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Historic House to become a Museum, Our Town Sarasota News Events

Historic House to become a Museum

The historic Leonard Reid house will be relocated this week to City-owned property in North Sarasota, where it will become the first home for a new Sarasota African American cultural arts center.

The house will be moved from its current location at 1435 7th St. in the Rosemary District to 2529 N. Orange Ave. in Newtown Friday, May 27.

The Leonard Reid house is named for the highly respected early pioneer who helped establish Sarasota’s first Black community, Overtown, now known as the Rosemary District. The single-story frame vernacular style house completed in 1926 is locally historically designated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The house will be transported on a flatbed trailer along a 2.6-mile route that is expected to take two hours to travel. The move is scheduled to occur overnight to mitigate traffic impacts, and public safety officers will be along the route to coordinate traffic control. The moving process will include temporarily disassembling traffic signal heads at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way – North Orange Avenue intersection to accommodate the oversized load.

A fortunate confluence of events over two years led to this moment.

The Leonard Reid house owner initiated a dialogue in 2020 to donate the historic structure to the City. Around the same time, in August 2020, the City Commission purchased a vacant lot at Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Way. Meanwhile, the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition was looking for space in the city limits to establish a new cultural arts and history center.

“Several key parts had to come together at just the right time for this to work and somehow they did,” said Mayor Erik Arroyo. “This truly is an amazing partnership between the public, private and non-profit sectors. 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.”

In January 2021, the City entered into a cost sharing agreement to move the Leonard Reid house to the recently acquired parcel in Newtown. The house owner is responsible for costs associated with the move, and the City is responsible for paying to prepare the new site to receive the house, including clearing the property, constructing a foundation, curbing, parking, utilities, landscaping and permitting fees. The City takes ownership of the house upon delivery to the new site.

In January 2022, the City Commission unanimously approved a lease agreement with the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition to use the Leonard Reid house as a cultural arts center to host lectures, programs and exhibits to promote history and education by bringing diverse individuals together.

“The time has come for the Leonard Reid house to move to its new site where the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition will open a new cultural institution in a location where residents are anxious to access the arts and practice cultural traditions,” said Vickie Oldham, SAACC President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our gratitude and appreciation to the City Commission for jumpstarting the history project and supporting the effort at every step.”

The SAAC will celebrate the milestone with pre-move festivities at the Leonard Reid house, 1435 7th St., on Thursday, May 26:

  • 10 a.m. News conference (speakers will include Mayor Erik Arroyo, Vice Mayor Kyle Battie and Newtown resident Mary Mack, a descendent of Leonard Reid)
  • 5:30 p.m. Send-off celebration with live traditional African music, community speakers and a symbolic ritual for prosperity and protection. The event is open to the public. Please register to attend.

“The City is partnering to preserve this important structure and take a giant step toward fulfilling the SAACC’s goal of opening Sarasota’s very first African American cultural center,” said Stevie Freeman-Montes, Governmental Relations Manager. “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, all in the very house where one of Overtown’s most beloved pioneers lived.”

Leonard Reid was considered the “right hand man” to Sarasota’s first mayor and lived much of his life in the house with his wife and their two daughters, Ethel Reid Hayes and Viola Reid, who also contributed greatly to the community. Both women were educated in Sarasota and went on to obtain higher educations, noted Dr. Cliff Smith, Senior Planner with the City’s historic preservation program. They spent most of their adult lives teaching in Sarasota schools and investing in children.

“The Reid family residence is a special place where books were handed out to Overtown’s children and the family’s parrot perched in its cage on the screened porch talked to passersby,” said Oldham. “The house will be loved and cared for just as the Reid family loved and cared for us.”

For more information about the house move, contact Jan Thornburg, Senior Communications Manager: 941-650-9693.