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The bay shore as Bertha Palmer would have found it in 1910.

Bertha Palmer: Why she moved to Sarasota

A passage from “Silhouette in Diamonds: The Life of Mrs. Potter Palmer,” by Ishbel Ross (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1960)

Sarasota Herald Tribune. Published: Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mrs. Potter Palmer was sixty-one when she sought a new and simpler life for herself in an uncompromising wilderness close to the small town of Sarasota, which then had a population of nine hundred inhabitants. It was cut off from the rest of the world and the people supported themselves chiefly by growing fruit and catching fish.

But life had not gone stale for Mrs. Palmer. She had merely reached the point of satiety in the ceaseless round of entertaining, and turned with vigor to creative effort in the sphere where her fortune was founded – the purchase and development of land. She was fulfilling the family tradition to buy, to build, to expand, to make money and at the same time to serve the community. Both Henry H. Honore and Potter Palmer had shown her the way.

“You must realize that the Palmer family is quite an institution,” she told A.B. Edwards, Sarasota real estate dealer, after she had bought up thousands of acres of land in Florida. “The very foundation of the family is real estate. That is why we have invested so heavily in land down here.”

For the last eight years of her life she devoted her best energies to developing her acres, to farming and ranching and establishing a domain in which she moved with the authority of a ruler. It was an early experiment in community farm planning and it gave her some of the bitterest lessons of her star-dusted life as well as much satisfaction.

Perhaps at no time in her career was Mrs. Palmer more incomprehensible to her fashionable friends or more interested to the impartial observer than during this final phase of simple associations and arduous work. She dug down to the grass roots of living in a way that satisfied something basic in her strenuous nature. There were no pretenders here, no crowned heads, no haughty duchesses, no aspirant hostesses, all of whom she had known in her time. Nor were there any further social pinnacles for her to scale. But she had abundant energy still to expend and all her business affairs and philanthropies were going well in Chicago. … She may have been tired of it all, although none who knew her personally would admit that they ever saw traces of fatigue in Mrs. Potter Palmer until the closing months of her life. But she may have felt the need to seek refreshment in fundamental things.