredible
profits were made.
A Chicago lawyer purchased the property for $120,000 and declined a profit of
$50,000 the next day, selling it 50 days later to a Lakeland group for $279,000.
One month later, it was sold to a Tampa corporation for $450,000.
By early 1925, the property's value had been driven so high that
the 279-acre tract was divided into three parcels to make it more marketable.
Each fronted Sarasota Bay and extended across the Tamiami Trail.
The southern 63-acre parcel, which Crosley would later acquire, was purchased by
a development team in late 1925 for slightly more than $365,000.
At $5,800 per acre, it was reported to be the highest price paid for a bayfront
parcel to date. Plans were announced for the development of the most magnificent
subdivision this section had ever seen.
Seagate was selected as the name for the venture because it
expressed in a single word the beauty of the property's land and
subdivision was promoted nationally as "Sarasota's most aristocratic suburb."
Things did not go as planned, however. Construction to widen the Tamiami Trail
from nine feet to two lanes severely hindered the ability to develop and market
Seagate. Just when the road was completed in the fall of 1926, the land boom
Except for the erection of a sign along the Tamiami Trail and
some site clearing, no other development occurred. The property went into
foreclosure and was sold at auction in 1928 to the Tampa corporation who had
previously divided it.
Powel Crosley Jr. purchased the 63-acre parcel in May 1929 for the reported
price of $35,000 -- less than 1/10th what it sold for three years earlier. One
month later, construction of Crosley's 18-room winter estate commenced.
Crosley's mansion, featuring the newly restored and decorated
second floor, is opened to the public Tuesday through Dec. 10 for "Holidays at
the Crosley, a Festival of Trees."
Dozens of beautifully decorated Christmas trees, entertainment, antique Crosley
automobiles (weekend only) and Crosley radios, gift boutique, bayside café, and
a vintage railroad display will be featured.
Admission is $5 with proceeds used to restore the mansion. Call 722-3244 for
Sarasota's Drive-In Theater
Mark D. Smith, archivist
America's love affair with the drive-in theater began in the
1930s. The first drive-in theater was invented by Richard M. Hollingshead of New
Hollingshead began experimenting with the idea at his home by hanging a sheet
for a screen in his backyard. He mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of
his car and placed a radio behind the screen for sound. He tested the sound with
the car windows up and down and simulated weather conditions, like using a lawn
sprinkler to simulate a rainstorm.
One problem that did arise was that if the cars were parked
behind each other, the rear cars would not be able to see the whole picture. To
fix this problem, Hollingshead lined up the cars in his driveway at various
distances and placed blocks under their front wheels. By doing this he was able
to find the correct spacing and angles to build ramps for the car front tires to
park on. He received a patent for the first drive-in Theater on May 16, 1933.
Drive-ins began appearing in Florida in 1938. The first one in
the state was the Miami Drive-In, which opened on Feb. 25, 1938. The next one to
open in the state was the Atlantic Drive-In in Jacksonville on Dec. 6, 1939.
Although the idea was catching on in the early 1940s, World War II curtailed the
building of new drive-ins. After the end of the war, the number of drive-ins
nationwide went from 105 in 1946 to 820 in 1948. The era of the drive-in was
beginning and would reach its peak in the late 1950s.
Sarasota built its first drive-in in 1949 with the opening of
the Trail Drive-In on the North Tamiami Trail, across from the Sarasota
Bradenton Airport. The Trail Drive-In touted itself as one of the largest
drive-ins in the Southeast in 1951.
It had the capacity for 780 cars and showed only first-run pictures of the
"highest quality." In an ad in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Nov. 20, 1949, the
Trail Drive-In was described as "one of the finest projection rooms in the
nation. The screen impression, located 265 feet from the projection room is
clear, sharp and light. The lounges are immaculate and a modern snack bar serves
chicken and shrimp dinners for your refreshment." The screen measured 65 feet by
47 feet and was the largest in the south.
The Trail Drive-In stressed family entertainment by providing
playgrounds for the kids and talent shows. The theater would open early so
families would make an evening of it. One ad in the Sarasota Journal in the
mid-1950s stated that the "whole family likes the Trail Drive-In Theater because
Mom can leave her girdle at home; Dad likes to smoke big black cigars and he
will hear no complaints at the Drive-In; baby sleeps in the back seat with all
the comforts of home; brother likes grub with his entertainment and the Drive-In
theater is less costly."
Drive-in Theaters peaked in the late 1950s, with more than 4,000
drive-ins in the United States and Canada. However, the '60s and '70s brought a
slow but steady decline to the drive-in theater business.
Many blamed the introduction of daylight savings time and the end of the "baby
boom" for declining revenues. Others began showing "B" movies and X-rated
features which catered to teen and adult audiences. The '80s brought cable TV
and the introduction of the VCR, which kept people at home. Many theater owners,
sensing that their time had passed, began selling land to developers.
The Trail Drive-In closed in the '80s and stood vacate for
years. Today it is a site of a new hotel and storage facility.
For additional information on this subject or another relating
to Sarasota County's history, call 861-1180. The History Center is at 701 N.
Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236.
Scott led Manatee County's electric industry
-- Alice Myers, historian: Palmetto Historical Commission
Scott Electric was one of Manatee County's first full-service
electric stores. Clarence B. Scott was the first electrician to display electric
He and his men could wire your house, business or packinghouse for electricity,
install your first electric lights, and supply and service your refrigerators,
stoves, water heaters and small appliances.
With the invention and development of new electrical products, Scott's, as the
business was known, was among the first with radios, television sets, and air
Clarence was a son of the Rev. Sam Scott and his wife Sara. When
Scott was transferred from Bradenton to another Methodist Church, and eventually
would build the First Methodist Church in Sarasota, his son decided to stay in
Clarence Scott was a pioneer in the telephone and electrical business. As a very
young man, he helped string the early telephone lines in Palmetto and Bradenton.
He was one of the first telephone switchboard operators in Palmetto. Men
operated the switchboards at night. It was on that switchboard that he heard the
voice of Mary "Miriam" Pollard, and a courtship followed.
They were married on Feb. 6, 1912. He delivered mail by bicycle,
and became the assistant postmaster. He used that bicycle as he began to work as
From the time Clarence opened the doors of his first Scott Electric in 1916,
Mary worked with him. She handled the telephone and clerked in the store.
Their store was always near the center of town. It was first located on Fourth
Street, then Old Main Street.
When Highway 41, the Tamiami Trail, moved to Eighth Avenue, Clarence moved too,
erecting a new building for his store, renting part of the building to Robert
Kemp for his grocery store and later as office space to the Tresca and Moore
Insurance Agency. For a while he also had a store in Bradenton.
For many years before the Manatee County School Board was
established, Scott, D.M. Courtney, O.C. McLean and others served as the Palmetto
School Board. They built the new Palmetto High School on its Ninth Avenue site
now occupied by the Palmetto Elementary School complex.
Clarence Scott and his family supported the public school system in many ways.
Every Palmetto High School yearbook carried a Scott Electric ad, often featuring
a senior such as Peggy Wingate -- whose picture is shown here in the 1962
Young men began lifelong careers in radio and electronics
working for Scott Electric. Others tell similar stories. Often hanging in the
shop was a cast net sportsman Clarence Scott was making for some friend or he
was teaching some young man to make.
The Scott family made many contributions to their community and county. They
were known as caring people. They had the same customers for generations.
One single mother told me how badly she wanted a television set for Christmas
for her son. Her income was the family's only income. She went to Scott telling
him she could not make a down payment, but she had a tax refund payment coming
and if he would let her take the TV for her son's Christmas, she would
immediately pay him in full when the refund came. There was a happy Christmas
and the debt was promptly paid.
Scott Electric served the community almost 76 years.
100-year-old Clarence Scott died on January 29, 1992, just nine days shy of
their 80th wedding anniversary. His beloved Mary followed him in death on July
22 of that year. Later that year when Scott Electric closed, it was the oldest
business in Palmetto and quite probably the oldest in Manatee County.