Skip to content

Our Blog

SEIDMAN: Historic house to become starter home for city’s first Black culture center

The Leonard Reid home will be moved from the Rosemary District to city land in Newtown to become the beginnings of the Sarasota African American Cultural Center. It’s not every day you bring together a governmental agency, a developer and two organizations focused on historic preservation and cultural celebration and walk away with a deal that’s satisfying to everyone. But that’s exactly what happened last week when the city of Sarasota, developer John Hermansen, Newtown Alive and the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition (SAACC) reached an agreement to move a historic house to the Dr. Martin Luther King Way corridor in Newtown to serve as the starter home of Sarasota’s first center honoring the legacy and impact of its Black community. City commissioners, who voted unanimously for the purchase of nearly two acres at MLK and North Orange Avenue where the house will reside, were happy to envision a destination

City of Sarasota Receives Grant to Support Newtown

The Newtown Historic Conservation District is among 18 projects nationwide—the only one in Florida—to be awarded an Underrepresented Community Grant from the National Park Service. The $50,000 grant will give the city of Sarasota “all the tools in our toolbox” to put together the nomination to have the Newtown Historic Conservation District placed on the National Register of Historic Places, says city planner and historic preservation expert Dr. Clifford Smith. “This is huge,” says Smith. “Being on the National Register means more grant opportunities for historic preservation. And it means it will allow more flexibility under the Florida Building Code; you’d be exempt from elevating [a structure] under the FEMA 50-percent rule, for example.” Including the city of Sarasota, eight states, six Native American tribes, two local governments, the District of Columbia and the Federated States of Micronesia were the recipients of a total of $750,000 in Underrepresented Community grants

Pride of place in Newtown

It may not be a lot of money, but it’s a very big deal. And it’s earmarked for Newtown, a unique Sarasota community where folks have always known how to make a little bit go a long way. Just as intense pressure over time can create diamonds out of coal, the brutal and self-sabotaging practices of chronic racial segregation — compounded by the blithe indifference of snowbirds and retirees flocking here from elsewhere — isolated and forged a close-knit Black community in Sarasota that is distinguished by its authenticity and a vibrant sense of its own past. This month the U.S. National Park Service has singled out the Newtown Conservation Historic District as one of 18 recipients in its Underrepresented Community Grant Program, which “focuses on documenting the homes, lives, landscapes, and experiences of underrepresented peoples who played a significant role in national history.” The $50,000 — one of only

Oldham and Williams: Newtown needs an arts center and museum

Cultural arts centers, museums and libraries situated in the heart of African American neighborhoods add texture, vibrancy and richness to a community. The facilities bring diverse people together and invite residents, visitors and guests to venture into underrepresented communities. Welcome doors swing open both ways for an understanding and exploration of the unknown and unfamiliar. Beauty can be found in places considered dangerous and mysterious. Important connections can be made between institutions — arts, cultural, historical and educational — and students, researchers and residents. So imagine if there were a place in Sarasota’s Newtown where our well-known institutions could make guest artists, collections, exhibitions and lecturers available to local audiences. Issues of race, identity, class, social justice, history and culture could be explored at this community gathering spot. Programmers could organize interactions with underserved communities. READ MORE