• A Message from the President
  • 2020-2021 VAHS Events Calendar
  • High Marks for Depot Docents
  • Circus Train Car Update
  • Scholarship Recipients
  • Filming at the Depot Campus
  • Your Development Committee at Work
  • Florida Humanities Council Grant Awarded
  • Support VAHS with AmazonSmile
  • Centennial 2021 Community-Wide Event
  • In Memory
  • Business Ads
  • Membership Application

A Message from the President

 July 2020

Dear friends,

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”  Viruses and protests and hurricanes, oh my!  I don’t quite know where we are, but I’m pretty sure we’re not in Kansas anymore.  In this strange new world, the Venice Area Historical Society is carefully threading its way forward, one small step at a time.  

Tried and true practices have changed into things of the past, activities and volunteer work have disappeared, and socialization has become a bad thing.  New words and terms appear every day . . . social distancing, virtual meetings, virtual learning, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime.  Get a test, wear a face covering, take to the streets with a sign, and don’t forget to stock up on bottled water, batteries, and plenty of canned tuna.

Not all these things are bad . . . just different.  And we can’t quite shake the fact that life will never be exactly as it was before.  The old adage of the glass of water comes to mind.  Is it half empty, or is it half full?  Shall we hang the crepe and cry because our glass is half empty, or shall we put on a brave smile and say, I think the glass is half full?  And if it is half full, what can I do to fill it all the way up?  Hopefully, we will take the positive approach, adjust the way we do things in a safe and sensible way, and make progress on all fronts.

Your Board and Committee Chairs are working behind the scenes via some of the new methods of communication and still using old reliable email, texting, and phone calls.  As you will see in the rest of the newsletter, plans are being made for the coming season, and some good things have happened.  We all have dealt with cancellations, disappointments, and changes in lifestyle in the past five months.  It is not what we wanted to do, but what we had to do to stay safe.  There may be more changes in the future, but we will continue to try and keep that glass filled to the brim.

In the meantime, stay safe and well.  Think of others who are much less fortunate; practice sharing, understanding, and tolerance.  Extend kindness to a friend, a neighbor, and a stranger.  Hopefully, we can soon say once more with joy, Come, celebrate history with us!”

Sue Chapman, President  

2020-2021 VAHS Events Calendar

Due to the COVID-19 Virus, the VAHS Board agreed that the remaining Spring 2020 Programs on the topic Women Get the Vote!!! (August 26, 1920) would be canceled in the interest of the health of our members and the public and would be rescheduled as video presentations.

*Fall 2020 Betty Intagliata Lecture Series:

*October 20, 2020: "Carrie Chapman Catt"  re-enacted by Kathryn Chesley.  Catt represents a new generation of suffragists.  She led the fight for the final vote in the state of Tennessee!  Kathryn hails from Sarasota and does many re-enactments.

*November 17, 2020: "The New Generation of Suffragists Who Carried the Ball Over the Goal Line."  Phyllis Vogel, Program Chair, League of Women Voters, Sarasota.

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

*Spring 2021 Betty Intagliata Lecture Series:

Theme will be Local History (Laurel, Nokomis, Englewood, Venice, and Sarasota) to celebrate 100 years since Sarasota became its own County in 2021.  Watch our website for details as they become available.  Dates scheduled are January 19, February 16, March 16, April 20, and May 18.

*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.

High Marks for Depot Docents

VAHS continues to be proud of its corps of Depot Docents!  To say that they are doing a great job is not just a personal impression.  The current rating of the Depot as a visitors’ site on Google Maps is 4.5 out of 5.0, garnered from 178 visitors.

In addition, long-time VAHS member Fran Valencic recently commented:  "A few weeks ago I was on a bus tour and my seat mate was visiting here from Canada. She was a simple lady, staying at Bay Indies with a bike and no car rental. She did use an occasional taxi.  One of the things she raved about in Venice was the train depot and the tours. She was impressed by all the info. She liked the pics and she bragged about the friendliness of the volunteers.  So, bravo to these ambassadors of good will for Venice."

Circus Train Car Update

The refurbishing of the circus car is entering its final phase!  Electric wiring has been installed, above-ceiling HVAC units and ducts are in place, and foam insulation has been sprayed into the ceiling and walls. 

Next up is interior construction, as well as a few items that remain to be completed on the exterior, for example, the installation of three steel doors and the application of Ringling decal signage. 

Tim Wisgerhof, Mary Huba, and George Miller are busy reviewing paper mock-ups to refine the details of the interior exhibits.  Thank you to all donors and members for your patience and support!

Photos by George Miller 

VAHS Announces Scholarship Recipients

VAHS is honored to announce its 2020 scholarship recipients, all from Venice High School.

Allison Coppola

The recipient of the Sue Chapman Scholarship is Allison Coppola.  Allison will attend Florida State University to major in history.  She has served as Secretary of the Music Honors Society at Venice High and enjoys playing the cello.  Allison was enrolled in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and has volunteered countless hours as a teacher’s aide, as a tutor at Laurel Nokomis School, and as a teacher at the Boys and Girls Club.

Sophie Sheperd

The recipient of the Betty Intagliata Scholarship is Sophie Shepherd.  During high school, Sophie was dual enrolled at Florida State University.  She has a passion for history, and her goal is to be a college professor.  Sophie has trained for the Olympics in the sport of archery.  She has enjoyed volunteering at the Jacaranda Public Library.

Christopher Miscannon

Christopher Miscannon is the recipient of the Dr. William Jervey, Jr. Historic Preservation Board Scholarship.  Christopher will attend Penn State University in order to major in psychology and minor in kinesiology on a pre-med track.  He has represented Venice High School for the last two years on the Venice City Council Historic Preservation Board.  As a Medical Advisory student, Christopher is certified in CPR, as an Emergency Medical Responder, and as an Electrocardiograph Technician.  Throughout high school, Christopher excelled in soccer.

Jillian Alexander

The recipient of the Dr. William Jervey, Jr. Scholarship is Jillian Alexander.  Jillian will attend Virginia Tech to major in Environmental Policy and Planning.  She is a member of Rho Kappa, the National Social Studies Honor Society.  Jillian has served as an officer in student government throughout high school and as a member of the VHS Principal’s Cabinet.  She enjoys theatre and has performed in several Venice Theatre productions.  Jillian has a passion for service and has volunteered over 800 hours in various settings such as the library, an elementary school, Mote Marine, the Venice Economic Development Board, and the Venice Theatre.

Congratulations to these very deserving students!

Photos by Tom Bowers

Filming at the Depot Campus

By Clarke Pressly

Last fall, VAHS was contacted by Ben Tillona, a junior majoring in Film at the Ringling College of Art and Design.  Ben wished to use the Depot for a film he was creating for his Junior Thesis.  As he stated, “After much searching, there just simply is no other station in the area as beautiful and well preserved as yours.  You truly have a gorgeous spot in Venice and, unfortunately, I can’t picture my movie being shot anywhere else.”  With that introduction, I was more than happy to meet Ben and his team at the Depot for a tour of the campus.  After assessing the overall layout, the group decided that, with a few temporary changes in furniture arrangements, they could create a fictional station agent set in Waiting Room 2 to film their interior shots.

Ben and his faculty advisor then sought and received approval to use the Depot from Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, and filming was set for Friday, October 18.  Around eight o’clock that morning, Ben and his crew of seven students, along with two faculty advisors from the college and a young boy about 12 years old, arrived and began preparations for their shoot.  Before moving a single item in WR#2, one crew member photographed everything from every angle.  Four hours later, they had completed all of the audio and video work needed for their interior shots, and using their photo record, they fully restored the Waiting Room layout.

Shooting film in Waiting Room 2

Their other scripted shots at the Depot, all exterior, were accomplished over the next couple of weeks without VAHS involvement.  Other footage was taken at different locations in Venice and Sarasota. Following the on-site work, Ben and crew spent the next few months editing the film, then integrating video and sound, including incorporation of a musical score created by Ben.

Ben’s film is entitled “Pelourinho,” named after an historic district in Brazil located within the larger city of Salvador on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast. It recounts the frustrations of Chris (portrayed by the young boy previously mentioned), a Middle School student who struggles to contend with a school bully while also living with a demanding single father.  Chris decides to leave town (using cash found in his father's bedroom) and make his way by train to Pelourinho, hometown of professional soccer players he really admires.  (Interestingly, Pelourinho is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a history that goes back to the mid-16th century).  In the end, Chris and his father begin to reconcile as the train whistle is heard in the distance.  They are last seen heading home together, where Chris resumes life in his own bedroom –the one decorated with a big Brazilian flag.

Chris waiting for train to Pelourinho

Although the Depot has been the site of a few film projects in years past, they have primarily been short documentaries related to Venice-area history.  To our knowledge, this was the first time the Depot was used as a site in a dramatic film – even a short one.  Who knows what the future holds for the Depot in the art of filmmaking?

For more information on Ringling College, its history and their degree programs visit

1st photo by Clarke Pressly; 2nd photo (screen capture from film)-Ben Tillona and Ringling College of Art and Design

Your Development Committee at Work

Giving Challenge 2020 Results

The numbers have been tallied, the results are in, and the check is in the mail!  The Development Committee is happy to announce that VAHS attracted a total of 71 donors in the Giving Challenge.  These generous folks accounted for $5,650.00.  A total of $175.00 came in outside of the 24-hour giving period, as well as a few larger amounts that were not eligible for The Patterson Fund match.  The Patterson Fund matched $5,100.00.  Bottom line (and the most important line) is that the Society raised a grand total of $10,925.00!!

This was the most successful participation that the Society has ever experienced with the Giving Challenge.  Much of the success can be attributed to behind-the-scenes work done by the Committee in planning, publicity, and preparation in advance.  Special thanks go to Brenda Holland and Mary Huba for working on the VAHS profile that was required for entry into the Challenge.

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits about the Giving Challenge.  There were 686 nonprofits that participated this year.  Our rank was #391 in that number.  The top 35 groups raised over $100,000 each.  The group earning the most was the All Faiths Food Bank that came in with $621,936.00.  The nonprofit that earned the smallest amount was the Shellfish Institute, Inc.  They brought in only $50.00. 

I, for one, am very happy to report our results as #391.  Congratulations and thanks to all who participated.    

Sue Chapman, Chair, Development Committee

Florida Humanities Council Grant Awarded

The Florida Humanities Council has granted $4,000 to the Venice Area Historical Society. It will be used to offset loss in revenues due to the COVID-19 crisis such as donations, membership dues, and fundraising revenue.  The grant will cover certain operating expenses for the period 3/27/20 to 11/30/20.  Funding has been provided from the National Endowment for the Humanities through a grant from Florida Humanities as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.  Barbara Smith, VAHS Board Member, is the grant manager and may be reached at

“Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed by Venice Area Historical Society, do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

Support VAHS with AmazonSmile

Good news! AmazonSmile is now available in the Amazon Shopping app on iOS and Android mobile phones. You can now support VAHS when shopping at Amazon on your Mobile Device.

Simply follow these instructions to turn on AmazonSmile and start generating donations to VAHS.

1.     Open the Amazon Shopping app on your device

2.     Go into the main menu of the Amazon Shopping app and tap into 'Settings'

3.     Tap 'AmazonSmile' and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process

4.     Search for Venice Area Historical Society in the list of charities

AmazonSmile is operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

Centennial 2021 Community-Wide Event

By Betty Intagliata

VAHS Representative on Centennial 2021 Steering Committee.

The Events Subcommittee of the Sarasota County Centennial 2021 Steering Committee has put together a wonderful community-wide celebration for marking our County’s 100th Anniversary (1921-2021).  This event will be FREE.

Date:            January 9, 2021.  Rain Date: January 16, 2021

Time:            11 am to 4 pm

Location:      The front field of PHILLIPPI ESTATE PARK and inside the Edson Keith Mansion.  (The park is off of U.S. 41 north and is on the left side of road.  Plenty of parking space is available.)

Inside Edson Keith Mansion, there will be an exhibit entitled, “Behind-the-Scenes Circus Photos from 1920s & 30s.”

Outside, volunteers at tables under tents will give out information about a variety of historical groups, members of the History & Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County, and some local Chamber of Commerce organizations.

Other highlights will include: 

  • Food vendors
  • Re-enactors such as JOHN and MABLE Ringling and BERTHA PALMER
  • Musical entertainment
  • Bella Nock
  • Children’s Activities
  • One or two “surprise” guests
  • A special reading of a “Proclamation” at 3 pm.

Please put the date on your calendar now.  Don’t forget to stop by the VAHS table and greet Bertha Palmer and our wonderful Depot Docents.

In Memory

Kathleen (Kathy) Cushing died March 24, 2020.  Kathy loved Venice and its history and was active in promoting both.   Even as a new VAHS member, Kathy helped organize an appreciation luncheon for VAHS docents and new members at the Historic Venice Train Depot’s Freight Room. 

Herbert L. Phelps died April 6, 2020, in Tampa.  Herb, with his devoted wife Penny and their son Douglas, could always be counted on to support VAHS activities.  The family has requested that memorial donations be directed to VAHS, P.O. Box 995, Venice, FL 34284.  Personal condolences can be sent to the family at the following address:  Douglas and Eileen Phelps, 11418 Cypress Park Street, Tampa, FL 33624.

Mary Jane Walewyk, a long-time VAHS member, died on June 15, 2020.  She was a loyal supporter of the Society and often attended the evening programs with close friends.  With her wide range of cultural interests, Mary Jane understood the need for sustained volunteer and financial support.  VAHS appreciates being designated for donations in her memory.  Donations can be directed to VAHS, P.O. Box 995, Venice, FL 34284.  Personal condolences can also be sent to VAHS and will be forwarded to Mary Jane's family.

James (Jim) S. Gross died very unexpectedly on June 15, 2020.  Jim and Karen were new members of the Society who had begun serving as docents during the past year.  They loved their job there and Jim often told visitors about the coming Circus Car.  Among other interests, Jim was a fine gourmet cook and a member of AACA. Both Karen and Jim also loved touring around Venice in their antique cars.   Karen has asked that if you wish to send a memorial gift, it could be made, in Jim’s memory, to the Circus Car Fund.  Checks payable to VAHS should be mailed to Caldwell Trust Company, 1400 Center Road, Venice, FL 34293.  Personal condolences can be mailed to Karen Gross c/o  VAHS, PO Box 995, Venice, FL 34284.  Emails for Karen will be forwarded from

James (Jim) S. Gross 

Support VAHS Business Members

Click here for a printable version of this application.

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