March 14 – 26 – Downtown Sarasota – The Legacy Trail – Hidden Figures – Shuffleboard

Last week, Debbie and I took a walking tour of parts of old and eclectic sections of Sarasota.  Surrounded by high rises

government buildings

and the dramatic spires of historic churches,

we found ourselves walking along sidewalks in which tile art was embedded

building were often painted in bright colors,

pipe and other sculptures were everywhere,

interesting fountains,

and creative wall murals were incredible.

At the intersection of Pineapple and Main Streets … "Five Points",

A glimpse of Five Points in 1909, shortly before Owen Burns (1869 – 1937)

was born on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He was an entrepreneur, banker, builder and land developer who at one time owned the majority of Sarasota, Florida and developed or built many of its historic structures, developments, roads, seawalls, and bridges. He became a leader in the community, contributing to its growth and development. He arrived in Sarasota. The trough in the center of Five Points was replaced in 1917 with a flagpole.

Yesterday, we biked

a 10.8-mile paved trail running between Sarasota and Venice, Florida. 

The railroad line was originally built in 1911 as part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad's extension to Venice.  The railroad line provided passenger service to Venice up until 1971, and most notably carried The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was headquartered in Venice from 1959 to 1992.  The circus was the last consistent service the rail line carried.

Due to decreased demand for service and the heavily deteriorated condition of the tracks and bridges, CSX (Seaboard's successor) and Seminole Gulf Railway, who had been leasing the line from CSX since 1987, collectively decided to abandon the line south of Palmer Ranch around 2004. Sarasota County, in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land, acquired the right of way for $11.75 million for use as a trail. The Legacy Trail was opened to the public on March 28,  2008.

In some places, remnants of the original railroad tracks can still be found.

One of two repair pedestals located along the Trail

The only remaining rural church in southern Sarasota County dating from the 1910s, Johnson Chapel was built as the Osprey Missionary Baptist Church, in 1915 on the west side of the Tamiami Trail in Osprey, six miles north of Laurel, by Bertha Potter Palmer. When a new church was constructed in 1947, the Johnson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church purchased and moved the one-story, wood frame vernacular building to its present site. It has since served as a church, community center and a meeting place for the Lily White Lodge #22 (an African American association established to provide burial benefits and health care).

Along the trail were a number of signs describing the flora and fauna as well as history of the area.  Among the most interesting was the history of the Turpentine Industry in Venice.  By the beginning of the 20th century, the turpentine industry had moved from North Carolina to the virgin pine stands of Florida where longleaf and slash pines were slashed and sapped to death for their turpentine sap. 

In order to tap the sap-producing layers of a tree, the pine bark was removed. 

Once debarked, pine trees secreted oleoresin to seal the opening, reduce exposure to organisms and insects and prevent sap loss.  Turpentiners cut V-shaped cuts along the length or the trunks in order to channel the oleoresin into containers. 

It was then collected and processed into spirits of turpentine. 

Applying herbicides could increase the yield by almost 40%.

The distilled sap produces turpentine, resin, pine oil, tar and pitch that are then used to produce varnish and paint.  It takes only six to ten years to kill a tree by bleeding it of its sap. 

In the Venice area, there were at least three camps harvesting the pine saps.  They employed primarily black labor and leased convicts who lived in company towns.  The convicts lived in a stockade.

Wages were $1.00 to $1,75 per day, and convicts could be leased for $150 a year; pay scales which lasted into the 1940s.  Governor Napoleon Broward stopped the leasing of convicts in 1923 after a young white boy was killed.  However, a new law allowing employers to retain workers for debts continued the hard labor until the industry died after World War II. 

It took less than 50 years for Florida to loose over 80% of these valuable trees. 

Despite Florida's current drought, there are still animals to be seen along the Legacy Trail.


Wooly Bear Caterpillar

Coral Snake

Gopher Tortoise

Although Florida Panthers have been occasionally spotted and even photographed, we disappointingly saw none.

In 2011, an overpass was built to carry the trail over the Tamiami Trail (US 41) a major six-lane highway.

Prior to the overpass's construction, trail users had to use a crosswalk at an adjacent intersection.

The Legacy Trail's southern terminus is at the Venice Railway Station.

Nearby we spotted a welcoming water tower

and another incredible building mural.


After grabbing lunch at a restaurant which has been popular with the "locals" for thirty-nine years.

We headed back to Sarasota.

Today, Ken and Cheryl joined us to see a truly exceptional movie.

Hidden Figures

followed by lunch at Phillippi Oyster Bar Restaurant.



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