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Lido Key
In the 1920s, entrepreneur John Ringling took an interest in Lido Key after his family’s circus moved its winter headquarters to near- by Sarasota. Hoping to inspire then-president Warren G. Harding to buy a winter residence on neighboring Bird Key, Ringling named the streets on Lido Key after American presidents to entice Harding. In fact, the John Ringling Estate on Bird Key was known as “The Winter White House” in 1923. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Paleo and Calusa Indians who lived on Lido Key and the surrounding lands for 4,000 years worshipped the sun. One glimpse at our sun- drenched shores makes it easy to understand why. The Indians left the barrier island after Spanish explorers arrived in search of gold in the 1500s. For more than three centuries, the barrier island was largely uninhabited. In 1940, the city of Sarasota opened the Lido Casino
Photo Stephanie Dubsky Photography
with funding from the Works Progress Admin- istration (WPA), the largest New Deal agency, to attract tourists and provide jobs. The casino became a popular attraction in the 1940s and 1950s. Tourists lined up to have their pictures taken with the massive seahorse sculptures attached to the building. Although the casino was demolished in 1969, today, the inviting Lido Beach Pavilion stands in its place.
Lido Key was among the barrier islands that Arvida Corporation purchased for $13.5 million in 1959. Nine years later, the public protested when Arvida proposed enlarging part of Lido Key as it had Bird Key. As a com- promise, Arvida sold Sarasota County the northern and southern tips of Lido Key to use as county parks. About 2,500 full and part-tim- ers live here in the peak season. Like it was to Lido Key’s earliest residents, sun-worship is a prerequisite here. d
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