Bird Key has a rich and vibrant history dating back many years. The first home on this small island was built by Thomas and Lindsay “Davie” Worcester in 1917. However, it was Davie who first came to Sarasota for health reasons in 1905. She ventured by boat with friends and came upon Bird Key. Struck by the natural beauty and serenity of this 13 acre island, she wrote to her husband, who was moved by her happiness and excitement in finding this island sanctuary. Thomas purchased the island from the state of Florida for $25 so that they could build their future home. The island was named Bird Key because of the large population of birds that flock to this area.
Bird Key and the Worcester estate were acquired by John Ringling in 1922, along with the purchase of many of the barrier islands off the coast of Sarasota. Ringling family members lived in the Worcester home until 1959, when it was sold to the Arvida Corporation. Arvida expanded and developed the island from its original 13 acres to the current 250 acres, creating one of the most prized luxury communities in Sarasota. There are now 511 homes on Bird Key.
After John Ringling died in 1936, his sister Ida and nephew John Ringling North became administrators of his estate, which included Bird Key.
In 1951, John Ringling North formed the Bird Key Corporation and acquired about 280 submerged acres from the state. North’s vision of filling the submerged land for development did not materialize.
In 1959, the Arvida Corporation bought 2,000 acres of Ringling property that included Bird Key. The city approved the Arvida plan for a “luxurious island residential haven.”
In October, dredging and filling to enlarge the island to approximately 300 acres began, along with construction of the island’s infrastructure. Encouraged by sales incentives such as a Chris Craft cabin cruiser and a Lincoln Continental, real estate agents sold the first lots that same month.
Bird Key was connected to the city water system in 1964. The Bird Key Yacht Club, built by Arvida in 1960, was transferred to the residents in 1967. By 1972, only three lots remained unsold.
Today, Bird Key is completely developed and is valued by its residents for its history and beauty.
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