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The History of South Venice Beach

In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, local people called the forested area of South Venice “the pinewoods.” Different investors attempted various agricultural ventures, none of which was long lasting. In the 1920’s, the Nacatee Freight Company operated a railroad to the sawmill town of Woodmere. They logged the area and harvested turpentine. The hurricanes of 1926 and 1928, the economic crash, and then the fire in 1930 that destroyed the town of Woodmere, all had a significant impact to the area. Homeless people stayed in tents and depended on hunting and fishing for survival. Imagine how hard their existence was compared to today.

In 1952, two brothers from New Jersey, Warren and Arthur Smadbeck, purchased approximately 3,000 acres of land in unincorporated Sarasota County and created the South Venice Subdivision. They platted out 19,587 lots for sale. It took two 40X100 lots to build a house. They wanted to sell the lots fast so they called upon the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce to promote sales. The Chamber was looking for a way to market the area and bring new families in. After a nationwide campaign, all lots sold within two years. In 1956, the developers dedicated 1,600 feet of Gulf Beach to South Venice residents, including the bridges that connected them to the subdivision.  Footbridges connected the South Venice subdivision, developed by W&A Corporation, to Manasota Key in the early 1950’s before the Intracoastal Waterway. The first model house was at 90 South Venice Boulevard, a two-bedroom priced at $6,900.

The Intracoastal Waterway changed things

In 1965, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ construction of the Intracoastal Waterway meant that Lemon Bay, which up until then had been a shallow body of water, was to be dredged to allow boat traffic and made part of the Intracoastal. That meant the foot bridges had to go.

To compensate the community and restore access to the beach, the Corps allocated $150,000 for the purchase of a ferry and the construction of docks.

Beach Ferry Dock House, Year Unknown

Beach Pavilion, 1990

South Venice Civic Association and the Ferry Operation

The only entity in existence in those years with which the Federal Government — through the Corps — could communicate was the South Venice Civic Association. And so, the money was put in the hands of the Civic Association and the management of funds and property became their responsibility.

At about the same time, the County proposed ‘trading’ beaches, that is – switching title of South Venice’s north beach for the county beach which separated South Venice’s two beaches. A rare ‘no-brainer’, the trade gave South Venice a now continuous beach.

Why the South Venice Beach Endowment Trust?

The Endowment Trust was created to preserve the beach and access to the beach and intracoastal waterway in perpetuity for the South Venice Beach Community property owners and residents.

Creation of the Trust in 2001

The South Venice Beach Endowment Trust finally came into being in 2001. In 2005, the Trust earned permanent status as a 501[c](3) non-profit foundation, designed so by the Internal Revenue Service.

So that’s how it all happened and the endowment trust was created. The Trust now holds the beach properties on behalf of the property owners and residents of the South Venice Beach Community. There are five Trustees who serve for five year terms each; one is appointed each year by the board of the SVCA.

In 2008, the SVBET sold 8 acres of mainland land to Sarasota County, the proceeds of which established the Endowment Trust corpus. It was a little used property restricted by our deeds and Trust to ‘recreational use’. Access to it was hampered by easements, meaning residents could only reach it by foot.  In August of 2008, after years of negotiation, the Trust sold the property to Sarasota County.

The Future

Florida Power & Light is working to put all electrical distribution facilities underground.  This includes the service the the Ferry Dock House.  We are negotiating an easement with them.  This project should improve electrical service and help keep the power on!  We hope to improve electrical service to the boat ramp area as well.

We continually strive to maintain, update, and preserve all assets, including the boat ramp, Ferry, Ferry Dock House, boardwalk, beach, etc. and improve service to members and keep costs as low as possible!