The Last Surviving Depot in Sarasota County: The Venice Depot
This article has been contributed by Barbara Smith of the Venice Area Historical Society (VAHS):
Designed by the architectural firm of Walker and Gillette in the Mediterranean Revival style specified by Venice city planner John Nolen, the Venice Depot was heralded as the finest station on the Seaboard Air Line Railway. The first passenger train departed the Depot on March 27, 1927. Sarasota County purchased the Depot in 1999 and restored it in 2002-2003 to its original design. Upon its restoration, VAHS volunteered to prepare exhibits and provide docents to give tours of the building to both tourists and residents.
Built as a racially segregated building (not an isolated case – the Punta Gorda Railroad Depot was also a segregated facility), the Depot has two waiting rooms, a baggage room, and a freight room, the latter being available for rent through Sarasota County. The Depot is part of Sarasota County’s Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park which includes a statue of the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus animal trainer, Gunther Gebel Williams, and a restored caboose, donated by CSX Corporation. The Depot serves as the Venice SCAT bus terminal today.
Adjacent to the park are the Legacy Trail and the Venetian Waterway bicycle trails. The Legacy Park, currently being planned by the City of Venice and Sarasota County, has a projected completion date of 2015. The former Manhattan Produce Building stands near the Depot parking area, and Sarasota County is currently soliciting input regarding its future use.
Pam and Bruce Dillon of Nokomis stand before the “VENICE, FLA” sign in the Historic Venice Train Depot. A Venice resident found the sign in an area flea market, and recognizing its historical significance, recently donated it to the Venice Area Historical Society. The sign is now displayed in the Depot’s Waiting Room #2. An early photograph shows its original position at the Depot.
The Depot is open year round on Saturdays from 10 am – 1 pm, and from November through April, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 am – 3 pm. The caboose is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings. There is no charge to visit the Depot, but donations are welcome. There are openings for volunteer docents who are willing on occasion to provide two and a half to three hours of service. Uniforms and training are provided.
A new brochure about the Depot has been published and is available upon request (you can download it here). Group tours are available by reservation. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 941-412-0151. Your call will be returned.
Contact: Barbara Smith, Venice Area Historical Society, email@example.com or 941-408-1729