October 24 - 30, 2011

October 24 - 30, 2011
John Hamilton Gillespie Celebration Week

The week-long party
celebrating the Father of Sarasota…and golf was a big success! From O'Leary's Kick-off Party, Jeff LaHurd's New Book, Jacobites Bagpipers, Trolley Tours, Kiwanis Golf Tournament, and Hartman Gallery Photography Exhibition, to the Palm Avenue Street Party, The Macallan VIP Scotch Tasting, Lunch in Rosemary Cemetery, and Walking Tour of the Gillespie Park Neighborhood - every special event was a wonderful way to honor Sarasota's history.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Best Local Holiday Gifts

Shop local and buy books about Sarasota's colorful and charming history for everyone on your holiday list this year. The books, by local historian Jeff LaHurd, about John Hamiton Gillespie, the Scot who saved Sarasota 125 years ago, and Owen Burns, the developer who bought and built Sarasota, are on sale at several downtown shops:

William Hartman Gallery
48 South Palm Avenue Sarasota, FL

d. a. gordon dart studio
50 South Palm Avenue Sarasota, FL

1359 Main Street, Sarasota, FL

Sarasota Visitors Center Gift Shop
701 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, FL

The books make unique and fun gifts for friends and family. Each book is only $10 and as an added "feel good" benefit, all proceeds support the wonderful 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization Friends of the Sarasota County History Center.

Pick up your copies today!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Photos from Gillespie Week Events

Click slideshow viewer to see photo albums.

Monday October 24, 2011:  
Gillespie Week Kick Off Party at O'Leary's

Wednesday October 26, 2011:  
Hartman Gallery Photo Exhibition Opening

Saturday October 29, 2011, 3-7pm: 
Palm Avenue Street Party

Saturday October 29, 2011, 7:30pm: 
The Macallan VIP Scotch Whisky Tasting at Caragiulos Restaurant  

Sunday October 30, 2011: Lunch in Rosemary Cemetery

Sunday October 30, 2011: Gillespie Park Neighborhood Walking Tour

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gillespie Week Street Party Saturday - Rain or Shine!

Palm Avenue Street Party Today from 3 - 7pm

Free Event and Free Parking in the North Palm Avenue Parking Garage!

The Jacobites!
Live Music!
Jacobites Bagpipe and Drum Band
Scottish Highland Dancers
UnEven LaNes – Classic Rock and Blues
Sarasota Music Academy – Student Violinists
Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences – Traditional Dance Club

Food Vendors!
Caragiulos Italian Restaurant – beer, wine, water, lunch and dinner
Nancy's Bar-B-Q – Carolina pulled pork and chicken sandwiches; baked beans with pork; edamame succotash
Cupcakes A-Go-Go – freshly baked and frosted cupcakes
Hukilau Hut – Hawaiian shaved ice

Trolley Tours! 10am and 1:30pm, highlighting J.H. Gillespie's contributions to the development of the City of Sarasota with narration by historian Ron McCarty. Advanced Ticket Required. Call for reservations (941) 953-8727. $19 Donation. www.historicsarasota.org
Natasha and Joy from the Sarasota Music Academy

Photography Exhibition "Gillespie's Sarasota"! William Hartman Gallery, 48 South Palm Avenue,
featuring photographs of Sarasota from 1886 – 1926. Free Event.

Church of the Redeemer Tea and Scones - Book Signing - Tour - Scottish Ballads!
Serving complimentary tea and scones from 3 - 5pm with on-going church history tours. Jeff LaHurd will sign his new book "John Hamilton Gillespie, The Scot Who Saved Sarasota" as Bobby Brader performs Scottish and Victorian ballads on the pianoforte. The Church of the Redeemer, 222 South Palm Avenue. Free Event.

Scotch Whisky Tastings in the Scotch Garden!
From 5 - 7pm complimentary scotch whisky tastings will be served at Caragiulos Restaurant Patio, 69 South Palm Avenue. Free Event.

5:30pm Official City of Sarasota Gillespie Proclamation!
Sarasota Mayor Atwell will present the John Hamilton Gillespie Proclamation to The Rev. Fredrick A. Robinson on behalf of the Church of the Redeemer at Caragiulos Restaurant.

Exhibitors and Special Offers!
All Event Rental & Design/Bee Ridge Florist - Special Offer Gillespie Week: 10% off Rentals and Florals
Art to Walk On - Special Offer Saturday October 29, 3 - 5pm: Refreshments and Victorian Rug Display, 64 South Palm Avenue
Eliett's on Palm - Special 20-50% Sale Saturday October 29, 45 South Palm Avenue
Empire Ballroom Studios
ExPress PAK SRQ - Special Offer Saturday October 29: 20% Off Decor Direct Furniture and 10% Off Talavera Pottery, 32 South Palm Avenue
Florida Studio Theatre
Friends of Sarasota County History Center
Nicole Salon on Palm - Special Offer Gillespie Week: 20% Off Any Service, 65 South Palm Avenue, 941-330-9551
Parker's Books and Bazaar - Special Offer October 24 - 29: 10% Discount on ALL Golf Books, 1488 Main Street
Preserving Our History
Remarkable Photography
Richard Strong American Graphic Artist - Special Offer Saturday October 29: 10% Discount on works purchased at the Street Party and a 20% Discount on orders placed.
Sara DeSoto Chapter DAR / SAR
Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation 
Sarasota Architectural Salvage - Special Offer Gillespie Week: Free Gift or 10% Discount with Proof of Attendance, 1093 Central Avenue
Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences Traditional Dance Club
The Sports Page - Special Offer Gillespie Week in the Bar and Package Store, pouring Special Scotch Brands Chivas Regal 18yr., Glenlivet 12yr. & 15yr., & Aberlour 12yr., 1319 Main Street
Venice Olive Oil Company
Vintage Cars - Model A Restorer's Club, Sara-Mana Chapter
Write-On Sarasota - Special Offer Saturday October 29: Free Wine and Cheese and 15% Store Discount, 1423 First Street

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tee Time in Paradise - Exhibit Opening Thursday October 27

Head on out to the Bobby Jones Golf Course Thursday evening from 5:30 - 7 pm for the opening reception of "Tee Time in Paradise: The Early Years of Sarasota Golf". Featuring Keynote Speaker: Tony Jacklin, Four-Time PGA Tour Winner! 
This fine exhibit of Gillespie memorabilia is brought to you by The Sarasota County History Center. Historian Jeff LaHurd will be signing copies of his new book "John Hamilton Gillespie - The Scot Who Saved Sarasota" and light refreshments will be served. 

Did You Know? In December 1885, John Hamilton Gillespie arrived in the village of Sarasota bringing his hickory golf sticks with him from Scotland. By May 1886 he had constructed a two hole golf course between what is now Main Street and Ringling Boulevard. By 1888 the number of golf holes increased to four and a practice range was added to the mix. This course increased to 9 holes and a clubhouse by 1901 and by 1906 a full 18 hole course was in operation.

Bobby Jones Golf Course Clubhouse, 1000 Circus Boulevard - Free Parking
Hosted by The Sarasota County History Center 
Free Event


Festive Hartman Gallery Opening

There was a lovely gathering tonight at William Hartman Gallery's Opening of "Gillespie's Sarasota" featuring photos of Sarasota from 1886 - 1926. Caragiulos set-up a full bar outdoors and everyone enjoyed the balmy weather. Jeff LaHurd stayed busy inscribing John Hamilton Gillespie books while the crowd posed with their favorite Gillespie photo. The exhibition will be open during this Saturday's October 29th Palm Avenue Street Party from 3 - 7pm.

William Hartman Gallery, 48 South Palm Avenue, 955-4785

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sarasota Museum Tour & Photo Exhibition Opening

2 Fun and Free Events on Wednesday October 26

Author Jeff LaHurd
4 - 5 pm
Gillespie Book Signing and Tour Sarasota's History Center Museum
Jeff LaHurd will sign copies of his new book, "John Hamilton Gillespie - The Scot Who Saved Sarasota". Be sure to take a tour of the Museum and discover Sarasota's fascinating history.

History Center Museum and Sarasota Visitor Information Center
701 North Tamiami Trail - Free Parking
Hosted by The Friends of the Sarasota County History Center
Free Event

5:30 - 7pm
Opening Reception of "Gillespie's Sarasota" Photography Exhibition
You're invited to an artful evening at William Hartman Gallery's reception and opening of  "Gillespie's Sarasota", a photographic exhibition of Sarasota from 1886 - 1926. There will be a cash bar and Jeff LaHurd will be on hand to sign copies of his new book, "John Hamilton Gillespie - The Scot Who Saved Sarasota".

William Hartman Gallery
48 South Palm Avenue, 941-955-4785
Free parking in the North Palm Avenue parking garage
Hosted by William Hartman Gallery and Caragiulos Restaurant
Free Event

Gillespie Week Begins With Great Fanfare!

Tonight was a perfect evening for the start of Gillespie Week. The Jacobites Bagpipers slowly paraded down to the beach at O'Leary's and thrilled the crowd with a rousing and spirited performance. Jeff LaHurd was on hand to sign copies of his just released book, "John Hamilton Gillespie, The Scot Who Saved Sarasota" as everyone vied for a chance to get their photo taken with the Father of Sarasota.

Next Up: Tuesday October 25th, from 4 - 6pm, is a historic buildings tour and dinner catered by the Broadway Bar and hosted by the Historical Society of Sarasota County. $20 event, call 364-9076 to reserve. And next door at 6:30pm a bagpiper will welcome guests to a free DAR Roundtable discussion about Gillespie with a reception and book signing to follow.

The Jacobites Bagpipers performed on the Sarasota Bay beach where the Scots landed in 1885.

Left: Harriet Stieff, daughter of Owen Burns, and Loren Stieff     Right: Jean Maxwell Catsakis looking festive
Pete Esthus, Jeff LaHurd, Deborah Dart, John Hamilton Gillespie, Scott Proffitt, Diane Esthus and Janet Minker
Left: Proud author Jeff LaHurd     Right: Gary Reinstrom of the Jacobites and Mr. LaHurd
The Jacobites will next perform at the free Saturday October 29th Palm Avenue Street Party from 3-7pm!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gillespie Week Kick-Off Party on Monday October 24

Free Party at O'Leary's Officially Begins Gillespie Week!

You're invited to the Kick-Off Party from 5 to 7pm at O'Leary's Bar & Grill in honor of John Hamilton Gillespie, the Father of Sarasota and Golf. Featuring music by the Jacobites Bagpipers and new book release of "John Hamilton Gillespie, The Scot Who Saved Sarasota" by historian Jeff LaHurd.

Join your friends for a drink to start the week of events honoring Gillespie and the Scots Landing and get one of the first signed copies of Jeff LaHurd's book.  
O'Leary's Tiki Bar and Grill
Downtown Sarasota Bayfront and Ringling Boulevard
Free Parking

Hosted by O'Leary's, Marina Jack, the Owen Burns Committee and The Friends of the Sarasota County History Center. 
Free Event - Cash Bar

Be sure to keep the party going and stay for dinner at O'Leary's or Marina Jack.
Show your support and dress your dog and yourself in Scottish plaid!

This is only the beginning of a week of fun events!  
Check the Events page to see October 24-30 details and the  
Supporters page for Special Offers and Discounts by local merchants.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reserve Now for Tuesday October 25th Tour, Dinner and Reception

Enjoy a Very Special Afternoon and Evening in Honor of Mr. Gillespie!
Call in your reservations today for Tuesday's special tour and back porch dinner followed by the DAR's roundtable and book signing event!

4:00 - 6:00pm
Historic Buildings Tour and Back Porch Buffet 
You're invited to a docent-led tour of Crocker Memorial Church and Bidwell-Wood House with a buffet dinner from Sarasota's historic Broadway Bar served on the back porch.

Hosted by the Historical Society of Sarasota County
Reservations: call 941-364-9076 or email Linda Garcia at hsosc@yahoo.com
Location: Pioneer Park, 1260 12th Street, between US 41 and Cocoanut Avenue.
Free Parking.
$20 advance reservation a must!

Gillespie Round Table, Book Signing and Reception at DAR
Then walk next door and be greeted by a kilted bagpiper and view the small cemetery and historic artifacts in the DAR's collection. The round table will feature special guest author Jeff LaHurd and moderator Clarrisa Thommason. A reception with tea and shortbread follows and Mr. LaHurd will sign copies of his new book, "John Hamilton Gillespie, The Scot Who Saved Sarasota".

Hosted by the Sara DeSoto Chapter DAR
Location: Pioneer Park at 1232 12th Street.
Free Parking.
This is a free event.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Macallan Single Malt Portfolio

This event has been Sold Out!

Randolph Adams sipping The Macallan 18 year.
 In Honor of John Hamilton Gillespie, 
The Scot Who Saved Sarasota 
You’re Invited to
The Macallan VIP Scotch Whisky Tasting and Food Pairing 
Saturday October 29, 2011

Please join us for a very special private tasting of The Macallan Single Malt Portfolio paired with foods such as smoked salmon on crudite, lamb chop lollipops and Belgium chocolate. Join Randolph Adams, Macallan’s Brand Ambassador, as he takes us on a spirited tour of truly exquisite 12, 15, 18, 21 and 25 year old Scotch whiskies. Mr. Adams, an entertaining storyteller and whisky enthusiast, reports that his occupation is “without a doubt the best job on the planet!” This event is limited to only 30 people so be sure to reserve today.

Thank you to the Caragiulo family for arranging this festive and exceptional event.

Caragiulos Restaurant, upstairs
69 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL

Free parking in the North Palm Avenue Parking Garage.

Hosted by: Randolph Adams, Macallan Brand Ambassador for the Southeastern United States and Paul Caragiulo, Caragiulos Italian Restaurant

$30 Advance Reservation Required
*100% of each ticket will be donated to the Friends of the Sarasota County History Center.

Make checks payable to: FOSCHC (Friends of the Sarasota County History Center) 

Mail checks to: Deborah Dart, 50 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL 34236
Checks must be received no later than Wednesday October 26.

For more information, call 941-587-1952 or email owenburns2010@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two Weeks To Go-Go 'til Gillespie Week!

Most of the upcoming Gillespie Week's Events are free but there are a few you'll need to reserve in advance. Join the party - reserve today!

Make your reservations for these special events – Go to the Events page or click here for details:
Historic Buildings Tour & Dinner - Tuesday October 25
Kiwanis-Gillespie Golf Tournament & Dinner - Friday October 28
Trolley Tours - Saturday October 29
The Macallan VIP Scotch Tasting & Food Pairing - Saturday October 29
Gourmet Lunch in the Cemetery - Sunday October 30

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lunch in the Cemetery!

Rosemary Cemetery, 851 Central Avenue, Sarasota, Florida
October 30, 2011
12 - 2pm

You’re invited 
to a gourmet box lunch from Derek’s Restaurant, served under the pergola and oak trees. Listen to Jeff LaHurd talk history and Pat Ball talk conservation during this special tour. Rosemary Cemetery, platted in 1886, is a 2-acre National Register of Historic Places district and the burial site of Sarasota pioneers and founders including John Hamilton Gillespie and Owen Burns.

Please include your sandwich choice on your check from the menu above.
Rosemary Cemetery
851 Central Avenue

Sarasota, FL

Free street parking on Central and Florida Avenues.

Hosted by Ball Construction

$20 Advance Ticket Required 
($3.00 per ticket is tax-deductible)

Make checks payable to: FOSCHC (Friends of the Sarasota County History Center)

Mail checks to:
Deborah Dart
50 South Palm Avenue Sarasota, FL 34236 

Checks must be received no later than Wednesday October 26.
For more information, call 941-587-1952.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October 29, 2011: Gillespie Week Street Party

The first Gillespie Week Palm Avenue Street Party poster has been posted. Only 4 weeks to go!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Save the Date: October 26, 2011 Hartman Gallery Reception

Join your friends for the opening reception of "Gillespie's Sarasota", a photo exhibition at the William Hartman Gallery. The show will feature photos of Sarasota from 1886 - 1926 in honor of John Hamilton Gillespie Week. Admission is free with a cash bar by Caragiulos Restaurant. Free parking in the North Palm Avenue parking garage.

William Hartman Gallery
48 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, FL
Business hours: Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm

Hartman Gallery will be open during the Palm Avenue Street Party, Saturday October 29 from 3 - 7pm. Stop by for a visit!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gillespie Golf Tournament - Friday October 28th

John Hamilton Gillespie was a founding member of the Downtown Sarasota Kiwanis Club in 1922, as shown above. The Downtown Sarasota Kiwanis Club today is proud to support the Gillespie Celebration Week with a fine golfing event. Become a Sponsor and Reserve your spot today! www.sarasotakiwanis.org

First Annual 
Kiwanis - Gillespie 
Charity Golf Tournament
Friday, October 28, 2011
Serenoa Golf Club

Scramble Format 
11:30 AM - 12:45 PM Registration and Practice Range

1:00 PM Shotgun Start

5:30 - 7:00 PM Dinner Buffet, Prizes and Open Bar

Prizes Awarded for: 1st team, 2nd team, 3rd team, longest drive men, longest drive women, closest to the pin, straightest drive

Event Sponsorship $2,500: Signage on course and dining room (banners provided by sponsors) • Recognition on web & promo spots • Eight playing spots and practice balls • Eight buffet
Hole Sponsorship $100:
Name/display opportunity at hole

For more information regarding Sponsorship: Contact Pete Abbott 941-504-9307 or email

Foursome Cost: $400 • Four playing spots + practice balls • Four buffet
Individual Cost: $110 • One playing spot + practice balls • One buffet

Dinner Buffet: $30 Not playing but want to attend dinner? 

Register Online: www.sarasotakiwanis.org

This golf charity tournament will benefit the Kiwanis Foundation of Sarasota. Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers, dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time.The Kiwanis Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. Donations are partially tax-deductible. Consult your tax advisor for final determination. A receipt will be emailed to you.

Directions to Serenoa Golf Club: I-75 Exit 205 Clark; Go east 7/10 mile; Right on Ibis; Go 2 miles south; Right on Serenoa. 6773 Serenoa Dr, Sarasota, FL 34241; (941) 925-2755; www.serenoagc.com

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 7, 1923

Photo Credit - Sarasota County History Center
On this day, 88 years ago, John Hamilton Gillespie died. He was recognized at the time of his death as the father of Sarasota. His passing was heartfelt and mourned throughout the community.

The Sarasota Times eulogized him on September 13, 1923 by recounting his many contributions and adding:

“The Colonel was a great man. His passing leaves us lonely, mournful, filled with grief. Yet his noble soul will live on forever. He has blessed our food these many times with the staid ole Scotch blessing we have learned to love and revere. Now his voice is still forever and the light of his eyes are gone, but his memory is imperishable. Good bye ‘Jim,’ ye were a bonnie laddie and your heart was young.

A procession made up of the Kiwanis Club, the Blue Lodge Masons and other civic groups led the casket to Rosemary Cemetery which he had deeded to the town in 1903. The paper reported that thousands attended to pay their respects.

A statue of Gillespie was never erected. However, in 1924, Owen Burns sold the city of Sarasota a ten-acre tract of land at a reduced price to be used only for a municipal park that would be named “Gillespie Park,” in honor of the bonnie laddie, John Hamilton Gillespie.

~ This post is an excerpt from the soon-to-be released book "John Hamilton Gillespie – The Scot Who Saved Sarasota" by historian Jeff LaHurd. Publication date is October 24, 2011.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Jacobites Will Perform During Gillespie Week

Exciting news! The Jacobites, Florida's premier bagpipe and Scottish drumming band, has graciously agreed to perform in honor of John Hamilton Gillespie Week. On Monday's October 24th Kick-Off Party at O'Leary's Tiki Bar from 5 - 7pm, an ensemble of bagpipers will help launch the week's festivities. Then be sure to catch the full pipe and drum band along with their Highland dancers at Saturday's October 29th Palm Avenue Street Party from 3 - 7pm. Both events are free and open to the public.


The Jacobites Pipe and Drum Band was founded by Gary Reinstrom and Larry Jacobs. Gary Reinstrom, Pipe Major and moving force behind the band, has been playing the bagpipes since he was 13 years old. Gary is a professional musician whose career includes playing French horn with the Florida West Coast Symphony and with the Sarasota Pops Orchestra. He was the pipe instructor at Riverview High School and continues to give pipe lessons. Larry Jacobs is the son of a Glaswegian. He grew up listening to Scottish pipe and folk music. At age 46 Larry sought out Gary to teach him to play the pipes. A friendship ensued and when Gary was asked to lead the Patriot’s Day parade on the first anniversary of 9/11/2001 Larry and Gary formed the Jacobites Pipe and Drum Band.

Gary and Larry share a vision of celebrating the Scottish heritage of the Sarasota area and spreading the joys of pipe music. The band is promoted by the Celtic Cultural Association of Florida, Inc., a non-profit corporation, tax deductible charitable organization. 

Don't miss the exciting and always entertaining Jacobites Pipe and Drum Band on October 24 and 29. Their energy and enthusiasm promise to be contagious! www.jacobitesband.com

Thursday, August 11, 2011

May Sarasota Prosper

Sarasota voted to incorporate as a town in October 1902. Fifty-three men gathered for the vote and elected John Hamilton Gillespie as Sarasota’s first mayor. For the town motto the men chose the hopeful, but prophetic, “May Sarasota Prosper.” The town seal consisted of a mullet and a rising sun over palmettos with shells at the base. Gillespie served as mayor from 1902 through 1907 and again from 1909 to 1910. He also served as a city councilman.

The town of Sarasota 1902 seal consisted of a mullet and a rising sun over palmettos with shells at the base.

Friday, July 29, 2011

John Hamilton Gillespie and The Episcopal Church

John Hamilton Gillespie in 1889
By Dr. Carl R. Stockton, church historian

 Of all the legacies left by the remarkable Scotsman John Hamilton Gillespie, his most enduring was, by his own reckoning, the founding of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota. This is acknowledged in a commemorative bronze plaque at the base of three flagpoles on the west grounds facing Gulf Stream Avenue, and copied on the inside wall at the left of the entrance doors:
A founder of this parish,
For many years lay reader
Devoted to its services
Ordained a deacon on 3 December, 1922…
Servant of God

Although a member of the [Presbyterian] Church of Scotland, Gillespie was familiar with The Book of Common Prayer of the Scottish Episcopal Church before he arrived in Sarasota. He was well aware that the first American bishop had been consecrated by Scottish bishops, and that the American church had modeled its first official prayer book after the Scottish revision. He had read the Episcopal service for an Anglican colonist who died in 1887, and from his arrival, he met regularly with a small group of Episcopalians in the Grable community building on Main Street. He sought permission from his father officially to become an Episcopalian, and after tutelage from the Vicar of Christ Church in Bradentown, he was confirmed by The Bishop of Florida, The Right Reverend E. G. Weed, in 1888. The photo above shows Gillespie vested in surplice and cassock with mortarboard which was appropriate liturgical dress for an Episcopal Lay Reader in 1889.

He quickly became a leader of the nascent church in Sarasota, and was appointed Lay Reader by succeeding bishops for several years. The Episcopalians had met in his house, and he donated land from his large yard to build their first, very basic building. Through his nurturing leadership, the church in 1904 became officially recognized as a mission in the Missionary Jurisdiction of Southern Florida by the Bishop, the Right Reverend William Crane Gray.

Gillespie was married to Blanche McDaniel in the newly consecrated church in 1905. Although absent for many intermittent years, Gillespie retained an active leadership role in the church to the end of his life. He was a delegate to Diocesan convention on many occasions and was well known throughout Florida as a devoted churchman and considered a prominent leader. The highlight of his long service to the church came in 1922, when he was ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church by The Right Reverend Cameron Mann. He had been prepared for ordination by the Rector of Redeemer, the Reverend Francis B. Nash, for whom he had been an assistant until his death in 1923.

Looking back at its origins in its centennial year, The Church of the Redeemer renewed its recognition of Gillespie as its principal founder, named its renovated parish hall after him, and established the John Hamilton Gillespie Society to honor his legacy and promote continuing ministries of the Church.

Sources: Oral interviews with Gillespie’s nephew, Charles Swain, in 2003; miscellaneous Gillespie papers in the Church of the Redeemer archives, and chiefly the well documented monograph, John Hamilton Gillespie by Lillian Burns, published by the Sarasota Historical Society.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gillespie Led Drive for Golf in Sarasota

ED: Today's post is from the website Sarasota History Alive! by Mark D. Smith, former County Archivist

Photo Credit: Sarasota County History Center
The game of golf came to Sarasota when Colonel John Hamilton Gillespie arrived in 1886. Nobody in the small village of Sarasota knew what Gillespie was doing when in May 1886 he built a practice course consisting of two greens and one long fairway.

This miniature course was located on present day Main Street. Gillespie practiced there daily for many years. In 1905, he laid out a nine-hole golf course on a 110-acre tract east of his old practice course and built a clubhouse. He maintained the course at his own expense until he sold the course to Owen Burns in 1910.

John Hamilton Gillespie never stopped in his campaign to promote the game of golf.

Gillespie continued to help support and take care of the course because upkeep of a golf course can be quite an undertaking. In December 1913, Gillespie came up with the idea of organizing a golf club to help with expenses. On December 13, 1913, a meeting was held at the Sarasota Yacht and Automobile Club to organize the Sarasota Golf Club. Gillespie stated that maintaining a golf course without support from residents, as well as from visitors, is difficult. The group agreed to pay $10 per person to become charter members, and the money would go toward the upkeep of the course. The course's owner, Owen Burns, would also allow members to play for free, with the use of the clubhouse, as long as they made necessary repairs to the windmill and the lavatories in the clubhouse.

The first members of the club read like a who's who of prominent early Sarasotans. Some of these members were early politicians Hugh Browning, Harry Higel, and of course, John Hamilton Gillespie, physicians Jack and Joseph Halton, landowners Owen Burns, Ralph Caples, Honore Palmer and J.H. Lord. The club drew up rules for the organization and by-laws for playing golf on the course. To play golf for the winter season cost $10. For those who did not want to commit to an entire season, the fee structure was $5 for one month, $2 for one week and 50 cents for one day. Although Gillespie encouraged everyone to play, the course was rarely crowded.

Gillespie never stopped in his campaign to promote the game of golf. In a 1921 newspaper article, he wrote about how golf barely existed in the state at the turn of the 20th century. He said that "there was no East Coast golf in Florida then, the Jacksonville Country Club being in its infancy, and, to the credit for making golf well and favorably known in Florida and in the southern state. Tampa for a long time did not take to the game, although Mr. Plant spent considerable money on an endeavor to foster the game. It was not until Bellaire became famous as a golf course that Tampa woke up and took notice."

Gillespie continued to play on his course until his death in 1923. Although he knew that the game would grow in popularity, it was not until the Florida Land Boom of the mid-1920s that it became a popular sport in Sarasota. Two new 18-hole courses were built in Sarasota during the boom and Gillespie's old course was sold in 1924 for development and no trace of it remain today.


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