On Friday, May 27, the historic Leonard Reid house will be relocated this week to city of Sarasota-owned property in Newtown, where it will become the first home for the new Sarasota African American Art Center and History Museum. The house, which is currently located in the Rosemary District, will be moved to 2529 N. Orange Ave.
The house is named for Leonard Reid, the highly respected early pioneer who helped establish Sarasota’s first Black community, Overtown, which is now known as the Rosemary District. The single-story frame vernacular-style house, built in 1926, is locally historically designated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Reid was considered the “right-hand man” to Sarasota’s first mayor, Col. John Hamilton Gillespie, and lived much of his life in the house with his wife and their two daughters, Ethel Reid Hayes and Viola Reid. Both women were educated in Sarasota before spending most of their adult lives teaching in Sarasota schools and investing in children.
“The Reid family residence is a special place where books were handed out to Overtown's children and the family's parrot perched in its cage on the screened porch talked to passersby,” Vickie Oldham, Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition president and CEO, said in a press release. “The house will be loved and cared for just as the Reid family loved and cared for us.”
In 2020, the house's current owner opened the discussion about donating it to the city. Meanwhile, in August 2020, the city commission purchased a vacant lot at Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. At the same time, the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition was looking for space within the city limits to establish its new cultural arts and history center.
In January 2021, the city entered into a cost-sharing agreement to move the Leonard Reid house to its new parcel in Newtown. A year later, in January 2022, the city commission unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition to use the Leonard Reid house as a cultural arts center to host lectures, programs and exhibits. The home's owner is responsible for costs associated with the move, while the city will pay to prepare the new site, including clearing the property, constructing a foundation, curbing, parking, utilities, landscaping and permitting fees. The city will take ownership of the house upon delivery to the new site.
The home will be transported on a flatbed trailer along a 2.6-mile route that is expected to take two hours to travel. The move is scheduled to occur overnight to mitigate traffic impacts; public safety officers will be on hand to coordinate traffic control.
The Srasota African American Cultural Coalition. will celebrate the move with pre-move festivities at the Leonard Reid house's current Rosemary District location at 1435 Seventh St. on Thursday, May 26. At 10 a.m., the organization will host a news conference with speakers including Arroyo, City of Sarasota vice-mayor Kyle Battie, and Newtown resident Mary Mack, a descendent of Leonard Reid.
At 5:30 p.m., there will be a send-off celebration, with live traditional African music, community speakers and a symbolic ritual for prosperity and protection. The event is open to the public, but registration is encouraged.