The Key with "that special" European Flair
Lido Key is not all about the St. Armand's Circle - although it seems as if the big roundabout is dominating the island. This island, located just two miles west of downtown Sarasota, is connected to the mainland with the new and impressive John Ringling Causeway bridge.
It is not entirely correct to put the St. Amand's Circle on Lido Key because it sits on it own key - the St. Armand's Key. But because nobody can determine where one island ends and the other one begins, therefore, everybody is referring to this beautiful piece of land as "Lido Key." That's good enough.
Once the traveler hits the roundabout, he has four choices to make. When he takes the first exit, he can continue further to Longboat Key. The second exit will get him to Lido Beach; the third exit will get him to the south tip of the island where the Mangrove tunnels are. There he can rent a kayak or canoe and explore Lido Key's nature. Whether guided or non guided, this is fun
But there is also a huge parking lot right after the exit. There he can park his car and explore the St. Armands Circle first. It is fun. Even if you don't buy anything. Everybody who lives in Sarasota or Sarasota County goes to the Circle once in a while.
Shops and International Restaurants
A huge variety of international restaurants and interesting shops are surrounding the circle. South American and French cuisine add to the international flair of the St. Armand's Circle. Ice cream parlors give you 10,000 calories per scoop and pizza places offer their help for hip advancement, too.
However, the Circle is not all about food. If you want to avoid that extra pull of gravitation, you can shop for nice clothes, jewelries, or other items.
John Ringling created this Microcosm
John Ringling was the guy who originally bought the barrier islands which are located across from what today is the City of Sarasota. At that time, it was in the early 20's, Longboat Key and Lido Key where pretty cheap - a bargain if you had the money. Nobody was interested in those mosquito infested islands. Therefore, he quickly made up his mind and bought them.
There was no connection to the mainland. Without a boat, nobody could even get there. To fix that problem he had to build a bridge. No heavy machinery was available. So, how could they move the heavy stuff for the bridge around? The solution was brilliant. He used his circus elephants to get it accomplished.
John Ringling was always thinking "big" - in the end he was probably thinking too "big"?
John was a man of action, and he always put his money where his mouth was. "Be never afraid to think on a grand scale," that was his motto. Therefore, he came up with the picture of a thriving community with luxurious homes in his head. The focal point was a roundabout; a huge roundabout surrounded by shops and restaurants. He wanted something extraordinary, something new - something spectacular - European style - something nobody else had ever seen in Florida before!
Yes, by all means, this was a revolutionary idea at that time and it was not easy to realize. Construction began during the first Florida Real Estate boom in the early 1920's. He started immediately by digging out canals and connecting the St. Armand's Key to the mainland with the first bridge.
His vision was great but the time was not right. World War I was followed by a land boom, but the roaring twenties ended with a big bang. The great depression affected everybody and did not spare Mr. Ringling. Eventually, the recession in 1929 killed all his ambitious plans, and John Ringling never saw his dreams come true. It is said the he was only a few months away from bankruptcy when he died.
What is Sarasota without John and Marble Ringling?
It would probably be different. Although their legacy is obviously not flawless, John Nicholas Ringling and his wife Marble left their footprints everywhere; they had developed and marketed most of the barrier islands around Sarasota during their lifetime. But in the end they didn' t make it.
Their mansion Ca'd'Zan is now part of the John and Marble Ringling Museum of Art, and Visitors to the Museum can admire their impressive collection of Baroque paintings they loved so much.
Today, John Ringling's vision is a reality, and the St Armand's Circle is attracting visitors from around the world. The outcome is exactly like he wanted it to be, only a few decades later than he thought.
St Armand's Circle - where the Heart of the Island beats
The big circle in the center of St. Armand's Key, called "St. Armand's Circle", is home to more than 120 stores, art galleries, ice cream and chocolate shops, upscale boutiques, night clubs and a variety of European or International Style Restaurants. Popular events take place throughout the year, including art and craft fairs, luxury car shows and outdoor markets.
Poor Mr. Ringling, he would be so proud of himself. But everybody knows how that works, it is not always easy to harvest the fruits of your success.
The 210 single-family residences on the key represent a wide variety of architecture. Mediterranean style homes from the 1920's, modern homes, cottages and Florida ranch-style homes are on Lido/St Armand's Key. Traditional styles dominate the luxury homes that line the canals and the bay front. "Traditional style homes" - sounds boring, doesn't it? But it is only real estate lingo, and you will see that it is beautiful on those Keys.
Home prices are not moderate; the reason is that there are not too many homes on the island available. Islands are always running out of space sooner or later.