Sarasota’s Oldest Neighborhood: From Sara Sota Village to Sarasota

Sarasota’s Oldest Neighborhood: From Sara Sota Village to Sarasota

In 1870, twenty-eight years after Sarasota Pioneer William H. Whitaker settled at Whitaker Bayou, the Jesse Bennett family acquired a homestead two miles south of the Whitaker farm, near present Osprey Avenue and McClellan Parkway. The Bennetts had moved to Florida from Brooklyn, New York, seeking a healing climate for their son, a tuberculosis victim. The village that evolved around their homestead came to be known as Sara Sota.
By 1878, Sara Sota had a store-post office, a school, and a bucket factory. The store-post office, at present Osprey Avenue and Hillview Street, was operated by Charles Abbe, from Illinois. A mail boat docked at Post Office Point, the land projection now called Harbor Acres. Caroline Abbe, daughter of the storekeeper-postmaster, taught twelve students in an old fishing shack on Cunliff Lane, The bucket factory, Cunliff Lane at the Bay, made buckets of cedar wood cut on present Siesta and Longboat keys. That enterprise ceased to operate in 1881 when the owner died., after which Alfred Bidwell used the factory building as a store, Sara Sota’s second.
Sara Sota literally was hacked from the wilderness, its only thoroughfares Hudson Bayou and the bay. Men fished, farmed, and hunted game for food. Women sewed by hand by the light of fish oil lamps and cooked outdoors because it was too hot and smoky to cook indoors. There were few windows in the houses and no screens, so insects came and went at will. Major excitements were the weekly mail boat, religious assemblies, and the arrivals of new families.
This mode of living was an anachronism of the times. The nation had been spanned by rail; the typewriter, the telephone, the sewing machine, carpet sweeper, and electric light had been invented; and just over the horizon were the gasoline engine and motion pictures. Sara Sotans, some not so young, had forsaken Industrial Age comforts to search for improved health, simpler living, and fresh opportunities.
In 1885, an investment company that owned land farther north, built houses and stores on present Main Street, changing Sara Sota to Sarasota. When the post office was moved to Main Street in 1887, an official acknowledgment of the region’s future as the business center, Sara Sota relaxed into a pleasant residential community and was eventually embraced by the spreading metropolis.
A marker at Osprey Avenue and Cunliff Lane is the only indication that this area is Sarasota’s oldest neighborhood.
“Near this spot was Sarasota’s First Post Office established in the home and store of Charles E. Abbe, appointed postmaster August 16, 1878”
Sarasota’s first post office historical marker was erected in 1968 by The Col. Jeremiah Early Jr. Chapter, Daughters of the American Colonists. The marker is located at the intersection of McClellan Parkway and South Osprey Avenue, in front of the entrance pillars to McClellan Park.
Source: The Historical Marker Database

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