An invaluable part of any city’s expansion is extending its roads. In the 1910s, however, besides extending roads, in order to establish a sense of permanence and progress, roads needed to be paved. As has been established in the other parts of this section, Sarasotans were eager to boost their town. And thus, when there was a vote in 1915 on whether or not to sell $250,000 worth of bonds for paving roads, the results came in with 144 for and only 26 against.1
After this election, however, nothing happened for 14 months. The Sarasota-Times reported this in May 1916, complaining about the lack of movement and reminding the public of the potential for substantial roads. The article states,
Chief James, of the Maintenance Division, Good Roads Department at Washington was here last week, and went over District Engineer Charles A. Brown’s specifications and said that if the roads could be build under those specifications, we would have the best roads in the whole state of Florida.2
This praise is especially high considering that, at the time, Florida engaged in a substantial amount of paving. Earlier in May 1916, the Times published an enthusiastic piece celebrating the state’s expenditures for road building. Readers were assured that Florida “is setting an example of the entire South. Indeed, it is setting a pace that it will be hard for any other State in the Union to more than match.”3 A large selection of the piece is scanned below.
The vote of 1915 was eventually honored and Sarasota became a part of Florida’s boom of road building discussed above. On June 15, 1916, an article titled, “Sarasota-Venice Paved Roads Are Now An Assured Fact,” promised that “work shall be finished by the first May, 1917,” and that “it will only be a short time before workmen are swarming all over this city.”4 Bernard “Larry” Doyle is one of the men who came to help pave.
The article went on to describe the placement of the paved roads, which were certainly quite extensive. Farms were connected to the bay. “In order to improve the present bad conditions of the present trails through the woods a stretch known as the Miakka section will be graded.” Subdivisions that today are highly populated, such as Lockwood Ridge and Hyde Park, were newly paved.5
By 1917, the roads were celebrated as a means to connect farmers to the rest of town, as stated in the words of Florida’s Secretary of Agriculture, W. A. McRae. Besides improving the lives of farmers, upon whom Sarasota’s economy still heavily depended, Secretary McRae emphasized the role of good roads in making first impressions, a crucial part of tourism. “A good town is passed up” due to the “failure of a community to keep its roads in passable condition. Road building and maintenance are community propositions–everybody ought to be interested.” At this point in time, over a five year period, Congress allotted Florida $809,000 for road building. Mr. McRae urged Sarasota to take further advantage.6
By 1918, Sarasota’s roads became another point of praise for the city. In the column “Ahead Of Other Southern Towns,” the Times interviewed an impressed “newcomer” to Sarasota who claimed to have visited “practically every town worthwhile in the South.” “With not half the population” of many other towns, Sarasota “has more paved streets” and “is laid out in nicer shape.” The column closes with, “Sarasota is used to compliments, but nevertheless the above interview should encourage continued unity and greater effort on the part of public spirited citizens of our progressive little city to take advantage of the bigger opportunities suggested as being in reach.”7
Fig. 1. “The World Is Lead by Florida in Hard Road Building —$10,000,000 is Being Expended in the Work,” Sarasota-Times, May 4, 1916, courtesy of Sarasota County Historical Resources, Sarasota, Florida.
- “Good Road Bonds Sold,” Sarasota-Times, May 25, 1916.
- “The World Is Lead by Florida in Hard Road Building —$10,000,000 is Being Expended in the Work,” Sarasota-Times, May 4, 1916.
- “Sarasota-Venice Paved Roads Are Now An Assured Fact,” Sarasota-Times, June 15, 1916.
- “Secretary Of Agriculture W. A. McRae Sends Out The Following Article On The Roads Of Florida,” Sarasota-Times, January 25, 1917.
- “Ahead Of Other Southern Towns,” Sarasota-Times, May 2, 1918.