St. Armands Circle (Sarasota), Florida
Located in the city of Sarasota, St. Armands Circle forms the heart of St. Armands Key, a small island just off the Florida coast. As the name would indicate, the island's Main Street is in fact the large traffic circle in the center of town. The Circle surrounds a quiet tree-covered park, known fittingly as Circle Park. The outside of the large circle is lined by shops, restaurants, and other businesses giving the area its Main Street charm, albeit in a unique circular configuration.
Property on the island was originally purchased by Charles St. Amand in 1893, who used it for fishing in the gulf and the bay. The name of the island, St. Armands Key, was based on a misspelling of his name. Years later, the circus magnate John Ringling bought land on the island to build a large residential development. A shopping center would be built around a circle in the middle of the town. It wasn't until the fifties that the area really began to take off. Today, St. Armands Circle is a hub of activity for the island that is otherwise filled with mostly posh residences. The beach, sitting on Lido Key, on the Gulf of Mexico is only a few blocks away, another excellent feature.
Two other main arteries go through the area and boast shops and restaurants at the points where they connect with St. Armands Circle. Boulevard of the Presidents runs mostly north and south while John Ringling Boulevard runs mostly east and west. This configuration separates the area into four quadrants. Signage and directories use these quadrants to better orient visitors. The Pink Quadrant is to the northwest, the Gold Quadrant is to the northeast, the Aqua Quadrant is to the southeast, and the Purple Quadrant is to the southwest. Along the center of John Ringling Boulevard and the Boulevard of the Presidents are wide medians with park-like features including trees, brick paths, benches, and most interestingly, classic-themed statues. Many of the statues date back to the twenties and reflect John Ringling's belief in bringing art and culture to the city of Sarasota.
St. Armands Circle is located in southwest Florida and sits close to the Gulf of Mexico coast. It is about 60 miles south of Tampa and about 40 miles south of St. Petersburg. St. Armands Circle is located in the city of Sarasota, which is located in Sarasota County, Florida. Businesses on St. Armands Circle proper will have a St. Armands Circle street address so if you set your GPS for one of those you will be able to make your way to the heart of town.
We start our tour of St. Armands Circle at the corner of Madison Drive and Boulevard of the Presidents, which is about where we had parked. Since this area is in a cicular formation (of course) we'll follow a cicular path and end up back where we started. This is a statue of Venus de' Medici
As you can see, the boulevards in St. Armands Circle have wide medians with a park-like setting, featuring museum quality statuary. On either side are shops, restaurants and businesses. The area was founded by circus magnate, John Ringling, and many of the statues date back to the twenties reflect John Ringling's belief in bringing art and culture to the city of Sarasota. This statue is called Venus at Her Bath.
Shops line the Boulevard of the Presidents, John Ringling Boulevard, and St. Armands Circle. The intersection formed by the Boulevard of the Presidents and John Ringling Boulevard give the area four quadrants, each with a different themed color. Here, along the Boulevard of the Presidents you see banners proclaiming this to be part of the Gold Quadrant.
Here is another view of shops, businesses, and restaurants lining the Boulevard of the Presidents. Many of the posh residential streets, lining the area are named after U.S. Presidents. Just a reminder, the traffic circle in the middle of town is called St. Armands Circle, but the name of the community is also called St. Armands Circle.
We're getting close to where the Boulevard of the Presidents intersects with St. Armands Circle. Here is a view of the corner of the Gold Quadrant. You can see a two story building with the famous Columbia Restaurant on the bottom floor. In the foreground is a statue of Neptune with fish at his feet. In the distance, a wind is picking up and a storm is starting to blow in.
We turn the corner and head northeast along John Ringling Boulevard. This entire area was originally designed as a planned community with the Circle as a planned town center for the residents with shops and businesses. It has become more than successful now especially as a high-end tourist destination.
Here is a view looking out across the street. To the left you see shops and businesses in the Aqua Quadrant. In the middle you see seven statues in the median. This is called the Allegory of Sarasota and each represents one of the city's seven virtues. On the right you see part of the Circle Park, which is the large park in the middle of St. Armands Circle.
We continue heading northeast along John Ringling Boulevard. If we continue heading along this route, it will take us out Florida State Route 789 and off the island of St. Armands Key to downtown Sarasota.
Here are some more fashion boutiques and the northeastern most business before the road turns residential again. From here, we'll cross the street, leaving the Gold Quadrant and entering the Aqua Quadrant.
We cross the street at Adams Drive, heading towards the Aqua Quadrant. Along the way, we pass a statue of Dionysus, the god of wine, holding up a bunch of grapes, standing by to greet folks as they enter town.
Here is a view of the shops and businesses along John Ringling Boulevard on the Aqua Quadrant side of the road. High-rise condos with waterfront views can be seen in the distance.
Elegance meets casual. Near the corner of John Ringling Boulevard and St. Armands Circle, a statue stands in front of a beach shop. This is Asclepius, the god of medicine and one of the seven virtues, part of the Allegory of Sarasota.
More boutiques, galleries, and gift shops along the corner of the Aqua Quadrant. On the left side of the picture you can see the backside of a directory to help visitors find shops and orient themselves around the Circle.
This is a view of Circle Park inside of St. Armands Circle. Let's take a closer look at the park.
Here is a view from inside Circle Park. In the distance you can see the shops and businesses that line St. Armands Circle. On the left is The Discobulos or Discus Thrower.
This is yet another view looking out of Circle Park. The road in the foreground is St. Armands Circle. We're looking out across at John Ringling Boulevard and the Allegory of Sarasota, Seven Virtues statues.
Here is a closer look at The Discobulos. Behind it is one of Eight Caryatid Statue Lamps installed around Circle Park in the mid 1960s. The design is based on a limestone relief of the Greek head—Winged Victory—at the Ringling Museum.
We pop back out of Circle Park and continue heading clockwise around the circle. This is the intersection of St. Armands Circle and Fillmore Drive, a small side street that happens to jut off of St. Armands Circle. The sign tells visitors that there are shops to visit down the way.
Here is a view of Fillmore Drive and its shops and businesses. All of Fillmore Drive is part of the Aqua Quadrant. And it's still keeping with that presidential theme. There was a President Fillmore, you know.
We head back out to St. Armands Circle. On the right is St. Armands Circle itself. On the left is the Boulevard of the Presidents again. You can see how the road curves. Be sure to use the crosswalks as a lot of times cars can whip around these cruves. The statue on the left is of John Ringling, himself. In the distance are high-rise condos along the beach, which is not too far away.
This is a view of the shops, restaurants, and businesses along the Boulevard of the Presidents. Here is a good picture of the signage letting visitors know what quadrant they are in. You can match this up with maps and directories in the area so you don't get too turned around after walking around the circle too many times.
We continue heading southeast along the Boulevard of the Presidents past more shops and boutiques.
At the corner of the Boulevard of the Presidents and Monroe Drive is the Four Seasons Allegory, statues of four maidens, each representing one of the four seasons. This statue represents Fall as she holds a scythe and harvested wheat.
We cross over at Monroe Drive and enter the Purple Quadrant.
We head back towards St. Armands Circle along the Boulevard of the Presidents but this time along the Purple Quadrant.
Turning the corner, we make it back to St. Armands Circle, but still along the Purple Quadrant.
Here are some shops and boutiques and even an ice cream place along St. Armands Circle.
This is another view of the same stretch but looking back the way we came. The clouds are starting to get darker. Looks like rain is heading our way.
Here are some more boutiques, this time where St. Armands Circle meets John Ringling Boulevard.
Now we're heading down John Ringling Boulevard again but we're still along the Purple Quadrant, as you can probably tell by the purple sign on the right side of the picture.
More shops and even another ice cream and candy store along John Ringling Boulevard. Here you can see another Purple Quadrant sign. In case you were keeping track of what quadrant we were in.
The Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar is the last commercial development along John Ringling Boulevard before the area turns to residential again. At this point we'll cross the street.
This is the intersection of John Ringling Boulevard and Washington Drive. If we continue on John Ringling Boulevard, we'll cross a small bridge and end up at Lido Beach. You can see some high-rise condos that are right on the beach not too far off. The statue in the foreground is Apollo and Daphne.
We cross John Ringling Boulevard at Washington Drive and are now in the Pink Quadrant.
Heading back towards John Ringling Boulevard, we see boutiques and shops along the way.
This is a view looking back the way we came. We're almost back to St. Armands Circle now. On the left is a sign for the Pink Quadrant. On the right is a huge daiquiri bar with a lot of outdoor seating.
We come around the corner now where St. Armands Circle and John Ringling Boulevard meet. It's starting to rain and you can see the ground is wet.
Here's a view of the shops and boutiques under the awnings along the Pink Quadrant across from St. Armands Circle. Notice the wide sidewalks and lush landscaping.
This is a view looking out from the Pink Quadrant across to the Purple Quadrant. To the left is St. Armands Circle. You can see a sign pointing towards Lido Beach. This gives you an idea of how wide St. Armands Circle is and the distance between the shops in the center of it.
Here is a view of the awnings we were just standing under and a better view of the lush landscaping around it.
We come out from underneath the awnings as we head towards the Boulevard of the Presidents again. People are walking with unbrellas to avoid the rain.
We head further down the Boulevard of the Presidents. This is a view looking back the way we came. The sun is out now and the sidewalk is dry. Okay, maybe these pictures were taken a little out of order but you get the idea. We're headed in the right direction.
We continue heading northwest along the Boulevard of the Presidents past some restaurants and pubs.
Finally, we make it back to the start, right where we parked our car. And it's not too hard to find our car since we parked it near this statue of Venus de' Medici.
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St. Armands Circle Association
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