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St. Armands Key is named for Frenchman Charles St. Amand—and yes, that is a misspelling. St. Amand purchased a total of 131.89 acres on the Key in 1893 for a whopping $21.71, but his name was misspelled in the original deeds. St. Amand and other pioneers fished in the surrounding wa- ters and grew produce, shipping it to the mainland.
St. Amand sold the land one year later, in 1894, to Angus McInnes for $1500. It was resold several times before 1917 when John Ringling bought it, envisioning it as a high-end shopping destination.
Anna Maria Island
Gulf of Mexico
12 photo Jack Elka
In 1925, Ringling began construction of a causeway that would join St. Armands Key to the mainland. Real estate sales topped $1 million in one day in 1926, when sales of the John Ringling Estate launched. But most transactions were made with minimal deposits, which were forfeited or returned after the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.
Ringling donated the causeway to the City of Sarasota because he was unable to maintain it. For the next 20 years, St. Armands Key sat virtually barren, with vegetation overgrowing what was
once the grand Circle. But in the 1940s and 1950s, businesses began to revisit the Circle. By the 1960s, it had earned the reputation of a premier shopping destination that it still maintains today, with 100+ thriving businesses.
Roughly 750 residents are on St. Armands Key, many of whom are members of the St. Armands Key Residents Association, founded in 1951. Recently, residents and merchants banded together to restore Ringling’s historic statues, paying hom- age to Ringling’s vision for St. Armands Key and for the future of Sarasota. d
St. Armands Key Then & Now
Bradenton Sarasota Bay
St. Armands Circle
City Island
Bird Key
Lido Key
Longboat Key

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