Owen Burns changed the face of Sarasota by building seawalls that gave Sarasota the
appearance of a resort. Seawalls and fill expanded Cedar Point (which became Golden Gate
Point in the 1920's). Burns was instrumental in paving Main Street. In 1911, he founded
the Board of Trade, which published a promotional booklet on Sarasota, and established
Citizens Bank, the first local bank.
After Burns came to Sarasota on a fishing trip, in 1910, he moved here. He bought more
than seventy-five percent of the city from J. Hamilton Gillespie (in 1910, Gillespie
signed a letter agreeing to sell all his holdings for $35,000). At one time Burns owned
all of Lido Beach. He founded the Burns Realty Company and the Burns Construction Company.
He developed Burns Court and a number of smaller subdivisions in the city of Sarasota.
After John Ringling became involved in Sarasota real estate development, Burns was vice
president of John Ringling Estates, Inc. Burns managed the development of the Ringling
Isles property on Lido and St. Armands keys. The Burns Realty Company was the sole agent
to sell property when Ringling Isles property went on sale. The Burns Construction Company
dredged the land and built the Ringling Causeway to connect the Ringling Isles properties
and Lido to the mainland.
Burns built the El Vernona Hotel that Dwight James Baum designed. It opened with a
grand ball Dec. 31, 1926. When Burns lost the hotel to the Mortgage Company, John Ringling
bought it and renamed it the John Ringling Hotel.
After the Great Depression dried up the construction business, Burns was the owner
operator of the Tre-Ripe Citrus Products Company on Seventh (now First) Street.