Special Edition

The First Mayor of Venice: 
Edward L. “Ned” Worthington 


[Editor’s Note:  The following narrative is the first of a series of articles about Venice Mayors that we plan to publish periodically in the VAHS Newsletter, either standard or special editions, as part of our desire to regularly inform our readers of matters related to our area’s unique and interesting history.]


Edward Lobdell “Ned” Worthington was born June 2, 1886, in the small town of Mt. Morris in Western New York, the son of Rev. and Mrs. Edward W. Worthington.  He and his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when Ned was about eight years old, and he lived there for the remainder of his life except for his relatively brief time in Venice.  Following his formal education, he became established in bond marketing and later became the senior partner of a brokerage and investment firm in downtown Cleveland during the midst of the “Roaring Twenties.”  Worthington also held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for a number of years prior to his role in Venice.  His personal life was further enhanced when he met and, in 1917, married Ann Ruth Everett, a well-connected young socialite almost ten years his junior.

Photo courtesy of Venice Museum and Archives

Edward L. “Ned” Worthington

Worthington, a man described as “charming, dashing, and handsome," tended to his growing business, with the financial rewards enabling the Worthingtons to build a grand home in an upscale section of Cleveland.  There, they planned to enjoy their well-connected family life with their two young sons, Ted and Randall.  However, by 1925, as the Worthingtons enjoyed the good life in Cleveland, events began to unfold that would significantly alter the course of their lives.

Photo courtesy of

Worthington Residence in Cleveland, Ohio

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), with headquarters in Cleveland, was the largest and wealthiest labor union in the country.  To enhance the organization’s portfolio, they began a search for a promising land investment, led by one of their top executives, George T. Webb.  Under his management, the search became more active and focused, with more players involved.  They eventually narrowed their search area to the Gulf Coast of Florida and began to acquire several parcels of land.  One of these areas was a 1,500 acre section owned by Dr. Fred Albee, which would become the core of the City of Venice. 

As part of this process, the BLE went through a series of organizational changes needed to carry out the acquisition and subsequent sale of real estate, the first major step in development.  The BLE Investment Company’s charter did not permit the purchase of land, so they created a subsidiary, the BLE Realty Company, for this purpose.  Later, the BLE created another firm, The Venice Company, which would act as the BLE agent charged with negotiating and executing the sale of BLE-owned lots and structures to prospective buyers from across the country.  In the fall of 1925, Webb, as a BLE Realty Company Vice President, contacted Ned Worthington, the bond trader, and offered him a management position in the company despite Worthington’s lack of experience in buying or selling land.

In November 1925, with only initial construction underway in Venice, the Florida state legislature – in special session – passed a bill that was signed by Governor John Martin on November 30 that officially incorporated the Town of Venice.  One of the provisions in this bill called for the Governor to appoint the first mayor of Venice in December 1926, one year after the act became law.  During that intervening year, construction of the town proceeded at a brisk pace, with several hotels, commercial buildings, single-family homes, and apartments appearing across the landscape.  With this construction and associated aggressive marketing, buyers appeared, began purchasing property, and became residents of this new community.  In this initial year, however, the town basically functioned under BLE management, effectively operating as a “company town.

During this active period, Worthington carried out his executive duties with BLE Realty Co. and The Venice Company.  In addition to his BLE commitments, the Worthingtons became the largest individual property owners in the city, according to an article in The Venice News published in November 1927.  During his Venice tenure, he became vice president of the Venice Tile Company, vice president of the Venice Ice Company, and served as a director of the Venice Chamber of Commerce.  He also wore other hats as president of the Venice Civitan Club and vice president of the Venice Golf & County Club.  Ann and the children left Cleveland and joined him in Venice in August 1926, where they initially resided in the Hotel Venice.  Later, they occupied a new home on South Harbor Drive (to be known years later as the Levillain/Letton House that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989).  While residing in this home, the couple oversaw construction of a new apartment building on the southwest corner of The Rialto and Palermo Place (currently, site of the doctors' parking area on the north side of the Venice Bayfront Health Hospital).  

Photo courtesy of Venice Museum and Archives

Worthington Apartments – 1927

Once completed, the Worthingtons planned to move into their private apartment in the complex while retaining their spacious home back in Cleveland.  The apartment building was only blocks away from the downtown and right across the street from the Venice Golf & Country Club (current location of the Venice Shopping Center).  Worthington, with Ann’s support, became a strong advocate for “the Venice dream,” to the point of investing significant amounts of their joint assets in the city project.  Sadly, this commitment would cost them dearly within a couple of years.

As previously scheduled in the legislation, the Governor formally appointed Worthington as Mayor in December 1926, along with four other individuals, all BLE managers, selected as initial members of the Venice Town Council.  The first council meeting took place in the Hotel Venice as they began the task of creating the local staff, starting with the police and fire departments.  In later sessions, they continued implementing the administrative structure needed to effectively manage and operate a town.  In May 1927, the state legislature changed the designation of Venice from “town” to “city” by amending the enabling legislation and Venice charter.

With frequent visits by dignitaries from across the country, Mayor Worthington often acted as host to the distinguished visitors, including upper-level BLE executives, political figures, sports celebrities, and other noted national persona.  According to testimonials, Ned was a charming, gracious host, always dressed in one of his tropical white suits as the city’s “ambassador” and “official greeter.”  One of the city’s visitors was the illustrious inventor Thomas Edison, who actually stayed at the Worthingtons’ home for one of his several visits to Venice.  The Worthingtons enjoyed an active social life during this upbeat period, attending dances, parties, and even joined a cruise to Cuba with friends of John and Mable Ringling whom Ann had met during an earlier stay in Sarasota.  All this activity was quite appealing at the time, despite signs of an economic decline beginning to appear on the horizon.

Photo courtesy of Venice Museum and Archives

Mayor “Ned” Worthington (seated at right) with Thomas Edison, his wife Mina (at left), and others

Now a full-fledged city, Venice held its first city election in December 1927, with Ned running unopposed for Mayor and winning with 168 votes cast.  His first elected term in office started in January 1928 as the economic clouds over Venice continued to darken.  One of the last official actions taken by the Worthingtons was their participation in the formal opening of the completed Tamiami Trail, jointly cutting the ribbon on April 25.  Within days following this notable event, the Worthingtons packed up and left Venice to return to Cleveland, having lost virtually everything in the collapse of the Venice project.  For Ned, this was his final view of the “City on the Gulf.”

With few assets, they had to rent their fine Cleveland home to supplement their limited income as they tried to rebuild their lives.  Worthington took on a variety of jobs, including selling cars for a while.  He eventually worked his way into public service in the Cleveland area, including positions with the city as Director of Welfare.  He also served as President of the Cleveland Boys’ Bureau, operating as the lead fundraiser for this social program for transient, homeless youth.  He became the Chairman of the area’s Farms Committee, a Depression-era program to provide jobs for unemployed citizens of Cleveland.  After a few years, he returned to his initial career field of financial services and was a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch at the time of his death.  Although Ann made periodic winter vacation trips to Sarasota and Venice, Worthington showed no interest in ever going back.  He died at his home in Chardon, a suburb of Cleveland, on August 4, 1957, at 71 years of age.

Courtesy of Venice Museum and Archives

Ann Ruth Everett Worthington Manning

After Worthington’s death, Ann moved back to Florida and lived in Venice to enjoy visits with friends and participate in the area’s art community, a place where she wrote and painted for enjoyment (several of her paintings are now in the collection at the Venice Museum and Archives).  While in Florida, she met an old friend, Wray Manning, whom she married in 1969.  She and Wray were together for nine years until his death in 1978.  Ann remained a widow until she passed away on June 24, 1987, at the age of 91.  At the time of her death, the Worthingtons’ oldest son Edward Everett, resided in the Cleveland area while their youngest son, Randall Wade lived in Great Barrington, MA.

By Clarke Pressly, former VAHS President


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