Sarasota's Historic Courthouse

The Historic Courthouse: The original courthouse, located at 2000 Main Street, downtown Sarasota, was registered as a historic courthouse by the U. S. National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

 

In the spring of 1925, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners selected Dwight James Baum to design the new courthouse. Charles Ringling made land available in his new subdivision for the county building. The Mediterranean influences in the architecture of the building was typical of much of the new construction around Sarasota County during the 1920s.

 

Built in 1927, “a synthesis of Spanish Colonial Revival and Spanish Renaissance with Baroque and Rococo elements,” according to the National Register, the courthouse contained an H-shaped structure linking two rectangular buildings with a covered walkway and tower. The west portion provided offices for county administration while the east section had judicial facilities, including housing for the Sherriff. A reflecting pool graced the north side of the tower area, while decorative glazed terra cotta highlighted the stucco surface of the walls. Ornamental wrought iron grilles enhanced doors and windows, and iron railings and light fixtures continued the theme inside.

 

In recent years, local preservations groups have addressed the needs of the Historic Courthouse, which has undergone extensive rehabilitation of marble walls, terrazzo floors, plaster ceilings and moldings in the corridors and rotundas. Those visiting the courthouse today can better understand the accolades given to the building that was described, in 1926, as “the most outstanding emblem of Sarasota County's prosperity” during the 1920’s.

The Law & Order Café, tucked at the base of the East Wing, will take you back in time to the early days of Sarasota. The old Courthouse and Tower have long been a symbol of Sarasota’s past, but what most don’t know is that the Café sits on the same location as the former jail, Sheriff’s office and home from the 1920’s to the late 1950’s.

With vintage art photography and an homage to former lawmen, the space offers a mix of law, legend and lore. History abounds: Look closely at one of the walls, and you can still see the outline of the original jail staircase where criminals stepped from freedom to incarceration as they were led up into the jail. At 29-years old, Sheriff B. Douglas Pearson was the youngest Sheriff ever assigned the post in the State of Florida. Son of Sheriff Clem Pearson, Sheriff Douglas faced the dramatic twist of arresting his own father for committing a violent crime, yet he also had the historic distinction of introducing the police radio in 1941, sending the very first dispatch to deputies and FL State troopers over the airwaves from inside the Sarasota jail.

Renovated and reopened in the summer of 2008, the Law and Order Café and adjoining seating area under the Grand Staircase serve as a place for customers, attorneys and law enforcement to take a break, read or enjoy a quick meal--surrounded by history.

 

 


About the images used on this site: In the 1930's, architect Dwight James Baum hired Long Island photographer Samuel H. Gottscho to photograph buildings in Sarasota that Baum had designed. These buildings include the El Vernona Hotel, the Sarasota County Historic Courthouse, Ca d'Zan, the Sarasota Times Building, the El Vernona Apartments, and additional buildings throughout the county that were single family dwellings. The Clerk has been granted non-exclusive permission to use the images from the collection of Dwight J. Baum. These fine images appear on this website courtesy of the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia university, NY. For information about photographs available for purchase, contact the Columbia University Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library.
 
 
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