Hello, History

Check Out the Winners of This Year's Sarasota County Heritage Awards

The winners are champions of local historic preservation and adaptive reuse, historical research, archaeological conservancy and more.

By Kim Doleatto February 22, 2024

Florida Studio Theatre, which incorporated the Sarasota Women's Club into its campus.

On the heels of new developments and the wrecking balls that herald their arrival–did you notice the Sarasota School of Architecture designed Waldman Building has just been flattened?—some locals dedicate their time and energy to embracing local history. For that, they're being recognized with a Sarasota County 2024 Heritage Award.

Presented by the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation (SAHP) in collaboration with the History & Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County (HPCOSC) the winners represent achievements in preservation, research, adaptive reuse, archaeological conservancy and more. The awards ceremony is on Thursday, March 2.

"This highlights some of the creative preservation work being done here despite the fact there aren't a ton of incentives that exist for it. There are cultural and economic benefits and its important for sustainability, too," says Erin DiFazio, program director at SAHP. "Focus is usually on what's shiny and new, and we want to pay homage to residents who are committed to historic preservation."

Nominations are judged for their success in the rehabilitation, restoration, or adaptive use of a historic building and the impact of the project on the community. Projects must have been completed within the last five years, per the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historical Rehabilitation. The Heritage Awards committee is comprised of professionals in the fields of architecture, historic preservation, real estate development, archaeology, history and collections management.

Here are this year's winners.

Vickie Oldham and the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition (SAACC)(Gregory A. and Eleana Najmy Hall Adaptive Use and Historic Preservation Award)

The Leonard Reid House

Oldham and the SAACC were recognized in honor of their extraordinary efforts to preserve the home of Leonard Reid, of one of Sarasota’s early African American leaders. The home was moved from its original address in the Rosemary District to the corner of Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. It is now a community hub for arts and culture in Newtown that celebrates Black life and history. The effort was possible also thanks to support from Stevie Freeman-Montes, City Manager Marlon Brown and the Sarasota city commissioners. 

Florida Studio Theatre (Gregory A. and Eleana Najmy Hall Adaptive Use and Historic Preservation Award)

Florida Studio Theatre

Perched on the corner of Cocoanut Avenue and First Street in downtown Sarasota, the iconic theater incorporated the Sarasota Women's Club and Gompertz Theatre structures into its campus and repurposed them with sensitive alterations. The complex has grown over the past 50 years into one of the community’s most important arts and cultural destinations and is home to live theater, music, children’s theater camps and more.

Frank Cassell and Dorothy Korwek (Lillian Burns Individual Achievement Awards)

This was awarded to Frank Cassell in recognition of his contributions to the history and preservation movement through scholarly research and publications and for his leadership of the Sarasota County Centennial Committee, the History and Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County and the Friends of the Sarasota County History Center, among others.

The 1927 Triangle Inn is now the Venice Museum in south Sarasota.

Dorothy Korwek also earned the award for her contributions to the history and preservation movement, including that of the Triangle Inn and the Lord-Higel House; obtaining a historic designation for the Triangle Inn; her compilation and publication of books and pamphlets documenting the history and culture of Venice; and her community service.

The Lord-Higel House in Venice, south Sarasota, was constructed in 1896 and is the second oldest house in Sarasota County. 

Marion Almy (Archaeological Conservancy Award)

Marion Almy is honored for her decades of advocacy for archeological conservation and historic preservation in Florida and for advancing archeological preservation with national, local and state government agencies, including the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Division of Historical Resources.

Deborah Walk (Historical Research Award) 

Awardee Deborah Walk is recognized for her contributions to historical research and archival preservation, including her research on the oldest church in the county, the Crocker Church, for the Historical Society of Sarasota County; for the Church of the Redeemer; the Founders Garden Club and for her work as an archivist and author. The long-time former assistant director of Ringling’s Legacy and Circus. "Her research was used to help preserve those buildings. And her work is critical in documenting and making archives accessible to the community," says David Baber, vice president of SAHP.

Venice Heritage (Organizational Achievement Award)

This went to Venice Heritage, as curator of two of the community’s most important historical structures—the Lord-Higel House and the Triangle Inn (now the Venice Museum). Venice Heritage has also published books documenting the historical and cultural fabric of the city and continues to raise awareness of Venice’s past.

"We lost local historic landmarks like the McClellan Park School, that could have today been a treasure to the neighborhood and the focal point for community gathering space," notes DiFazio. "Instead of using the building, and others like it over the years, they've been put in the dumpster. That's why we're shining a spotlight on the important work the winners are doing."

The 2024 annual Heritage Awards ceremony and dinner is Thursday, March 21, at 5:30 p.m., at the Sarasota Art Museum, 1001 S. Tamiami Trail, in Sarasota. For more information and tickets, click here or call (941) 254-3002.

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