It is no surprise that Sarasota, Florida is known for its world-famous Ringling Art Museum, as well as its collection of excellent performing arts companies and active community of artists and craftsmen. But this city is also one of the best places to visit in Florida for a beach vacation. With its white, sugary beaches and rich cultural services, Sarasota is a destination that should not be missed. The city limits of Sarasota expanded significantly with the real estate rush of the early 20th century, reaching almost 70 square miles (180 km).
However, the wild speculation boom began to collapse in 1926 and the city limits began to contract, shrinking to less than a quarter of that area. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.9 square miles (67 km), of which 14.9 square miles (38.6 km) is land and 11.0 square miles (28 km) is water.
Of this population, 3.9% were under 5 years of age, 14.6% were under 18 years of age and 28.0% were 65 years of age or older. Tourism plays an important role in Sarasota's economy, with top employers including Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, APAC Customer Services, The Zenith and Roper Technologies. Many aspects of the city are overseen by the county government, ranging from schools and libraries to bay management and major waterways. The election of county commissioners is therefore important for municipal voters. Sarasota has many venues for music, dance, theater, circus and other performing arts, including Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera House, Asolo Repertory Theater, Florida Studio Theatre, Players Centre for Performing Arts, Banyan Theatre Company, Westcoast Black Theatre, Urbanite Theater, Sarasota Contemporary Dance, Sarasota Orchestra, La Música and Sarasota Jazzclub. Theatrical venues include Florida Studio Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, The Players Theatre, Urbanite Theatre and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. In the 1960s philanthropists Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel allowed the city to build a performing arts hall facing the bay.
The auditorium was designed by the successor firm of Frank Lloyd Wright - Taliesin Associated Architects - under the direction of William Wesley Peters. Wright's widow Olgivanna Lloyd Wright participated in the project and selected her color purple. Florida's Keating Theater Studio Theatre - formerly the Sarasota Woman's Club - is among the oldest surviving buildings in Sarasota. Founded in 1903 by a group of women who wanted to create a meeting place to host social events and activities as well as forums on public issues such as birth registration and census taking. On January 1st 1915 the first stone was laid at the corner of Palm Avenue and Park Street (now Cocoanut). Other cultural attractions in Sarasota include Mote Marine Laboratory - a marine research and rescue center - an aquarium; Marie Selby Botanical Garden; Sarasota Jungle Gardens; Big Cat Gulf Coast Sanctuary Habitat &; DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth (with James Stewart Charlton Heston Betty Hutton); fine art galleries; artist collectives; filmmaking; decorative arts; Ringling Museum; Conservatory of Circus Arts; and many other musical dance artistic and theatrical venues. In the following decade The Vernona - a landmark hotel built by Owen Burns which had been converted into apartments - was put in jeopardy when it was bought by phosphate miner Gardinier who wanted to turn it into his corporate headquarters.
All tenants were evicted and plans were made for the restoration of the building but lobbying began to undermine the project and one of the commissioners changed her vote resulting in the bill being denied at the final hearing. The enraged miner left town leaving behind a building that was eventually left open for wanderers to invade and rob it. Most of the luxurious historic residences from the 1920s boom period on the north shore of Sarasota Bay have also survived including Cà d'Zan - John & Mable Ringling's house - which was recently restored. However many important structures from mid-twentieth century's relatively recent Sarasota School of Architecture period have not survived as they do not qualify below established age criteria for historic preservation nominations. Others are often threatened by demolition plans for new developments without regard to their cultural or historical importance to the community rather than encouraging plans to conserve buildings and integrate them into new plans. The Rosemary district was an African-American community while Newtown is predominantly African-American today. Public education is provided by Sarasota County Public Schools School District with middle schools including Booker Middle Brookside Middle Laurel Nokomis McIntosh Middle & Sarasota Middle. Sarasota also housed Flint School - a type of sailing school - while New College of Florida is a public liberal arts college & honors university within Florida State University System. Nearby educational institutions with regional lottery draw include State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota & a commuter branch of University of South Florida with main campus located in Tampa. The community also has most radio stations from Tampa Bay area broadcasting from here.