John Ringling, showman and promoter, planned the Ringling
Isles subdivision to be fit for a president. He hoped President Harding would use a home
on Bird Key as a winter White House, but Harding died in 1923 before any commitments were
made. On St. Armands Key, where the streets are named for presidents, the circle was
originally named Harding Circle. The Ringling Isles subdivision included St. Armands Key,
Bird Key, Coon Key, Wolf Key, and 2,000 acres on Longboat Key, all of which John Ringling
With his business associate, Owen Burns, Ringling built the
Ringling Causeway and bridge to St. Armands Key. A year later he donated it to the city.
He donated 130 acres on Longboat Key for a golf course, right across the pass from St.
Armands and Lido Keys.
The residential section of St. Armands sold more than a
million dollars worth of lots when it opened. Ringling and his partners opened the $30,000
Lido Pavilion in 1926. People traveling out to the new attraction would drive through St.
Armands. In late 1926, Ringling halted work on the beautiful 200 room Ritz Carlton Hotel
on Longboat Key, and it was never finished.
John Ringling would combine his interests and promote them
both. After the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus moved its winter quarters to
Sarasota, its annual circus programs carried advertisements about Sarasota.
A major owner of Madison Square Garden in New York (the
sixty-foot tower of John Ringling's home was modeled after the old Madison Square Garden),
Ringling sponsored a two-week Florida Exposition at the Garden in February 1924. Florida
counties, the Citrus Exchange, and the Seaboard Air Line Railway had exhibits. The
Sarasota exhibit featured a huge thermometer showing Sarasota's daily temperature.