Burns Square Historic District

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Burns Square Historic District is a mixed use area, predominately commercial, located in the U.S. in Sarasota, Florida. The district is the southern entrance into the highest density city core. The district runs from Ringling Boulevard to Mound Avenue along South Pineapple and South Orange Avenues. Burns Square is bound by Historic Laurel Park that is on the National Register of Historic Neighborhoods to the east, Palm Avenue residential neighborhood to the west, and Hudson Bayou to the south.

It was between 1925 and 1929 that the landscape of this district changed drastically. As of 1925, the Sanborn Insurance Map showed no structures on the triangular property at S. Orange and S. Pineapple Avenues. Across the street on S. Orange Avenue, the only structure was a single family residence and garage. The Seaboard Air Line Railway went from Lemon Avenue down Pineapple and by 1929, the neighborhood was busy. The Herald Tribune showed photos of its new business home in its December 15, 1926 edition, complete with advertising and business offices, the pressroom, the linotype and composing rooms, which opened on October 4, 1925.

Also, in that edition a two-pages headlined, "The Ringling-Burns Interests Have Shown Their Faith." More than eight photos reflected new construction that had been completed by the two developers. In addition to the El Vernona Hotel (which later became the John Ringling Hotel, and still later, John Ringling Towers), The Broadway Apartments (now the Belle-Haven), the Colson Hotel for "the colored population and colored tourists," was a photograph and short article on the triangular-shaped Pineapple Apartments. The surrounding area then became known as Herald Square after the Sarasota Herald building was completed across Orange Avenue that same year.

Built by Owen Burns at a cost of $75,000, the Pineapple Apartments was said to be very well equipped and representative of the fashionable Herald Square area. The design for the tringle began in the New York offices of celebrated architect Dwight James Baum. In 1924, Baum discovered Sarasota, and after meeting Owen Burns, determined that he wanted to recreate in Sarasota the architecture he had seen in Europe and the Mediterranean. The building had seven handsome efficiency apartments on the second floor, and stores occupied the first floor, including Tee Gee, a five-and-dime type shop; and Freeman's Drugs, operated by Clarence and Nellie Freeman. Owen Burns, one of Sarasota's most distinguished citizens is connected with almost every early development of the city, owning more than 75% of the land area of the city, making him the largest landowner. During the 1920s, his construction firm was responsible for the construction of some of Sarasota's most notable buildings, including John and Mable Ringling's home, Ca'd'Zan. Burns and Baum worked together on many projects.

In 1950, Paul Rudolph, from the Sarasota School of Architecture, designed a modern addition contained 18 one-bedroom apartments with additional retail space on the ground floor that was added to the triangle building. The 1960 City Directory reflects that the Sarasota Herald-Tribune had by this time moved to 801 S. Tamiami Trail, and Privett's Drugs was at 1605 Third Street with a new owner.

In 1986 Denise Kowal bought the triangle building and its 1950's addition to save it from demolition by speculators who wanted to build a high-rise on the property. She made extensive renovations both the interior and exterior. In addition, a cupola, wrought iron balconies, awnings, and tile address signs were added. Three of the original studio apartments were made into a single apartment that in 1996 Kowal occupied with her two sons. The residence was featured in 1997 in the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation annual Historic Homes Tour; again in 2005 for the 'Creative and Collectors Tour;' and again on the Historic Homes tour in 2015 for the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation. The structure remains today one of the most unique in the city; distinctive because of its prominent location and splendid architecture. Unique also is the mixed use: commercial and office below, residential above, and zero setback from the sidewalk. Planning and design professionals have since embraced this concept now referred to as 'New Urbanism' for downtown Sarasota and across the country.

In 1925, Owen Burns developed and built the charming Burns Court subdivision in the area, designed by local architect Thomas Reed Martin. The Burns Court Historic District that was awarded designation by the National Park Service in 1984. The cottages of Burns Court subdivision located at 400-446 Burns Court and 418, 426, and 446 S. Pineapple Ave including the surrounding street scape make up his historic street. It is located one to three blocks to the northwest of the Pineapple Apartments site.

Burns and his wife raised five children together in Sarasota. He continued to maintain his home and remain active in the city until his death in 1937. Owen Burns was a remarkable and distinguished entrepreneur who chose Sarasota as his home and a place to raise his family. He devoted his civic and professional life to the city's improvement and held a never ending vision for Sarasota's future. He made great efforts and contributions towards turning Sarasota from a small fishing village into the great city that it is today. In honor of his distinguished character and the mark he left on Sarasota, the small square at the intersection of Orange and Pineapple was dedicated to him by the Sarasota City Commission in 2001.

In 1999 the area was renamed Burns Square Historic District by the area stakeholders, replacing Herald Square, as an honor to Owen Burns and the history of this triangle shaped district.


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