The Crocker Church in Sarasota

The Crocker Memorial Church was built in 1901 and is at Pioneer Park off North 12th St. in Sarasota.

The Historical Society of Sarasota County presents a program about three women who shaped Sarasota History on Tuesday, Nov. 12 starting at 7 p.m. at the Crocker Memorial Church at 1260 12th St, (Pioneer Park) Sarasota.

The program, which is part of the Society’s Conversations at The Crocker series, is free to HSOSC members and students and $10 at the door for guests. Proceeds from Conversations at The Crocker are used to maintain the historic Crocker Memorial Church (1901) and the Bidwell-Wood House (1882).

The three women who are the subject of the November Conversation are: Bertha Palmer, Mable Ringling and Marie Selby. Following three illustrated lectures, there will be a question and answer session with the presenters.

Presenting the life, times and achievements of Bertha Palmer is Frank Cassell, the award-winning author of Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honore Palmer, Her Family and The Rise of Sarasota.

Cassell is President Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg. He is an officer of the Sarasota County Historical Commission and the History and Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County. Cassell’s book will be available for purchase at the Conversation and the author will sign copies after the program.

Bertha Palmer (1849-1918) was one of the best-known and wealthiest women in America. She was an art collector, women’s rights advocate, businesswoman, owner of Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, and she had homes in Chicago, Paris, and London. In 1910 she traveled to the small settlement of Sarasota. Charmed with the rough place, she ultimately spent much of each year for the rest of her life on one of America’s last frontiers, investing in cattle and farming, creating communities out of marshlands, pine forests, and tropical jungles.

Talking about the life and times of Mable Ringling (1875-1929) will be Deborah Walk, a nationally respected archivist, writer, lecturer and the former curator of the Ringling Museum of the Circus.

After her marriage to circus impresario John Ringling in 1905 Mable Burton Ringling, a farm girl from the midwest, became a great traveler and travel became her education. In 1923, the Ringlings commissioned the architect Dwight James Baum to build their dream home in Sarasota, modeled on the Doge’s Palace and the Cá d’Oro in Venice. Mable oversaw every aspect of the construction, from the glazing of the tiles to the mixing of the terra cotta. She designed much of the original landscaping on the grounds of the estate, including her Rose Garden and Secret Garden. Mable was the founder in 1927 of the Sarasota Garden Club. Thousands of people from all over the world visit her extravagant mansion on Sarasota Bay annually to experience for a few hours how the wealthiest lived in another time.

Presenting the life and times of Marie Selby will be Jeannie Perales, vice president for Museum Exhibitions, Learning & Engagement at Selby Gardens and the co-author of a book on Selby Gardens. She has been with The Gardens since 2010 where she oversees educational programming, exhibitions, interpretation, and volunteers.

Marie Selby (1885-1971) started coming to Sarasota with her wealthy oilman husband William in the early 1920s. They built a home here and indulged their love of the outdoors by buying and working a cattle ranch and by boating. Marie was the first woman in America to cross the country by car and she was an award-winning sailor. She loved camping and gardening and she designed the landscaping for her own property. In 1955 the couple founded the Selby Foundation, that through its generous grants, has enhanced the lives of those who live and visit here.

When she died in 1971 Marie Selby left a personal legacy to Sarasota. She left her home and five acres of landscaped grounds for the development of a public botanical garden which opened in 1975.

Organized seven years ago by HSOSC, Conversations at The Crocker is a series of interactive discussions that focus on the people, issues and events that have molded Sarasota County and Florida from earliest days. The Historical Society of Sarasota is a membership organization.

Dues start at $35 for an annual membership.

The Society is guided by a volunteer board of directors. Its current president is Marsha Fottler. For more information, call Site Manager, Linda Garcia at 364-9076.

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