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In the 1920s, entrepreneur John Ringling took an interest in Lido Key after his family’s circus moved its winter headquarters to nearby Sarasota. Hoping to inspire then-president Warren G. Harding to buy a winter residence on neighboring Bird Key, Ring- ling named the streets on Lido Key after American presidents to entice Harding. In fact, the John Ring- ling Estate on Bird Key was known as “The Winter White House” in 1923.
Lido Key
Archaeological evidence suggests that the Pa- leo 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 with funding from the Works Progress Ad- ministration (WPA), the largest New Deal agency, to attract tourists and provide jobs. The casino be- came 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
Photo Stephanie Dubsky Photography
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 compromise, Arvida sold Sara- sota County the northern and southern tips of Lido Key to use as county parks. Lido Key’s stunning, powdery white sand beach is dotted with hotels and motels. A population of about 2,500 full and part-timers live here in the peak season. Like it was to Lido Key’s earliest residents, sun-worship is a prerequisite here.
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