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Bird Key Sarasota History

bird-key
Located in Sarasota Bay, just south of the Ringling Causeway and nearby St. Armands Key, lies Bird Key. Originally, the small island was connected by a causeway which ran between it and the Ringling Causeway. Known as one of the most desirable locations on Florida's west coast, Bird Key was home to John Ringling North, a nephew of the famous circus magnate. Other famous residents include hard rock singer Brian Johnson and tennis star Martina Navratilova. And, one of its biggest boasts is the Bird Key Yacht Club, offering a marina, event hosting and much more.

Bird Key Sarasota History


Bird Key wasn't always the beautiful jewel we enjoy today. Back at the beginning of the last century, the small island was no more than a flocking ground for birds (hence the namesake). It only stood a few feet about the shallow grass flats surrounding it. That is, until Cincinnati transplant Thomas Martin Worcester fell in love with the plentiful fishing nearby.

The Worcesters and Arvida Realty Company


About late 1911 or early 1912, Mr. Worcester and his wife began to dredge and fill, raising the island out of the water by approximately 5 feet. On Bird Key, the two built a mansion, called "New Edzell Castle," a homage to Mrs. Worcester's ancestral Scottish home. The large estate home build was completed in 1914, costing approximately $100,000 (about $2.4 million in 2016).

Then, in 1922, John Ringling purchased Bird Key, along with acquiring other islands off the mainland Sarasota coast. In 1925, Ringling built bridges and causeways to connect Bird Key and other islands to the mainland. During this time, Mr. Ringling planned to transform New Edzell into a summer home for President Warren Harding. Unfortunately, on August 2nd, 1923, President Harding died at the young age of 57. Mr. Ringling would never have the chance to convert the property for President Harding. However, the big house would serve as a family home for the Ringlings for many decades to come until the late 1950's, when it was vacated to be demolished.

Enter the Arvida Realty Co. In 1959 on October 16th, the development entity announced its transformation plans. The company would venture to convert the 21-acre island, home to just one residential property, into 511 lot enclave. A bold venture but one the company could pull off. Arvida had the capital, connections, resources and crew to make their vision for Bird Key a reality.

“Besides money, Arvida's people had charm and class. It paid off. Just a few years before, an effort by the Ringling estate to develop its waterfront land was shelved, even though it was approved by the city after many revisions and much heated debate. Arvida's cashier's check for the barrier-island acreage was filled out for $13.5 million. That's more than $100 million in 2008 dollars. Within a year, Arvida had dredged 180 acres of prime bay bottom to create the 200-acre, 511-lot Bird Key. With underground utilities, it was groundbreaking in more ways than one. Marketed by the local Arvida Realty office headed by Fred Berger, lots were priced from $9,000 to $15,000 for ‘garden’ lots and up to $32,000 for the choice sites overlooking the city on Meadow Lark Drive, the Herald-Tribune reported by in 2009.

Of the 511 lots created by the company, 291 were water-front and 220 were off-water. It's most unusual and challenging feature was its infrastructure. Bird Key is home to an incredible underground electric utility system, comprising almost 146 miles of cable. This power infrastructure was indeed far ahead of its time for the late 1950's and early 1960's. It was at this time, New Edzell would become the Bird Key Yacht Club (located at 301 Bird Key Drive).

Today, Bird Key is one of the most luxurious places to live off of the Sarasota mainland. Home prices range from the upper $700's to nearly $10 million, with floor plans ranging from 3 bed, 3 baths, to 6 bed, 6+ baths. Remarkably, there is some available acreage on the small island. Existing homes on Bird Key have square footage ranging from over 2,000 square feet to more than 8,100 square feet.

For those seeking luxury island living at its finest, Bird Key offers it and so much more. Come enjoy the pleasures of the island, as well as the Sarasota mainland. It's something which simply must be experienced firsthand to be believed. No matter what amenity, activity or pursuit sought, it can be found right here, on and around wonderful Bird Key, in Sarasota, Florida.

For more information about living in Bird Key, Florida and the local real estate market, whether you are buying or selling, please do not hesitate to contact us. We serve the whole, tri-county, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee area, and are happy to be of assistance to you. We have helped buyers and sellers for many years to find and market homes throughout Sarasota County, within the city, and across the area. Go ahead, and contact us today to get started.