The Key with “that” 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 at first bring him to a huge parking lot. From there he can continue to the south tip of the island where the Mangrove tunnels are.
Mangrove Tunnels and Boat Launch
If he wants to canoe or kayak that is where he wants to go. There are the mangrove tunnels and the boat launches. Bring your boat and have fun or rent a canoe or kayak from one of the vendors hanging out there. You can even book a guided tour through those tunnels. The guide will tell you all he knows about the tunnels while the Cormorants dive under your boat. The shadow of your kayak scares the fish and the leave the sea grass beds in panic. The Cormorants know that and hunt them down. Other than that there is nothing exciting, just residential areas with single family homes and condos along the shoreline.
The next exit will get the traveler back to the mainland. Well, the fifth option would be circling until he knows where he wants to be. Everybody likes those people because they are clogging up the traffic.
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.
John Ringling 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 so to speak. 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 built a bridge. No heavy machinery was available. 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 thinking “big” – maybe too “big”?
John Ringling 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, in his mind, he came up with the picture of a thriving community with luxurious homes in his head. The focal point was a roundabout, surrounded by shops and restaurants. He wanted something extraordinary, something new – something spectacular – European style – something nobody else has ever seen in Florida!
Yes, by all means, this was a revolutionary idea at that time and 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 a 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. When he died, he was only a few months away from bankruptcy.
What is Sarasota without John Ringling?
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. Their mansion called Ca’d’Zan is now a part of the John and Marble Ringling Museum of Art. Visitors to the Museum can also 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 style or international 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 you know how that works, dear reader, 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.
Search all current active Homes on Lido Key here