Sarasota wasn’t always like it is today, not by a long shot. It was better. For one thing, the community has a sense of its identity. We were unique - and we knew it. Landmark buildings, whether the Mediterranean Revival or Spanish Mission designs of the 1920's, the Art Moderne of the 30's or the modern, trendsetting Sarasota School of Architecture homes and buildings of the 40's and 50's, set us apart. There was no mistaking Sarasota for Clearwater, Largo, or St Petersburg.
This is no longer true. Today, many of our most prominent buildings, rising up as quickly as space can be found to shoehorn them in, are seen in every large city in the state - unimaginative high-rises embellished with various doodad add-ons. By contrast, there was only one El Verona Hotel, Mira Mar Hotel, ACL Depot and Lido Casino.
Whatever "planning" has been involved, the recent growth spurt has obviously been developer oriented, with the protection of landmark buildings not high on the agenda. When the El Verona a.k.a. John Ringling Hotel/John Ringling Towers was razed in 1998 despite the vociferous opposition of citizens, a representative of the Crowne Plaza told this author that his group could not believe that Sarasota would let such a significant landmark go.
These are the opening paragraphs of Jeff LaHurd's excellent new book "Gulf Coast Chronicles".
This trend continues today. There is a proposal for demolition of the Demarcay Hotel and the Roth Cigar Factory with replacement by another hi-rise condo development.
The Roth Cigar Factory was designed by Thomas Reed Martin and is Mission/Spanish Revival style. This structure is at 30 Mira Mar Ct. It is two stories, and features masonry, stucco, roof parapet topped by scrolled and foliated cartouche, and a metal grille on balcony. It was designed to integrate architecturally with the nearby Mira Mar Hotel and Apartment complex. The factory produced cigars for local consumption. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
The Demarcay Hotel on S. Palm Ave. was built in 1922. It also is Mission Style. Architecturally it features two stories, masonry, stucco, five bays, ogee-arch windows above first and with the fifth bay on the second floor. It is part of a complex which included the Mira Mar Hotel and Apartment.
It is difficult to contemplate the continued destruction of Sarasota’s past as the town is transformed into another generic Florida coastal city looking like Ft Lauderdale.