Venice area history

From the native Americans who lived here some 12,000 years ago through the European discovery and early settlements in the present day, the Venice area has been attracting newcomers.

The very early settlers came to hunt the land and fish the fertile Gulf and bays. After two and a half centuries of Spanish rule, Florida became a state in 1823.

The 1800s saw the first true wave of settlers sweep the area when the government offered free land to anyone who would homestead it. Originally called Horse and Chaise because of a carriage-like tree formation that marked the spot for fisherman, the name Venice was first applied to the area that is now Nokomis in 1888 because of its likeness to the canal city in Italy. The name was suggested by Frank Higel, considered the "Father of Venice."

The arrival of Mrs. Potter Palmer, with an inherited fortune, had a lasting impact on the area. The wife of the owner of the famed Palmer House in Chicago built a winter home in the Osprey area on land which is now known as The Oaks.

She also was instrumental in getting the railroad to extend its tracks to South Sarasota County. A trestle was constructed across Hatchett Creek, and a railroad station was built on the Horse and Chaise side of the trestle. On the station was hung a sign designating it as "Venice."

That started a groundswell of protest with the folks who objected to the name Venice being on the wrong side of Hatchett Creek. The upshot of the dispute was the abandonment of the name and the subsequent adoption of the name, Nokomis (Hiawatha's grandmother).

Then in 1916, a New York Physician, Dr. Fred Albee, came to Venice with a dream. Dr. Albee was commissioned by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers to find an area in Florida where a retirement town could be built for retired union members. Albee scouted both coasts, finally settling on this area, which he reportedly said had more beneficial "actinic" rays from the sun than any other area of Florida.

He wanted to build a model city and commissioned what may have been Florida's first master planned community. Albee envisioned agriculture, industry, commerce, housing and recreation harmoniously co-existing.

In 1923, Venice was connected to Tampa and Miami by a two-lane road that became the Tamiami Trail. During the real estate boom of the 1920s, and with the cash infusion of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the dream of a model community became a reality. Homes and businesses featuring northern Italian architecture were constructed. The city of Venice was incorporated in 1925.

Hard times arrived with the Great Depression which left Venice in near desolation. The community, however, began its comeback with the arrivals of the Kentucky Military Institute in 1932, and a U.S. Army Air Base in 1941.

The Intracoastal Waterway was constructed, starting in 1963, making Venice an "island" and increasing pleasure boating in the area.

One of the few carefully planned cities in the United States, Venice is artistically landscaped with palms, flowers, silver trumpet trees (trees of gold), live oaks and pines. It is now a Florida MainStreet city, a designation awarded by the State of Florida for historic preservation.

From a small fishing village to a destination for vacationers, a haven for retirees and young families alike, Venice has evolved into a thriving town.

This article first appeared in Discover Venice

See also:
      Creating a Hurricane Tolerant Community - City of Venice FL
      Venice Area Historical Society