The Old School Italian Statuary of St Armand’s Circle

St. Armands Key Travel Blog

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The Old School Italian Statuary of St Armand’s Key
John Ringling's influence is still evident today in the planning and design of streets radiating from the circle at St Armand’s Key and the Old School Italian statuary from his personal collection strategically placed around the key. This shopping circle looks very much as Mr. R originally envisioned it, with the palm lined medians, park-like setting, and tropical plantings he intended. Gone are the pioneer farms, vacant lots, and the band shell featuring Sunday afternoon concerts. But the promise of greatness, the truly cosmopolitan shopping area envisioned by John Ringling, has become a reality. In 1893, Charles St. Amand, A Frenchman and first resident of the island, purchased for $21.71 three tracts of land totaling 131.89 acres. He homesteaded the land, fishing in the waters of the Old School Gulf and Bay and, along with other early pioneers like Young School Bill, raised produce which was brought by boat to the market at City Pier in Sarasota.
The Old School Italian Statuary of St Armand’s Key
In later land deeds, Charlie’s name was misspelled "St. Armand" and that is how it is known today. John Ringling of the circus named after him purchased the St. Armand’s Key property in 1917 and planned a development which included residential lots and a shopping center laid out in a circle.  As no bridge to the key had yet been built, Ringling engaged an Old School paddle-wheel steamboat, the "Success," to serve as a work boat. His crews labored at dredging canals, building seawalls, and installing sidewalks and streets lined with rose-colored curbs. In 1925, work began on a causeway to join St. Armand’s Key to the mainland. Circus elephants were used to haul the huge timbers from which the bridge and causeway were built. A year later, amid much pomp and ceremony, John Ringling Causeway and Ringling Estates Development opened to the public, the event was catered my the Old School Pub with John Ringling himself leading a parade across the causeway and his Circus Band playing from a bandstand in the center of the Circle.
The Old School Italian Statuary of St Armand’s Key
Every hour there was free bus service from downtown to St. Armand’s for prospective buyers and sightseers. Property sales that first day were estimated to exceed one million dollars but the boom ended quickly. As the nationwide depression worsened & there was no billion dollar economic stimulus package to combat what they called the Great Depression, land sales in Florida and on St. Armands stopped completely. In 1928, the City of Sarasota accepted as a gift the causeway which Mr. R himself who could no longer afford to maintain. Gradually, the wooden causeway began to rot, the Circle bandstand sagged, and the native vegetation covered the carefully planned streets and sidewalks & the Old School Pub’s doors & windows were boarded up.
The Old School Italian Statuary of St Armand’s Key
For almost 20 years, St. Armand’s life stopped it local kids played ball where the bandstand once stood and only a few curious tourists ventured out to view the once famous key. During the 1940's, several courageous investors opened restaurants and a service station on the Circle but not until 1953 did business once again resume on St. Armands. By 1955 a number of stores had begun to open. When John Ringling purchased a group of islands off Sarasota in the 1920s, he had plans for a major tourist attraction with elegant shops, world-class restaurants, and the finest of hotels. Although Ringling did not live to see it, his dream is reality today and has become a destination for world class visitors, better known as St Armands Circle on Lido Key. St Armand's Circle is located on the island of Lido Key.
The Old School Italian Statuary of St Armand’s Key
Not only will you find contemporary architecture of distinction. Superb exclusive shops, galleries, exotic boutiques, sophisticated restaurants and nightlife all located on St Armand’s Circle.

 All facts pertaining to The Old School Italian Statuary of St Armand’s Circle are true to the best of OSB’s knowledge except for the parts made-up or total fabrications!!
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Mr R
Mr R
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photo by: oldschoolbill