Historic Sites

The earliest known era of local history is documented at Historic Spanish Point, a 30-acre historical, archaeological and environmental museum located in south Sarasota County. Historic Spanish Point's “Window to the Past” is the only archaeological exhibit in the world built inside a prehistoric shell mound that visitors can explore, surrounding themselves with more than 5,000 years of the Gulf coast's prehistory. 

Learn about the daily lives of Sarasota's early rural settlers, farmers and ranchers during a visit to the Crowley Museum and Nature Center in the rural east county. The Crowley Nature Center hosts the annual Florida Heritage Festival every February, featuring Civil War skirmish re-enactments, whip-cracking and pioneer trades like weaving and blacksmithing. The Historical Society of Sarasota is also a must-visit for hands-on history enthusiasts. Housed in Sarasota's oldest residence, the Bidwell-Wood house, built in 1882, the society presents monthly “Classes on the Back Porch” where participants can learn various historic crafts, as well as regular education programming in the neighboring historic Crocker Memorial Church, built in 1901. 

As Sarasota grew, the downtown area became home to more than a dozen historic sites, including the Selby Library, the Sarasota Opera House, the Kress Building and the Roth Cigar Factory—all of which are in walking distance. Downtown Venice is also rich in history. The Historic Venice Train Depot, the only surviving passenger station in Sarasota County and the last structure built just before the Florida Land Boom collapsed in 1928, served as the primary route of entry for material and personnel when the U.S. Army established a World War II air base in Venice in 1942. It later became the rail route for the Ringing Barnum and Bailey Circus Bros. starting in the 1960s.

Round out a trip through time at The Ringling. Explore the estate of John and Mable Ringling, which in addition to one of the most comprehensive collections of Renaissance and Baroque art in the United States, includes a circus museum that highlights Sarasota’s history under the Big Top; Mable Ringling’s famous rose garden that dates back nearly a century in time, and the Ringlings’ dazzling Ca’ d’Zan mansion.

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