The Woman's Club of Sarasota was organized in 1913 with 63 charter members. The population of the City of Sarasota was less than 2,000 at the time.
The first focus of the club was on city beautification. Under the club's direction, a park was created along the waterfront (see article below). Businesses closed for the day and over 200 supportive citizens volunteered their time to assist in the efforts.
That year, the club took over the 600 volume Sarasota Library. Members staffed the facility until 1940 and still financially support it today.
In the early 1920s club members became increasingly concerned with improving the abilities, skills and rights of women. Historically and today, the work of the club is aimed at increasing the quality of life for women and children.
OUR CLUB HISTORY - Building the Park - 1913
Mayor Higel calls for suspension of all work except building park
Author: The Sarasota Times newspaper, October 23, 1913 Source: Sarasota County Historical Resources Photo Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Unless some very modest community has beat us to it and then neglected to let the world know of its achievement, Sarasota is to have the first homemade people’s park. The idea of extending the present popular road-building day plan to secure the improvement of a tract of land for a park purposed by James E. Moore, has been seized upon with avidity and unanimity. In another column will be found Mayor Higel’s official contribution, in the shape of a proclamation setting aside Thursday, November 6, as Park Day, with the purpose in view of making this an annual event in Sarasota’s history.
Below is the document, prepared by Mrs. Guenther, President of the Woman’s Club, that is to put the plan into individual working order:
“We, the undersigned, agree to furnish to the City of Sarasota for the purpose of putting in order and beautifying the park space between Main Street and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad on the bayfront, on November 6, 1913, one day’s work, use of teams or other means, as set opposite our names, and we hereby petition the merchants to close their stores this day.”
Following the action of the Woman’s Club last week in undertaking the responsibility of carrying out the idea of Park Day there was a workers conference Tuesday afternoon in the Board of Trade rooms. Mr. Moore, as Chairman of the Board of Trade committee on waterfront and parks, was called upon to preside, and later in the proceedings when he wasn’t looking the meeting wished on him the job of general manager for that busy day.
Mayor Higel stated that he had to attend another meeting, and only remained long enough to assure the others that he was ready and willing to do everything possible to make the day a success. “I’m opposed to work,” he added, “and I may want to go fishing that day, so put me down for four laborers.” However, it was very evident the fish would be in no danger from the Mayor’s hooks on November 6th. He promised to declare a holiday, and to urge official action co-operating with the plans for making the bay front into a credible park. Sarasota is growing because people come here on account of the bay, and everything should be done to make its shores attractive.
Mr. Moore spoke of the need for a general cleaning up along the front, although for this day every energy should be concentrated on the space to be parked. He believed arrangements could be made to have the concrete walk put down along the sea wall at once if there was na agreement that the city would pay for it within six months.
Messrs. Broadley and Bruce had prepared outline sketches somewhat similar in general plan, except that Mr. Bruce had allowed for a playground in the center. It was deemed inadvisable to have the playground in the small spaced available for this display park, and Mr. Moore said that the ground south of the Belle Haven Inn is to be cleared at once, and there would be plenty of room there for the children and young folks to have tennis courts, basketball, and whatever is wanted.
Mr. Broadly had divided the park into three tracts of about 200 feet wide each, with one on each end about 100 feet wide, these latter of irregular shape. In the center space could be placed a band stand, and Mr. Moore said Sarasota would have a band to occupy it. The crosswalks allow for easy access to the front from Gulf Stream Avenue without tramping the grass.
Mr. Broadly said he had many plans for flower beds from which choice could be made; and in the planting of trees urged having an abundant variety. Among the kinds available he named the eucalyptus, with forty varieties to choose from, the camphor, magnolia, water and silk oak.
Mr. Broadly suggested two fountains at the corners of the central plat, and lavatories hidden by shrubbery and trees in the two end plats. These features could be placed later, but it was advisable to make the arrangements now for sewer and water facilities. Later in the meeting Mr. Moore undertook to attend to the piping and boards and stakes for marking and holding the earth for the grass plats.
Mr. Bruce stated that Engineers Elledge, Tuttle and himself would give the grades for placing the earth. To place this three inches thick would take 386 yards. The distance from curb on Gulf Stream Avenue to the sea wall is 53 5-10 feet.
Mr. Broadley, who had volunteered to look after the teams and men securing dirt and Bermuda grass advised having as much as possible, especially in obtaining the grass, done before the Park Day in order to have material on hand at once for the workers. It would not be practicable, he thought, to attempt planting trees, shrubs and flowing on that day. The trees would need special preparation of the ground, and to receive a miscellaneous collection of plants and shrubs would only result in having material that could not be effectively and systematically employed. It would be achievement enough to grass the park in one day complete.
Dr. Burton agreed with Mr. Moore that there was no reason for delay in putting down the walk along the sea wall. This and the shelled space adjoining where benches are to be placed will receive the spray from all but an occasional extra hard blow.
During the discussion on shoveling the dirt into wagons, Mrs. Guenther kindly advised putting three men to each shovel, “So they will have a chance to rest,” she said. Mrs. Guenther suggested twice as many wagons as teams, if they could be obtained, so that wagons could be loaded while others were being hauled. She gave the pleasing information that Manager Birdell, of the Georgia Engineering Company, had promised all possible assistance, and that Landlord Whittle had gladly tendered full use of the Belle Haven Inn and its equipment for the Woman’s Club to furnish lunch to the workers.
Sign at Board of Trade Rooms. As it will impossible for those circulating the paper for promises of work, or of other help, to interview everyone, one copy has been left with Secretary Keener in the Board of Trade rooms for signatures. It is highly important for those in charge to know on how much assistance they can count, and an early autograph will catch the appreciation worm.
Those who expect to shovel or rake are asked to bring their favorite instrument and join the Park Day band.
The Woman’s Club cordially invites the neighboring farmers around Sarasota to consider Park Day as belonging to them as much as to the citizens of the town, and all helpers with teams and their own hand labor will be welcomed at the noonday lunch in the Belle Haven Inn given free by the Woman’s Club.
Any person wishing to contribute to the luncheon November 6th, for the Bay Park workers, communicate with Mrs. F.H. Guenther, phone 160 M, or Mrs. Joseph Halton, phone 27.
Follow up Article in Sarasota Times, November 6, 1913
Several of Sarasota’s citizens have subscribed their labor for Park Day. While a number of gentlemen whose constitutions require rest have applied for the position of “boss” others are eager to set the pace for a “good” day’s work. Mr. Guenther, the husband of the President of the Woman’s Club, put down his name for a “hard” day’s work. City Clerk Houle and City Engineer Philip both say they are experts at handling an axe and Mr. Madison declares he is the champion grubber of this section. Someone suggested that Mr. Grinton had better be kept busy planting grass for were he given a hoe or shovel it is feared real estate from the bay front might disappear in the bay to form an island park. Mr. Bruce will have his patrol of Boy Scouts to carry water and, if necessary, fulfill the Scout law of rendering “first aid to the injured.”
Served Noon Luncheon (11-6-1913)
Early this morning men and teams began to gather at the Park grounds in front of the Belle Haven Inn; and before eight o’clock Owen Burns and George L. Thacker were hauling in loads of rich dirt, which willing hands soon distributed over the grounds, which were being leveled for planting grass. The engineers, Messrs. Wright, Bruce, Philip, Tuttle, Cannon and Elledge had the grades taken, and landscape gardener Broadley had the ground staked out for the walks; while Mr. Moore had given his personal attention to having pipes put down for water.
At ten o’clock about fifty men were at work, and as soon as a part of the ground could be prepared, grass, which had been brought there by loads and separated ready for plantin by the Boy Scouts of Patrol No.1, was set out; the members of the Woman’s Club being given the honor of setting the firs; the president, Mr. Guenther, was the first to handle the trowel. Col. Gillespie, from long practice at golf, was able to handle a shovel with the best, and not till the hour of noon did he give up his pace. So well did the men work that twelve o’clock found a big improvement in the appearance of the place.
About fifty members of the Club had prepared dinner at the Belle Haven Inn, and 125 men were served in the dining room, the menu being: Clam Chowder Crackers Pickles
Cheese and Ham Sandwiches Baked Beans Macaroni and Cheese Coffee and Doughnuts
At one o’clock the stores had closed and fully 150 men worked for the afternoon. A number of palm trees were set out, and fully half of the place will be set out in grass before night. Nearly everyone participated; business, professional men, ministers and visitors vied with each other as to who could do the most and by the skill with which the tools were handled proclaimed with many an early knowledge of farm life. Those who were unable to contribute time or labor gave cash donations. Mr. Burns had three teams working all day. Mr. Edwards and Mr. Locklear each had one, but the hearty cooperation of citizens in a public enterprise was the predominating spirit.
Mr. Arnold took several views of the crowd and in the afternoon, Mr. Griffin took moving pictures of the scene. The Woman’s Club feels grateful to the Sarasota Café and Capt. Lewis Roberts for the clam chowder and to everyone who so heartily gave their assistance.
Since 1921, The Woman's Club of Sarasota has been a member of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. The GFWC headquarters in Washington, DC is pictured on the left.
The club has been a member of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs (FFWC) since 1914.