St Armands Circle is an exclusive island located just off the coast of Sarasota, Florida that provides an unforgettable experience to visitors from around the world. Over 130 exclusive shops, boutiques, art galleries and restaurants surround a large European-style roundabout with a park in the middle.
Charles St. Amand, a French pioneer, purchased a Florida mangrove island located just west of the fishing village of Sarasota in 1893. The three tracts of land totaled about 131 acres. St. Amand settled in this area where he fished in the surrounding waters and raised produce. Land deeds later misspelled his name as “Armand” and the name eventually stuck. The island is today called St. Armands Key.
Circus Magnate John Ringling Develops the Concept
In 1917, the leading circus magnate in the country, John Ringling bought all of St. Armands Key, Bird Key and Lido Key. Ringling dreamed of a shopping plaza designed around a roundabout similar to those found in European cities. Luxury homes and resorts were planned for the area around Ringling’s visionary “Circle.”
The John Ringling Causeway is Built
In the 1920s, crews of workers dredged St. Armands, Bird and Lido Key’s canals. Sea walls were constructed along with sidewalks and streets. There was no bridge to access the islands so Ringling decided to build one. The connecting causeway to St. Armands from Sarasota’s mainland was started in 1925 and completed a year later. Ringling opened the bridge and the John Ringling Estates himself by leading a parade across the causeway to St. Armands Circle where one of his circus bands performed.
Real estate sales in Sarasota on opening day exceeded the $1 million estimate. Soon after the opening of the causeway, the Depression hit and Sarasota’s real estate market collapsed and the Circle fell on hard times along with the entire country. In 1928, Ringling donated the Causeway to Sarasota County because he could no longer afford to maintain the bridge.
In the 1940s, investors, once again, set out to develop St. Armands. Restaurants were opened as well as a gas station. It took another 10 years or so before St. Armands shops and restaurants began to see some hope. By 1960s, St. Armands Circle was thriving and remains one of Florida’s outstanding shopping centers, similar to famous Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Visitors and residents experience excellent dining, world-class shopping and an array of seasonal events, arts and crafts exhibits as well as musical performances by many local entertainers.
Take an afternoon and spend it on St. Armands Circle, where you can “shop til you drop” or wander through the Circle’s palm-lined streets and view outstanding Italian statuary from Ringling’s own collection. Be sure to spend a few minutes in the Center of St. Armands Circle and enjoy Sarasota’s Circus history brought to us by John Ringling.
Are you interested in exploring current listings? Visit our St Armands real estate section for more information and to view MLS listings for homes and condos surrounding St Armands Circle. Home prices start in the $400,000's and go up to over $8 million.