The Sarasota County Administration
Building on Rt 301 and Main
The Sarasota County Administration Building was designed by architect Dwight
James Baum as the Charles Ringling Hotel in 1926. The hotel was
later renamed Sarasota Terrace Hotel and now houses Sarasota
"The Father of Sarasota," John Gillespie, was born in 1852 in
Edinburgh, Scotland. He arrived here in 1886 to assist the failing Florida Mortgage and
Investment Company, a development company partially owned by his father in Edinburgh. The
company had enticed a group of Scottish colonists to Sarasota in 1885 to help settle its
50,000-acre holdings, which included most of the land constituting the present City of
Sarasota. The settlers arrived to find most of the company's promises unfulfilled.
Gillespie was dispatched to improve the situation. Many disillusioned colonists left,
however, and the company entered liquidation proceedings. Gillespie remained in Sarasota
after the court appointed him to manage the assets of the company there. He organized the
clearing of three miles of main Street, the building of a substantial wharf on the
waterfront, and the beginning of a 40-acre experimental farm. In 1902, he was elected the
first mayor of Sarasota when the town was incorporated and held this office for six terms.
He also served his community as Justice of Peace four years and notary public ten years.
He was affectionately known as "Colonel" in this community.
University educated, Gillespie was admitted to the highest legal body in Scotland. Having
become a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1896, he joined the American and
Florida Bar Associations. He served as president of the local bar association. He was
influential in building an Episcopal church in Sarasota. He served as chaplain to Sarasota
Bay Post number 30 of the American Legion. As a mason he reached the order of Knight
Templar. He was affiliated with the independent order of the Odd Fellows and became a
charter member of the Kiwanis Club.
Gillespie volunteered in World War I for duty in Scotland. Because of this service to
Scotland, he lost his United States citizenship. An act of Congress restored it after the
Gillespie is credited with introducing Florida to the game of golf. In
1904 he built a nine-hole golf course east of present Links Avenue. Over the years, he was
commissioned to design and build six other Florida courses and one in Havana, Cuba. He was
one of Florida's championship golfers and an authority in the sport.
"Colonel" Gillespie died on the golf course near his home September 7, 1923. He
is buried in Rosemary Cemetery.
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