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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gillespie's Roseburn

Roseburn - 1672 Morrill Street, Sarasota, Florida
Laurel Park was not always Laurel Park. The name is a recent addition. The nine city blocks of downtown Sarasota that make up the historic district were first platted in 1886 as Block G of the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company’s Town of Sarasota.

One of the first homes constructed in the district in the 1880′s was Victorian in architecture on the south side of Morrill Street where the parking lot for the County Administration building is today.

In the early 1900′s the house was remodeled and a greenhouse was added to accommodate a bride’s love of flowers and plants. It became the residence for Sarasota’s first mayor, John Hamilton Gillespie and his wife Blanche and they named it Roseburn.

The Prew School occupied this building from the late 1930s until prior to its demolition in the mid 1980s.
—This post thanks to www.laurelparkhistoricdistrict.com

Monday, June 27, 2011

10 People and Events That Shaped Sarasota

Don't miss this great exhibit at Historic Spanish Point's Guptill Gallery featuring John Hamilton Gillespie!

Learn more about the fascinating people and historical events from Sarasota's colorful past. Written by historian and author Jeff LaHurd and produced by Historic Spanish Point and Gulf Coast Heritage Association, Inc. in cooperation with Sarasota History Center. Photos by Sarasota County History Center and Gulf Coast Heritage Association, Inc. Design and Graphics by Laura Dean. Funded in part by a grant from Sun Trust Banks of Florida Foundation.

And while you're there be sure to enjoy the 30 acres of gardens and nature trails with stunning views and the area's largest butterfly garden.

Historic Spanish Point, 337 North Tamiami Trail (US 41), Osprey, FL 3422

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gillespie's Joie de Vivre

In 2008, invaluable items giving more insight into the life of Colonel John Hamilton Gillespie, began to arrive in Sarasota. They were donated to the Sarasota County History Center by Don Fennimore of Delaware, and included early Sarasota photos, framed prints, Gillespie's golf clubs and bag, walking sticks, swords, silverware, and other accessories. 

According to Hope Black, who was charged with sorting through the collection [she], "was like a kid on Christmas eve" with all the fascinating pieces of history to catalog and inventory. 

J.H. Gillespie in the mosquito-infested wilderness of Sarasota
"A Short Overview of J.H. Gillespie"
by Hope Black

On September 7, 1923, his driver in hand, his stance poised in preparation for a long drive down the fairway, John Hamilton Gillespie suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. Had he willed the circumstances of his death, surely he would have chosen this end. Given the many titles and accolades he earned in his seventy-one years of living, none pleased him more than golfer. He loved the game and sought to share his reverence and pleasure with everyone he met. There is a phrase attributed to Gillespie that when a farmer in Sarasota told him he didn't play golf, he responded, "Man, y'er missing half y'er life!"

Gillespie came to Sarasota in 1886 from Scotland, as a representative of his father's company, the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company, Ltd. He arrived as a manager and as an attorney. He would ultimately serve as mayor for six one-year terms and as town councilman for one. In addition, he was among the earliest promoters and developers of what was then a sparsely populated, mosquito-infested wilderness. He was a paragon of leadership, a visionary, a landowner, a designer, a builder, a golf course architect, and a passionate golfer. When he came to America, as part of his baggage he carried his golf clubs.  

Golf was an intrinsic part of [Gillespie's] being, 
his avocation, his recreation and his joie de vivre.

In an oft quoted anecdote, it is related that "when Gillespie set foot on shore in Sarasota, the first thing he did was to follow a path leading to a dried up, shallow pond, where he stooped, heaping up a little pile of sand, and remarked, ‘Two holes for practice - and it can be extended later.'" And so it was... 
—Reprinted from Sarasota History Alive! This Week Newsletter - April 28, 2008

Friday, June 10, 2011

Five Points Intersection Circa 1905

This is a 1905 photo of the Gillespie Block building at 300 Main Street, Sarasota, Florida. A water trough is in the center of the intersection at Five Points. The entrance to the Bank of Sarasota is in the front corner facing Five Points. Streets are comprised of sand. One-of-two electric street lights in Sarasota is in the top center of the image.

Photo courtesy of the Sarasota County History Center Collection.

Gillespie Fountain at Main Street and Palm Avenue

This photo of downtown Sarasota, Florida in 1901 shows the northeast view of the intersection of Main Street and Palm Avenue. The fountain was presented to the town by Colonel John Hamilton Gillespie. Cows and other farm animals roamed freely in the streets and obviously enjoyed refreshing water breaks. The building in the background was The Inn and later became the Bay Villa.

Photo courtesy of the Sarasota County History Center.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

John Hamilton Gillespie Historical Marker

The John Hamilton Gillespie historical marker features an interesting overview of this accomplished Sarasota pioneer. Located a few steps from the corner of Ringling and 101 South Washington Boulevard [see map], the 2-sided plaque was dedicated in 1995 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission.

"The Father of Sarasota," John Hamilton Gillespie, was born in 1852 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He arrived here in 1886 to assist the failing Florida Mortgage and Investment Company, a development company partially owned by his father in Edinburgh. The company had enticed a group of Scottish colonists to Sarasota in 1885 to help settle its 50,000-acre holdings, which included most of the land constituting the present City of Sarasota. The settlers arrived to find most of the company's promises unfulfilled. Gillespie was dispatched to improve the situation. Many disillusioned colonists left, however, and the company entered liquidation proceedings. Gillespie remained in Sarasota after the court appointed him to manage the assets of the company there. He organized the clearing of three miles of Main Street, the building of a substantial wharf on the waterfront, and the beginning of a 40-acre experimental farm. In 1902, he was elected the first mayor of Sarasota when the town was incorporated and held this office for six terms. He also served his community as Justice of Peace four years and Notary Public ten years. He was affectionately known as "Colonel" in this community.

University educated, Gillespie was admitted to the highest legal body in Scotland. Having become a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1896, he joined the American and Florida Bar Associations. He served as president of the local Bar Association. He was influential in building an Episcopal church in Sarasota. He served as chaplain to Sarasota Bay Post #30 of the American Legion. As a Mason, he reached the Order of Knight Templar, was affiliated with the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows and became a charter member of the Kiwanis Club.

Gillespie volunteered in World War I for duty in Scotland. Because of this service to Scotland, he lost his United States citizenship. An act of Congress restored it after the war.

Gillespie is credited with introducing Florida to the game of golf. In 1904 he built a nine-hole golf course east of the present Links Avenue. Over the years, he was commissioned to design and build six other Florida courses and one in Havana, Cuba. He was one of Florida's championship golfers and an authority on the sport.

"Colonel " Gillespie died on the golf course near his home September 7, 1923. He is buried in Rosemary Cemetery [851 Central Avenue, Sarasota, Florida].


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