Historic DeMarcay Hotel Sign at Downtown Sarasota Visitor Center
Historic DeMarcay Hotel Sign at Downtown Sarasota Visitor Center

The DeMarcay: A Slice of a Distinguished Past in Sarasota

A piece of history now hangs in the Visit Sarasota County Visitor Information Center

March 23, 2021

Sarasota has changed quite a bit over the past 100 years. In fact, if you look at old photos of Main Street or Palm Avenue, it’s likely you wouldn’t even recognize them. There is one piece of history, however, that has stood the test of time for a century. Thanks to the team behind The DeMarcay, the luxury residences coming to historic Palm Avenue, part of that history will continue to live on as a legacy that honors its past.

Since the inception of this condominium project, the intention of GK Real Estate, the developers of the project, was to preserve as much as possible of the former cigar factory and hotel that once sat on the site, including materials such as the original tin tiles on the ceiling and interior doors.

Among items salvaged from the project include the prominent hotel sign that hung on the property since the early 1900s. The DeMarcay team felt that the sign was an intricate part of Sarasota’s history and needed to be conserved. When construction began, the sign was carefully removed, with plans to restore and donate it to Visit Sarasota County.

Virginia Haley, President of Visit Sarasota County, stands with Bobbi Ellis, Sales Manager at The DeMarcay Residences under the newly hung sign in the Visit Sarasota County Visitor Center located in Downtown Sarasota, Florida.

"The DeMarcay is truly a unique and special project,” said Greg Kveton, partner at GK Real Estate, the developer behind The DeMarcay. "We are proud to present it to Visit Sarasota County to house this precious piece of history inside its Downtown Sarasota Visitor Center for many years to come.”

Sarasota Architectural Salvage, whose mission is to preserve valuable and historical materials, was the organization chosen to assist with the hotel sign restoration process prior to the donation. Jesse White, founder of Sarasota Architectural Salvage, was able to provide some additional information below regarding the refurbishment process:

Q: How long did the overall restoration process take from start to finish?

A: The entire process took roughly five hours, but we also spent time researching.

Q: What steps did you take?

A: The first thing we did was determine the intended use for the sign after restoration. We also did a lot of research regarding the materials. Since the sign had been outdoors for so long and had weathered the outside elements, the intention remained to keep the worn appearance for historic reference, but give it a fresh look. When we started the actual process of restoring the sign, we first removed the wooden spacer blocks that originally attached the sign to the old hotel. These spacer blocks were essentially rafter ends that the sign was lag bolted to. However, we only removed them from the back to keep the bolt heads on the front of the sign for historic reference. We then moved on to the cleaning aspect of the job, which included a light air spray with brushes to clear dust and grime from the wood base and letters. Normally, we utilize a process of water blasting, air drying and sanding, but this was a more delicate case. After cleaning, we prepared the sign for a clear coating of four coats of interior matte lacquer.

Q: Have you ever restored something like this hotel sign before?

A: Our previous work would not be characterized as restoration. We are continually preparing historic wood for repurposing into new projects. This involves paint removal or stabilizing, surface preparations and clear coatings. We also have had many projects where we have added new elements to a historic piece and matched up paint colors and finish textures. 

Q: Why were you excited to be a part of this project?

A: As a nearly lifelong Sarasota resident, I am deeply connected to our history and its robust psycho-social story. The DeMarcay Hotel is a project I’ve been watching for years. This sign was an iconic part of that structure and one that gives the building a sense of place both in history and in the institutional memory of a long lost old Sarasota. Being part of a restoration project like this helps me feel like Sarasota Architectural Salvage is having an impact in keeping the memory alive of Sarasota’s formative days.

Q: Do you think it’s important for developers like GK Real Estate to try and preserve parts of the historical past of buildings like The DeMarcay?

A: We believe it is a moral and ethical obligation of landowners and developers to preserve, salvage and repurpose historical architectural elements for the joy, wonder and appreciation of future generations.

The restored hotel sign was recently presented to Visit Sarasota County. Located at 1945 Fruitville Road in Sarasota, the sign is hung in the organization’s lobby for residents and visitors to enjoy in perpetuity.

“We are delighted that the team at The DeMarcay thought of us at Visit Sarasota County to house and display this treasure,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County. “With Sarasota County celebrating its 100-year anniversary, the timing of this historical sign is perfect. We were excited to get to work with longtime partner Jesse White at Sarasota Architectural Salvage to restore this piece so that it is ready to be hung at our Downtown Sarasota Visitor Center.”

The DeMarcay at 33 S. Palm Ave. will include 39 well-appointed modern residences with the convenience and excitement of downtown living. The DeMarcay will have luxury amenities including 24-hour valet service, a rooftop clubroom and pool with sweeping views of the bay for every resident and a fitness center. Located directly across the street from the project at 32 S. Palm Avenue in Sarasota, the showroom and sales gallery contain a variety of visuals. Visitors can also see a scaled replica of the building, see two vignettes of the well-appointed kitchens and bathrooms and hold samples of the interior finishes. Here, future residents are able to visualize the amenities and rooftop clubroom that will be enjoyed on a daily basis. Arrange an appointment by calling 941-404-8858 or visiting TheDeMarcay.com.

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