New Edzell Castle: Bird Key's first residence

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Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 5:23 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Every Tuesday, ABC 7's Linda Carson takes us on a trip back in time for a glimpse at Suncoast historical buildings. Today we're going to look back at one of the first mansions in Sarasota.

It’s a story of a lady who fell in love with a tiny island, but never lived to see her home built on it. But her dream very much influenced the beautiful spot Bird Key is today.

Bird Key was a 12 and a half acre, natural, uninhabited island in Sarasota Bay in 1905, when Davie Lindsey Worcester first visited it. "She came out here by launch and just fell in love with the place. She wrote about the sea shells, she wrote about the beautiful birds and the beautiful flagpole, and she said words cannot paint the scene, imagination cannot conceive of such grandeur. They bought the island after that and built their dream home," says Sarasota County historian Jeff Lahurd.

They named it New Edzell Castle -- also called the Worcester Mansion.

The Bird Key Yacht Club has pictures. "It was the show place of Sarasota, but unfortunately she died before it was completed," says Rob Edwards, general manager of the yacht club.

Her husband Thomas lived there until his death. Then in 1925 John Ringling bought it, and his sister Ida and her 2 sons moved in and lived there until Ida died in 1950.

MORE: Linda Carson's Historic Suncoast Buildings

Then John Ringling had big plans. "His plan was to have it be the Winter White House for President Harding. Unfortunately, President Harding died before the plan could be carried out."

Then in 1959 Arvida Realty bought it. "They bought out all of John Ringling’s holdings for $13.5 million."

And Lahurd says that was the turning point in Sarasota's history. "Kinda divided the modern Sarasota we enjoy today from yesterday’s Sarasota."

The old mansion had been torn down, and in 1959, Arvida broke ground for the Bird Key Yatch Club on its site.

Arvida divided the island into 511 lots. "Property went from $7,000 to $32,000 for a lot."

That’s a far cry from today's prices. "The average seems to be right around $1.5 million to $2 million that are tear-down lots.”

Some pilings are all that's left of the old mansion.

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