• A Message from the President
  • 2021 VAHS Events Calendar
  • Update on Circus Train Car
  • Welcome to New Board Members and Officers
  • 30th Anniversary of VAHS
  • 2021 Centennial of Sarasota County
  • Shifting Gears (and Leadership) at Development
  • Spring Citrus Blooms
  • Team KVB Visits the Depot
  • Thank You, Friends of The Legacy Trail
  • VAHS Welcomes Our Newest Members
  • Business Ads
  • Membership Application

A Message from the President


April 2021

Hello again, Dear Friends,

We’ve come full circle together…from my letter to you in the spring of 2020 to this spring letter of 2021…and what a year it has been!

We have endured the pandemic and held the Society together, thanks to all of you who have been so generous with your support from the Giving Challenge all the way to the End of the Year campaign.  Without your financial help, it would be a pretty “hard candy Christmas” for VAHS about now.  In addition, many thanks go out to all our volunteers who worked behind the scenes to keep the business of the Society moving along.  Probably our greatest achievement this year has been the joy of seeing the restored Ringling Circus Car now in its forever home at the Depot Campus. A few more months of work to complete the interior of the car are still ahead, and as things begin to safely open up towards fall, we all look forward to resuming free tours of the Campus attractions.

Our lecture series progresses “virtually” as we are treated to local history information in conjunction with the celebration of Sarasota County’s Centennial.  Remember to “tap” the podium in your emails, or on our website, to enjoy the Betty Intagliata Lecture Series, funded by the Bill Jervey, Jr. Charitable Foundation.

Spring is here with the promise of rebirth and new growth; both of which we hope will come to VAHS.  As I write this, an old song is running through my mind.  The original name of the tune was “To Everything There Is a Season”, but the name I remember it by is “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as recorded by Pete Seegar in the late 50s. The lyrics are based on chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is supposedly ascribed to King Solomon.  At this point in time, these words seem to say everything we have experienced in the last year.  Please let me share them with you…

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain that which is to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time of love, and a time of hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

And so we turn, turn, turn…..

Please stay safe and well, my friends, until we can again say “COME!  CELEBRATE HISTORY WITH US!”

Sue Chapman, President

2021 VAHS Events Calendar

*Betty Intagliata Lecture Series--"Celebrating 100th Anniversary of Sarasota County by Bringing Local History to You!"  Programs will be Online Only video presentations.  The link to each video will be on the VAHS website on the Education Page. You will be notified by email when each is available for viewing.

*April 20, 2021: "Rose Phillips Wilson" by re-enactor Kathryn Chesley.  Ms. Chesley re-enacts the woman who ran the only newspaper in Sarasota in 1900.  Her editorials spearheaded many changes in the area, including the period when Sarasota became a county and women were encouraged to vote.

Kathryn Chesley as Rose Phillips Wilson

*May 18, 2021: "Bertha Palmer" by Kate Holmes, re-enactor.  Ms. Holmes portrays Bertha Palmer who, until her death in 1918, actively fought for the creation of Sarasota County.

Bertha Honoré Palmer

NOTE:  You will be notified by email when the presentations above are available for viewing.

*The Betty Intagliata Lecture Series is sponsored by the Venice Area Historical Society, with permanent funding provided by the Bill Jervey, Jr. Charitable Foundation.  All programs are FREE and OPEN to the public.

Circus Train Car Update

Now that the circus car is at the Depot, construction of the walkway from the deck behind the caboose to the visitors’ entrance door has begun.

Photo by George Miller

Planning for the interior exhibits also continues.  Designer Tim Wisgerhof meets with Mary Huba and George Miller weekly, and this picture shows them evaluating a mock-up of one of their displays, now that they can get into the car itself.

Photo by George Miller

Former circus performers have been among the many visitors to the car since it arrived at the Depot on January 28.  They include Michael Gautier, son of the famous elephant trainer and performer Axel Gautier who worked for the Ringling Bros. Circus for decades.  Michael and his brother Kevin grew up in the circus.  These pictures show Michael outside the car and during the years when he performed with his family.  After he retired from the circus, Michael founded Gautier Fabrication, Inc. in Venice.

Photo by Mary Huba

Photo from 1976 Souvenir Program & Magazine

Welcome to New Board Members and Officers

At the recent electronic Annual Meeting of Members, Carol Bailey-Werth, Mary Huba, and Tom Doherty were elected to the Board of Directors for two-year terms.  Sue Chapman was elected to a one-year term.  They joined continuing Board members Ed Gates, Betty Intagliata, George Miller, Barbara Smith, and Dave Taylor.

Named officers for the new year are Sue Chapman (President), Betty Intagliata (Vice-President), Carol Bailey (Secretary), and Mary Huba (Treasurer).

Thank you to all for your service to VAHS!

30th Anniversary of VAHS

VAHS Presidents 1991-2021

In recognition of the 30th Anniversary of VAHS, we are including pictures of the presidents.

L-R: Sue Chapman, Jean Trammell, Barbara Smith, Ralph Richardson, Philip Korwek, Karen Dove, George McLean, Betty Intagliata (Photo taken in 2010)

L-R: Carolyn Redlin, Brenda Holland, Clarke Pressly (Served  after 2010)

2021 Centennial of Sarasota County

The committee is going to gift two historic to the Venice Chamber of Commerce and one to the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. Venice was not yet a town in 1921; however, Sarasota's Board of Trade members were vitally important and active during the fight to split from Manatee County ultimately coming to fruition in July 1921. Shortly after, the Board of Trade became the Sarasota Chamber of it too is 100 years old. The Centennial 2021 committee wanted to recognize both South and North County.

John McCarthy, a Centennial 2021 member, is doing all the work on this project, including putting together an "Auto Drive from North County to South County on date of Marker installations." Keep posted for the exact date and times of above.

Click here to check out the Centennial website including upcoming events.

by Betty Intagliata

Centennial 2021 Committee Member

Shifting Gears (and Leadership) at Development

It is with great pleasure that VAHS welcomes a new co-chairperson of the Development Committee.  Serena Cannarelli will join me in this role.  Serena, along with husband Richard, has moved back to Venice after spending the last few years in Wappingers Falls, New York, where, as Serena tells us, she was known as “Grandma”. 

Many of you will remember Serena from her job as style show chair with VAHS back a few years.  She did a wonderful job with that venue and raised appreciable operating funds for the Society.  She brings her organizational skills back to us again as she assumes her new position with Development.  Thanks for being a willing volunteer, Serena.  Welcome aboard!

Our second announcement is another happy event.  The Society has received an unrestricted $5000 grant from the Charitable Gift Fund of Elaine Bernard and Edmund (Greg) Gigg.  Elaine and Greg have been continuing and very generous loyal supporters of VAHS.  They usually split their time between Revere, Massachusetts, and Venice, but this year, due to the pandemic, they have been “locals” for longer than usual.  In addition to their participation in VAHS events, they have been volunteering in the construction of the Venice Urban Forest, where according to Elaine, “Greg loves to get his hands in the soil, weeding, planting trees, and gardening.”  They also, under normal circumstances, enjoy traveling the world, as Elaine is a much sought-after public speaker, focusing on women in the workplace within the larger scope of the American labor movement.

Thank you, Elaine and Greg, for including Venice Area Historical Society in your generosity!  

“Ring those Christmas bells!”  There are plans underway for a Christmas Member’s Luncheon around the early part of December, 2021.  We are hoping by that time that we have all received our vaccine shots and that the pandemic has receded to the point where it will be possible to safely gather.  There will be further announcements about this event as the months roll by, so keep your eyes and ears open, check your email, and let’s get together to “ring those bells”!

To remind you all that financial support is always welcomed, let me leave you with a quote from Seneca…

“We should give as we receive, cheerfully, quickly and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.”

Sue Chapman, Chair

VAHS Development Committee


by Sue Chapman

mmmmmSue Chapman

It’s spring in Florida and orange, lemon, key lime, and grapefruit trees scent the air with soft perfume.

Columbus brought citrus to the New World in 1493 when he landed at Hispaniola, the present day Haiti.   Citrus trees probably came to Florida as early as 1513 when Ponce de Leon arrived near St. Augustine, as early sailors learned that citrus could help prevent scurvy. The British Navy commanded that citrus be carried on board all their ships, earning the British sailors the nickname of “limeys.”  In the early Florida missions, Indians were taught to plant citrus by the friars.  In 1823, a Frenchman Philippe Odet brought the first plantings of grapefruit from the West Indies to the Tampa area.

As the years passed, citrus growth continued to flourish, in hit or miss fashion, generally moving south in the peninsula.  In Venice, in the late 1880’s, Joseph Lord planted a 90-acre grove (now Bay Shore Estates on Venice Island) in citrus and built a house in the middle of the grove.  It was said that you could see him planting trees by lamplight at night.  Mr. Lord never lived in the house he built, installing Frank Higel as grove manager and turned the house over to him.  Lord went on to Sarasota to become a land developer and in 1910, through a carefully worded ad in the Chicago Papers, attracted Bertha Potter Palmer, wealthy widow of Chicago developer Potter Palmer, to come to Florida to seek out opportunities of investment.  Arriving in Florida, Mrs. Palmer soon saw the potential and began to buy thousands of acres of land, many of which would be planted as citrus groves.

Citrus continued to be picked and packed by hand from the 20s through the 50s.  Crates were shipped north with the motto “Every box you receive will only be two to four days off the trees.”  Shipping of fruit had become big business.  Today 95% of Florida citrus is processed, meaning that it reaches its final destination in the form of juice or concentrate.

A few years ago, the United States was second only to Brazil in production of citrus in the world market.  The current top producers are now China, Brazil, the European Union and then the United States.  New groves continue to be planted, averaging 140 trees to an acre, in precise rows, giving an optical illusion of soldiers in formation as you drive by.

When Venice was young and growing, there was a tourist brochure that listed “100 Things to Do in Venice.”  Number 21 was “Dancing in the orange grove,” where electrically-lighted glass orange bulbs were strung in the orange trees with soft spotlights playing on the dancers.  We may not be dancing in the orange groves any more, but we are still attracted by the magic of a tree, loaded with sweet blossoms and golden fruit, growing in our own backyard.

Team KVB Visits the Depot Campus

George Miller, Manager of the Historic Venice Train Depot, was on hand to give a short presentation to a volunteer group that was working near the newly positioned Circus Train Car.  The group, Team KVB (Keep Venice Beautiful), spends Thursday mornings sprucing up local parks and other Venice areas.  VAHS member Courtland (Corky) Dalton heads up Team KVB which is part of Venice Area Beautification, Inc. 

On their agenda for Thursday, March 11, was Legacy Park and the Depot Campus.  During a short break from their work, 21 members listened to a presentation and then asked questions about the Circus Train Car.  Because George Miller was instrumental in the acquisition and restoration of the Train Car, the group learned firsthand about the issues involved in the process.  Although the interior is not yet finished, the group was able to peek inside the rear door to get a first view of the impressive lighting system that has been installed. 

This was a wonderful opportunity for volunteers to receive an informative presentation from a fellow volunteer.   (If you would like more information on how to volunteer with KVB, please email Corky at

Photos by Lin Dalton

Thank You, Friends of The Legacy Trail

In their March 2021 newsletter, Friends of the Legacy Trail (FOLT) highlighted the new Circus Car at the Depot and let their readers know about VAHS's need for docents.  If you are interested in becoming a docent, send an email to: or information@veniceareahistorical

or leave a message (941) 412-0151.

You can read the entire FOLT newsletter by clicking here.


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and Donate Now Button

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Also, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has provided a way for you to donate to VAHS online.  This can be a one-time or recurring donation.  Click on the green "Donate Now" button to see how it works.



Andrew Cullison

Michael Donnellan

Sue Hatfield-Green

Elizabeth O’Hagen

Larry and Carrie Luber

Dean and Sharon Silvers

Richard and Susan Mougalian


If you would like to have a personal chat to find out more about our goals, needs, and plans, or if you are unsure of your renewal date, please contact Carol Bailey, Membership Chair, at  You can also leave a brief message on the VAHS phone at 941-412-0151.

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Office: (941) 412-0151 • PO Box 995, Venice, FL 34284-0995