Siesta Key's Historic Stickney Point
Posted by Michelle Papini on
Siesta Key is one of the Sarasota area’s most beautiful and attractive barrier islands.
Siesta Key means elegant homes and waterfront estates, fabulous beach resorts, and a beach consistently rated number one in the nation, sparkling Siesta Beach. Life was much different, however, 100 years ago on Siesta Key. Before the 20th century, the island was inaccessible by automobile. The first bridge from the mainland to Siesta Key wasn’t constructed until 1917. The “roaring” 1920s saw the first real estate boom in the area, and in 1924, Sarasota County issued municipal bonds to finance bridge and road construction, including the first Stickney Point Bridge over Little Sarasota Bay. Construction on that bridge began in 1926, but that was also the same year a major hurricane hit south Florida, the start of a real estate market bust that continued right into the Great Depression.
South Florida real estate didn’t really pick up again until after World War II, when the entire nation was prospering. Thousands of veterans who had trained in south Florida at facilities like the Venice Army Air Field returned there to buy homes and raise families in the Florida sun. The first Stickney Point Bridge was a steel Warren truss “swing” bridge, a popular bridge style in the 1920s but entirely insufficient for booming Siesta Key by the late 1950s. In fact, a 1959 Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial called the bridge “a disgrace to the county.” By 1965, replacing the bridge became a priority for Sarasota County, and the new 4-lane Stickney Point Bridge finally opened in 1968. Engineers call it a “bascule” bridge, meaning it’s a drawbridge that can be quickly opened and closed for boat traffic. The bridge quickly became a favorite spot for fishing enthusiasts, and there’s even a bait and tackle shop on the Siesta Key side. Boaters, skiers, and windsurfers can be seen from the bridge almost every day of the year.
The Stickney Point Bridge is named after “Uncle” Ben Stickney (1842-1912), a Siesta Key pioneer and early settler who became legendary for his bighearted hospitality and for the huge parties and picnics held at his Siesta Key estate.