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Historic house gets new purpose on lot in Sarasota neighborhood

The Leonard Reid house will be repurposed as a Sarasota African American cultural arts center.

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  • | 12:50 p.m. June 1, 2022
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Courtesy. The Leonard Reid house will become a Sarasota African American Cultural Center to promote history and education.
Courtesy. The Leonard Reid house will become a Sarasota African American Cultural Center to promote history and education.
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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The Leonard Reid house, named for the pioneer who helped establish Overtown, Sarasota’s first Black community, was recently relocated to a city-owned property in north Sarasota.

In the new location, the house will be a Sarasota African American cultural arts center. The house was moved from the Rosemary District, formerly known as Overtown, to Newtown on Orange Avenue, north of downtown Sarasota, on May 27, according to a statement 

The house was completed in 1926 as a single-story frame vernacular style and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

“Several key parts had to come together at just the right time for this to work and somehow they did,” Sarasota Mayor Erik Arroyo says in the news release. 

In 2020, the owner of the house expressed interest in donating it to the city. Around the same time that year, the Sarasota City Commission purchased a vacant lot at Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. And, notably, the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition sought a place to establish a new cultural arts and history center. 

“This truly is an amazing partnership between the public, private and nonprofit sectors,” Arroyo says. “Because of the partnership, a beautiful historic structure is being preserved and we’re about to see the much-anticipated launch of a Sarasota African American cultural center.” 

The city entered into a cost-sharing agreement in January 2021 under which the previous owner paid for costs associated with the move and the city agreed to pay costs needed to prepare the new site in Newtown, including clearing the property, constructing a foundation, curbing, parking, utilities, landscaping and permitting fees. Once the house was delivered to the property, the city took over ownership. 

The SAACC received an approved lease agreement in January from the city commission to use the house as a cultural arts center. The new center will be host to lectures, programs and exhibits to promote history and education. 

“The house will be open for all to come together and learn about the events, culture and contributions of our historic Black community to the Sarasota we see today,” says Stevie Freeman-Montes, governmental relations manager, “all in the very house where one of Overtown’s most beloved pioneers lived.”


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