Sarasota Then and Now: A History of Palmer Ranch

Posted by Julian Yates on Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 at 1:44pm.

Above: Original Sarasota snowbird Bertha Palmer (foreground) takes a stroll on her property in what is today known as Palmer Ranch. [Image courtesy of Sarasota History Alive!]

Of all the communities within Sarasota, few showcase the lifestyle that's been developed here quite like Palmer Ranch. Encompassing a number of unique neighborhoods, the 10,000-acre area has evolved dramatically since its beginnings.

When the Scots first came to Sarasota in the late 1800s, the land upon which Palmer Ranch would be founded was largely palm trees and palmettos. It wasn't until Bertha Palmer came to town that the land started adding to the culture of Sarasota, and has continued to do so ever since.

Mrs. Palmer came to Sarasota from Chicago in 1910 as a recent widow. She'd seen an advertisement about the Sarasota Bay area in the newspaper, and after a visit, she became one of our first snowbirds. Known as the "Queen of Chicago," Bertha's marriage to multi-millionaire Potter Palmer left her with a hefty inheritance of $8 million. She used it to purchase over 80,000 acres of land in Sarasota, making her one of the largest property owners in the city's history. Her social standing helped to put the community of 840 people on the map, and once she put down roots, Sarasota would never be the same.

Bertha Palmer developed the area now known as Palmer Ranch into orange groves and livestock pastures, revolutionizing the Florida agriculture industry by being one of the first to "dip" her cattle to fight ticks. Her pioneering preventative measure became law by 1942 and helped to eradicate Florida's cattle tick problem.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Palmer enjoyed only eight years of Sarasota living before going to join her husband in the Paradise beyond the paradise she'd already discovered. When you visit Palmer Ranch today, you'll find a number of features that celebrate her legacy. Honore Avenue bears Bertha's maiden name (which she bestowed on her son), and the few remaining cows that you can find on Palmer Ranch's periphery are a reminder of Sarasota's history in cattle husbandry. Nevertheless, time goes on, and bigger dreams have since been planted on the land.

The Scottish influence of golfing is most readily apparent in the PGA's Tournament Players Club at Prestancia, one of two golf courses in the area, but all sorts of outdoor activities have been included in the planning throughout Palmer Ranch. Whether you're into tennis, swimming, bicycling, canoeing, or just going to the beach, Palmer Ranch has either built the amenities into the community, or its exquisite location makes for a short trip to what residents most enjoy. Just like the vision that called Bertha Palmer to expand the possibilities of agriculture in the area, so have the designers of Palmer Ranch expanded upon the opportunities for enjoying life in Sarasota to the fullest.

A variety of neighborhoods have been developed throughout Palmer Ranch, making it amenable to a variety of residents and lifestyles. Situated comfortably close to schools, hospitals, restaurants, and shopping, Palmer Ranch offers condos, villas, single-family homes, and million-dollar mansions -- a little something for everyone. Palmer Ranch has come a long way in the last hundred years, and it is incredibly exciting to watch as each new resident brings new energy to the area to make Sarasota feel that much more like home.

Interested in homes for sale in Palmer Ranch? Click here to explore current listings, or contact Julian for more resources on finding your ideal Sarasota property.


Sarasota Area Real Estate Specialist

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