Sarasota's Newtown Officially Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Newtown Historic District of Sarasota County was nationally recognized as a historical place worthy of preservation.

Get to know one of Sarasota County's oldest communities: Newtown Historic District, now proudly designated in the National Register of Historic Places. With over 700 contributing resources (meaning the integrity, location and design have been retained for at least 50 years), Newtown stands as the largest historic district in Sarasota and the premier Black historic district in Florida.

The journey to securing this esteemed status began in April 2009, spurred by city leaders and Newtown community residents impassioned to safeguard their predominately Black neighborhood and unique cultural heritage. A strategic endeavor unfolded, meticulously documenting Newtown's storied past to meet federal criteria for National Register inclusion. The culmination of this collective effort was officially realized on April 19, 2024, when Newtown earned its place in history.

"This historic designation by the federal government is significant,” says Dr. Cliff Smith, Senior Planner overseeing the City of Sarasota’s historic preservation program. “Getting to this point truly was a community effort. Residents approached staff 15 years ago and wanted to know the best way to save Newtown’s cultural heritage and showcase its significance. It takes time to document so many historical resources, record personal histories and present a case that an area meets the criteria for a national register designation."

Distinction & Preservation

newtown alive

Under this prestigious designation, demolition applications now undergo rigorous review by the Historic Preservation Board, ensuring thoughtful preservation practices and protection of cherished landmarks. The building permit process for structural modifications remains unchanged—maintaining the district's architectural integrity. 

“This is exciting news for the Newtown community,” shares District 1 City Commissioner Kyle Battie, a Newtown native. “Being listed in the National Register of Historic Places means the important history and special character of Newtown will be preserved for future generations. Buildings significant to our history will not be demolished. There’s no downside for residents—no negative impact on personal property rights with this designation.”

The establishment of the Newtown National Register Historic District received vital support from the Underrepresented Communities grant program, administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior. This funding catalyzed the preservation efforts, ensuring Newtown's cultural identity endures for generations to come. 

Experience Newtown 

newotwn aliveYou can discover the timeless charm of this area and the important stories it represents in a number of ways. Explore Newtown Historic District on a self-guided tour—stretching from Myrtle Street to 19th Street, with boundaries marked by the Seminole Gulf Railway tracks to the west and U.S. 301 to the east. From the iconic Galilee Cemetery to historic churches and structures, each site encapsulates decades of important history and cultural significance.

For an immersive guided experience, be sure to take the Newtown Alive trolley tour, founded by local historian Vickie Oldham, who played a major role in Newtown's notable achievement. On the tour, you will meet living history-makers sharing their stories, attend raise-the-roof praise service and stop at key locations of Sarasota’s civil rights history—including the Newtown African American Heritage Trail (the southernmost point of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail). The two-hour attraction captures more than 100 years of history with an authentic perspective about the past, present, and future of Sarasota’s oldest Black community.