Siesta Key History
Maps from the 1700’s show the area around Siesta Key was named ‘Zarazote’. There is no clear link of the name ‘Zarazote’ to any Native American language. It was believed that ‘Zarazote’ was a combination from the Arabic word ‘Zara’ which means ‘radiance’ and a derivative of the last name of Spanish Conquistador Hernando de Soto. No one knows for sure. By the 1850’s the area became known as Sarasota and our barrier island was called Little Sarasota Key. The barrier island changed its name to Siesta Key in the 1920’s.
One of the first developers of Siesta Key was Harry Higel whose namesake street runs from Siesta Drive to Sandy Nook. Harry Higel was mayor of Sarasota in 1913 and served on the city of Sarasota council for five terms. Higel formed the Siesta Land Company in 1907 with Captain Louis Roberts and E.M. Arbogast and began their venture into residential development. Higel was murdered in 1921 and the mystery of who killed him still lingers today.
The first post office opened on a dock (where Turtle Beach Marina is located) in 1915. The first bridge to Siesta Key opened at Stickney Point Road in 1917. The second bridge that connects the mainland to Siesta Key on the north side (Siesta Drive) was completed in 1927.
The first zoning code in Sarasota was created in 1960 to protect Siesta Key and the mainland from chaotic development.
The Siesta Key Beach Pavilion was designed by architect Tim Siebert and was dedicated in 1960. After years of additions such as restrooms and a concession stand, the Siesta Key Beach Pavilion was renovated to its original design in 2015.
Recognizing the need for additional protections on Siesta Key, Sarasota County Commission authorized a series of workshop to develop the ‘Siesta Key Community Plan’ in 1999. The final report eventually lead to the adoption of the Siesta Key Overlay District in 2002 which provides zoning regulations specifically suited for Siesta Key.
Most new residents hear about the legend of Siesta Key although no one knows where the story came from. It is fun folklore about our area. The legend goes like this:
Hundreds of years ago, a group of Native Americans moved into the Sarasota area and canoed over to Siesta Key. Upon standing on the pure white quartz sand, the Chief of the tribe, blessed the island to protect it from storms.
If true, he succeeded in protecting the island from hurricanes. We've not had a major hurricane hit our island since the 1800's.
Although we do not have any proof of this legend, there is proof of Native Americans lived on Siesta Key and in Sarasota. On Siesta Key, Native American bones were found on a construction site on Midnight Pass Road, South of Stickney. The developer changed the configuration of the lots to protect this site.
Siesta Key Legend
Population: 6,565 (2010)
Population per square mile: 2,735
Median Age of residents: 62.5 years
Area, Total: 3.5 square miles
Area, land: 2.4 square miles
Area, water: 1.1 square miles
Length: 8 miles long
Total number of housing units: 8,146