Dreamers of our Past
presented by the Sarasota County History Center

 Charles Ringling 1864-1926

Dream: To promote the economic base of Sarasota and expand its business district.

Charles Ringling was the advance man and in charge of production for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when he first came to Sarasota in 1912, to visit his brother, John. 

Charles Ringling bought land, including the Gillespie golf course, and planned the Courthouse Subdivision, which would extend the business center away from the bay. 

He donated land for a courthouse for the newly created Sarasota County, "providing the building cost not less than $150,000." In 1925, the Sarasota County Board of Commissioners authorized a $500,000 bond issue for construction of the courthouse and hired Dwight James Baum as the architect.

Ringling planned his development so that the new Atlantic Coast Line Railroad station would be at its eastern end. Tourists would be able to step off the train and stay in his ten-story Sarasota Terrace Hotel, which opened in 1926. He planned to have 150 Spanish style homes built in the subdivision. Ringling Boulevard, the street between the courthouse and hotel, was named for Charles Ringling. In addition to the fifty-two commercial lots he owned, he had a 33,000-acre ranch.

Ringling founded Sarasota's third bank, the Ringling Bank and Trust Company, and then added an annex for the abstract department. He was a working president of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce when he died in 1926.

He replaced his first home with a pink marble mansion with a large music room and swimming pool. Built in 1925 on forty acres, with 800-900 feet of bayfront, it was just north of his brother John's estate. The home is now part of New College.

Sarasota historian Lillian Burns described Charles as a "much warmer, more gentle person than John, and more highly regarded in town."

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