VENICE — Julia Cousins Laning gave $1 million to help preserve the history of Venice.

For her decades of dedication to Venice, Sarasota County honored Cousins Laning with the Lillian Burns Individual Achievement Award.

Cousins Laning received the honor at the Sarasota County Heritage awards luncheon at Venice Golf & Country Club on April 27.

Before Dr. Frank Cassell, a member of the selection committee for the History & Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County, presented the award, he explained how the city’s new Dale Laning & Julia Cousins Laning Research Center was established.

Through a $1 million-dollar donation, Cousins Laning helped with the museum expansion and saved the historic inn and historical collection.

Inside were items relating to the John Nolen-planned community, the winter home of the Kentucky Military Institute for about 40 years, the winter home of The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1960-1992, and its Clown College from its founding in 1968 to its closing in Venice in 1996.

The research center is the home of the city’s archives and historical collection.

Also receiving recognition were Dr. Uzi Baram, Harold Bubil, and the Lemon Bay Historical Society. Baram was given the archaeological conservancy award for working on prehistoric sites from North Port to Sarasota. He did several projects with Steve Koski, who was the 2018 winner of the same award.

Baram, professor of Anthropology and director of New College Public Archaeology Lab, New College. has done talks in Venice on the “Gulf Coast Climate Change and Prehistory.” He has his students work on countywide archaeological projects.

Bubil was awarded for outstanding contributions through research and publication to increase knowledge of Sarasota County’s past.

The Lemon Bay Historical Society was given the organizational achievement award for successfully moving the Green Street Church one mile to the Historic Lemon Bay Cemetery in Englewood.

Lemon Bay Historical Society board member Don Bayley accepted the organizational achievement award for the group’s outstanding success in historical preservation, education and support of research on behalf of its 100 members. The society moved its Historic Green Street Church Museum to its new “forever location.”

“A less committed group might have been overwhelmed by the magnitude and complexity of the challenge,” Cassell said. “The society members with widespread support from the community, Sarasota County Historical Resources and Selby Foundation went right to work. They found a new site about a mile away in the Lemon Bay Cemetery, but that was a long mile.”

Cassell said the story of the society’s love for the church is inspiring.

“All of these average people just getting together and loving this thing so much and willing to sacrifice,” he said.

Bayley said members learned two months ago about the award and were elated.

“We love that our tiny town of Englewood was recognized countywide,” he said. “It’s great exposure for people in Venice, North Port and Sarasota to learn about the Lemon Bay Historic Society. We raised more than $100,000 to move the church. We are now working on the mandatory landscaping that must be done. Every donation helps, no matter how big or small.”

A surprise was given by longtime Englewood resident Betty Nugent and the History & Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County to member Ruthmary Williams for her longtime dedication to the board. She is moving. The board will need a new member interested in preserving and celebrating Sarasota County’s history.

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