Posted on BLVD’s website on June 6th
Set amidst a tropical paradise, St. Armands is an enchanting circle of fine shops and gourmet restaurants. Renowned as a market place with a continental flavor, it is a charming and graceful synthesis of past and present.
Lush tropical plantings, and contemporary architectural design skillfully contribute to an international atmosphere of friendly warmth and timeless style. Relax in the restaurants, explore the shops – from trinkets to treasures, gourmet snacks to candlelight feasts, you’ll find it all on St. Armand’s Circle.
However, becoming the thriving cultural destination it is today did not come without struggle. Here are a few little known facts about the history of St. Armand’s Circle:
• In 1893, Charles St. Amand, A Frenchman and first resident of the island, purchased for $21.71 three tracts of land totaling 131.89 acres. In later land deeds, his name was misspelled “St. Armand” and this spelling has persisted to the present day.
• Visionary circus magnate John Ringling purchased the St. Armands Key property in 1917 and planned a development which included residential lots and a shopping center laid out in a circle. As no bridge to the key had yet been built, Ringling engaged an old paddle-wheel steamboat, the “Success,” to service as a work boat. Circus elephants were used to haul the huge timbers from which the bridge and causeway were built.
• One year later, amid much pomp and ceremony, both the John Ringling Causeway and Ringling Estates development opened to the public, with John Ringling himself leading a parade across the causeway and his Circus Band playing from a bandstand in the center of the Circle.
• As the nationwide depression worsened, land sales in Florida and on St. Armands stopped completely. In 1928, the City of Sarasota accepted the causeway as a gift, which Ringling himself could no longer afford to maintain. Gradually, the wooden causeway began to rot, the Circle bandstand sagged, and the native vegetation covered the carefully planned streets and sidewalks.
• During the 1940’s, several courageous investors opened restaurants and a service station on the Circle but not until 1953 did business once again resume on St. Armands. By 1955 a number of stores had opened.
• Today, more than 130 stores on St. Armands Circle pamper customers from all areas of the United States and many foreign countries.
The St. Armands Circle experience is indeed a memorable one. Explore and enjoy a day of European style shopping with a gourmet lunch in a cozy cafe. Those who admire St. Armands sophisticated style and luxury will also notice that there is a new addition to that tradition of Sarasota excellence. Just a short drive from St. Armands Circle, in the heart of the Rosemary District, is BLVD Sarasota, downtown’s newest and most impressive address.
Here are a couple of businesses located on St. Armands Circle;