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The concept of a bay front park and municipal auditorium for Sarasota was first conceived in 1935, during 1936, the municipal government obtained the 37-acre (15 ha) parcel from a private company that owed ,000.00 in taxes on the site.Citizens, politicians, and city employees began the effort to secure a federal Work Projects Administration (WPA) Grant for the center.
It initiated the community efforts to develop a civic and cultural center for public uses along the bay and marked the urban boundary of downtown for visitors entering from the north along Tamiami Trail, a major thoroughfare now designated as a portion of U. Route 41 and one of the most well-traveled roads in Sarasota, which hosts over a million tourists annually.This was a project to benefit the residents and it was built by their efforts, donations, and labor.The auditorium was opened on February 24, 1938 with great fanfare and used for the annual Sara de Soto Celebration that was sponsored by the Sarasota Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The building was designed in the Art Deco and Moderne styles by Chicago architects, Thomas Reed Martin and Clarence A. Thomas Reed Martin was dubbed as one of the builders of Sarasota because of the numbers of buildings that came out of the ground following his plans, his first contract after his arrival in 1911 was remodeling “the Oaks” residence for none other than Bertha Palmer, one of the largest land holders and developers of the Sarasota region during the early 20th century.During the 1980s a historic preservationist working for the city purchasing director Bob Gerkin, whose department oversaw the hall, pressed for the listing of the building in the national register, after being won over, Gerkin even encouraged an effort to fund the restoration of the building to its original state.Under the direction of local architects and planners, restoration work by local builders began in 1992, the building was restored to its 1937 condition under the direction of architects, Gary B.