• A Message from the President
  • 2021-2022 VAHS Events Calendar
  • Circus Train Car Update
  • Another Movie Filmed at the Depot!
  • File Cabinet Returns to Historic Venice Train Depot
  • VAHS Announces Scholarship Recipients
  • A Brief History of Laurel
  • 2021 Centennial of Sarasota County
  • Development Article
  • Business of the Year Awards
  • Historic Preservation Committee Report
  • VAHS Welcomes Our Newest Members
  • In memory of Dr. Allen N. Jelks, Sr.
  • Correction Spring 2021 Newsletter
  • Business Ads
  • Membership Application

A Message from the President


July 2021

Hello dear friends,

It’s finally summer!  Everything is bright, sparkling, and washed clean by spring rains.  With the restrictions of the pandemic starting to lift, our attitude and approach to life is brighter and more hopeful, too.  We all are looking forward to being able to be together in the fall.

VAHS continues to work on upcoming projects this summer as we plan for the reopening of the Depot Campus, a new lecture series, a holiday luncheon, the 2022 Giving Challenge, and some other fun social events.

On a personal note, I am on sabbatical until November, thanks to the support of the wonderful VAHS Board of Directors.  Special thanks go out to our Vice President, Betty Intagliata, who has agreed to cover for me as I take some time off.  I’m sending you a few photos so you can see what it’s like up here in rural up-state New York in the summer.  As you can see, life is pretty laidback and relaxing.

Looking forward to a busy, productive fall and winter session, I wish you all a summer filled with health and happy times.
Pardon me…I hear my hammock calling me…..

Warmest regards to all,


Sue Chapman, President

2021-2022 VAHS Events Calendar

VAHS Members Holiday Luncheon-Save the Date!

Friday, December 3, 2021, beginning at 11 AM

Venice Yacht Club Sunset Room

Join your fellow VAHS members for a delicious lunch while enjoying the view from the Sunset Room.

Speaker:  Larry Humes

More details to come.


VAHS Honors Venice Symphony with Luncheon at Plantation Golf & Country Club-Save the Date!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Speakers: Music Director Troy Quinn and 

Christine Kasten,  President/CEO of Venice Symphony

Venice Symphony is starting their 48th season this November.  As VAHS prepares for the opening of the Circus Train Car at the Historic Train Depot, the Symphony is also celebrating our community’s ties to the circus with “Under the Big Top: A Tribute to the Circus" on January 14 and 15, 2022 conducted by Maestro Troy Quinn. 

More details to come.  Check the website for updates.


*Betty Intagliata Lecture Series

"The John Nolen Plan for Venice"

January - June, 2022

In the wake of the pandemic, VAHS Program Chair Betty Intagliata has tentative plans to start in-person programs for 2021-2022 in January 2022 and ending the series in June instead of May.  The general topic will be John Nolen, and specific programs will address aspects of his plans for Venice, the John Nolen Historic District, and the general topic of Historic Preservation.  John Nolen planned only two cities from the “bottom-up,” one being Venice, Florida and the other Mariemont, Ohio.  Betty will spend the summer planning the series and identifying speakers.  She hopes that the community, particularly new residents, will find this topic educational and interesting.

More details to come.  Check the website for updates.

*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.


Giving Challenge 2022

April 26-27, 2022, Noon to Noon

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County

More details to come.  Check the website for updates.

Circus Train Car Update

The walkway from the deck behind the caboose to the circus train car is now completed!  In the coming months, window coverings, flooring, and museum exhibits will be installed, just in time for a post-pandemic opening next fall.

Photos by George Miller

Another Movie Filmed at the Depot!

For a few hours on a recent evening, the Historic Venice Train Depot was transformed into a bustling train hub once again.  A crew from Unbounded Media was on hand to film parts of a feature length movie entitled Playing Through, the story of two women who entered the all-white USGA’s Women’s Amateur Championship in 1956.  In the film, Andia Winslow plays Ann Gregory, known in her day as the "Queen of Negro Golf," and Julia Rae plays Babs Whatling, a privileged white woman from the South.

Two scenes were filmed at the Depot, one of Babs stepping off a passenger train (the circus car), and another of her exiting the platform and walking to a 1949 Silver Streak Pontiac.  The car was magically pushed onto the set right before shooting!  In the background was an old-fashioned shoeshine stand with “extras” in period clothing and vintage props like a telephone booth and newspaper stand.

Curtis Jordan, the author of Playing Through and the son of the real Babs Whatling, describes the movie as “a fictional story about a real-life pioneer in women’s golf. . . . For a moment in time, these two women from different worlds . . . make an everlasting difference in each other’s lives.”

Mr. Jordan (L) is shown in the last picture with Director Balbainka Korzeniowska (R), actress Julia Rae (seated), and two hairdressing assistants.  A magical evening indeed!

Photos by George Miller

File Cabinet Returns to Historic Venice Train Depot

Office Outfitters, a local business on East Venice Avenue, recently closed after 30 years.  During the process of winding down, owners Kevin and Lynn McCloud contacted VAHS’s Depot Manager George Miller with an offer of a donation.  For many years, their inventory had included a 4-drawer wooden filing cabinet made by the Shaw Walker Company that someone sold to them for a nominal sum almost 20 years ago, during the time that the Venice Train Depot was being restored. 

The individual who brought the cabinet to the store reportedly saw it in the Depot’s Ticket Office and brought it to Office Outfitters out of concern that it would be destroyed during the Depot’s tear-down and restoration process.  That person’s identity is long forgotten, but the cabinet is now in the Depot where it will be included in the Donald W. DeCoster Station Agent Exhibit.

Photo by George Miller

VAHS Announces Scholarship Recipients

VAHS is honored to announce its 2021 scholarship recipients, all from Venice High School.

Trina Hughes

The recipient of the Sue Chapman Scholarship is Trina Hughes.  Trina will attend Florida Gulf Coast University this fall in pursuit of a Family and Marriage Counselor certification.  Trina feels she can share an empathetic perspective with struggling families.  Trina has taken leadership and volunteer roles with the Venice High School Interact Club.

Danielle D'Angelo with Amy D'Angelo

The recipient of the Dr. William Jervey Scholarship is Danielle D’Angelo.  Danielle is holding her scholarship certificate along with Amy D’Angelo, her proud mother, who was present for the presentation. Danielle is ranked first out of 588 in her senior class and has earned the highest GPA in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Venice High School.  Danielle will attend The University of Florida and focus on Behavioral Analysis and Data Science.  Danielle ultimately wants to change her community for the better. Danielle has a passion for volunteering.  She has served as President of the Teen Board at the Salvation Army.  Additionally, she has tutored students, served as head nursery volunteer, and advocated for the Salvation Army.

Zoe Singeisen with Betty Intagliata

The recipient of the Betty Intagliata Scholarship is Zoe Singeisen.  Zoe is with Betty Intagliata who was at the presentation.  Zoe will attend Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.  Her course work includes honors and one AP course.  Zoe enjoys helping others and was a student-aide in the Intensive Language Arts class. Zoe is described by one of her teachers as being an optimistic person who does not let challenges hinder her efforts.

Congratulations to these very deserving students!

Photos and article by Tom Bowers, VAHS member and Depot Docent

A Brief History of Laurel

Written and photographed by Carol Marie Davis

Johnson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church

506 Church Street, Laurel, Florida

Laurel has a diverse and unique history spanning thousands of years.  During the Paleolithic era, which took place more than 12,000 years ago, Native Americans roamed the area hunting and fishing for food. Over the millennia, successive generations of Paleo-Indians evolved into a more sedentary lifestyle where they gathered in small family groups around a central base camp.

Archaeological investigation has shown that pre-Columbian Native Americans actually lived in the Laurel area from 500 BCE to 1,000 CE. They created pottery and shell tools and built middens and burial mounds. Artifacts excavated from the middens or ancient garbage dumps reveal a fascinating array of ancient projectile points, pottery sherds, and pieces of shell tools.

When the Spanish conquistadors invaded Florida during the mid-sixteenth century, many Native Americans disappeared, ravaged by numerous conflicts including epidemics and forced slavery.  Little is known what happened to the native tribes who lived in the Laurel area at that time.

Fast forwarding to the present, we know that Laurel has a history of more than a century and a half; from the time the first white settlers and African Americans came here, to now.  Pioneer Jesse Knight purchased deeds from the State of Florida for land including choice sites in what was to become the community of Laurel in the late 1880s.  African Americans, unfortunately, were denied homestead grants by the Federal Government and could not buy land from the State.

Laurel was officially established in July of 1903 when Wilson E. Stevens applied for a post office permit. Stevens, the earliest known white settler, along with members of the Knight and John S. Blackburn family, made up the first 21 residents of Laurel.

By 1910, extensive parcels of land within Laurel were bought by Chicago socialite and financier Bertha Honoré Palmer.  By 1911, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad was built largely over a right-of-way across Palmer lands.

With access to rail transportation, a new industry developed in Laurel--the turpentine business. Sap or resin obtained from tapping native pine trees was treated or distilled, barreled, and then shipped to Jacksonville to be manufactured into such products as glass, varnish, gunpowder, waxes, and paints. 

African Americans contributed largely to the workforce in this industry, including Oscar “Cato” Wallace who came to Laurel with his family in 1924. Sandra Sims Terry, who recently retired as Executive Director of the Laurel Civic Association, relates how her family was instrumental in Laurel’s history.

“Both my grandparents actively worked in the turpentine, lumber, and railroad industries during Laurel’s heyday,” she says. “My grandfather, 'Cato' Wallace, previously worked for Sam McKeithen at a turpentine business near Crystal River, Florida, and was brought to the Laurel Turpentine Company by McKeithen to supervise the still.  Grandfather had the skills needed to fire up the huge copper vat that could hold up to eight barrels of raw tree sap. The boiling temperature was critical to turning the sap into distilled resin which was then drained into wooden 55-gallon barrels.”

Ms. Terry’s other grandparents, Clarence and Beatrice Sims, arrived in Laurel in 1929 when Clarence’s job at the Seaboard Railroad recruited him from Georgia. “He did just about everything to keep the railroad running,” recounts Ms. Terry.  “He inspected the tracks, gauged and kept the joints tight, kept the crossings in good shape, and cleared right-of-ways.”

When a block of land in Laurel east of the railroad was sold to the new turpentine company, they soon constructed a small town for their employees, nearly all black men and their families. The “Albee”, “Blackburn”, “Sawmill” and “Turpentine Quarters” encompassed modest housing for workers, as well as a commissary or company store, a nearby church, cemetery, and other buildings

Dr. Fred Albee, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, who pioneered work in bone grafting, purchased land in the Laurel area to build housing for his workers or “help.”  Dr. Albee also had a farm where many residents worked raising vegetable crops and citrus for the patients at Albee’s hospital: Florida Medical Center in Venice.  In 1939, Ms. Terry’s parents Ruby and James Sims lived in one of the Albee houses, paying 75 cents a week rent. When the house needed repair, they had to fix it themselves, taking lumber from another old house to add on to theirs.

After World War II, the Sims family was able to obtain a house from the government’s closed-down Army barracks in Fort Myers. Sims located this house on a lot in Laurel he purchased for $50.

When a great woods fire in 1942 destroyed all the buildings in the turpentine camp, including the Mount Zion Baptist Church, residents constructed another Mount Zion sanctuary in the Albee quarters. Then, in 1947, when the former Osprey Missionary Baptist Church, built by Bertha Palmer in 1915 for the winter residents on her estate, became available, the Laurel church purchased the wood frame building and moved it to the Albee quarters. The Laurel congregation decided to name their newly acquired sanctuary the Johnson Chapel in memory of their first pastor, the Reverend T. S. Johnson of Bartow, Florida.

James Sims, Jr., who was born in the Turpentine Quarters in what is now the Mission Valley Estates, is the oldest African American still living in Laurel. He recalls attending church services when Reverend Johnson officiated. “I was just a small boy back then, but I can’t forget getting up early and spending the whole day in church,” he states. “My mom Ruby would invite Reverend Johnson for dinner after the regular church service and then we would all go back for the Baptist Youth People’s Union and later nighttime services.” Bertha McCoy, a long term Laurel resident remembers how the whole congregation looked after one another and expressed their joy in music and song during the service. “We have always been a caring community,” she says with a smile.

The Johnson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church has served as a church, schoolhouse, and community meeting place for many years.  The original building is currently not in use but was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 due to its unique history. It has served for more than half a century as a church for both white and black congregations and as a meeting center for members of the area’s African American religious and social groups. The Johnson Chapel is also architecturally significant to American history and culture as the only surviving example of its kind in Sarasota County dating before 1920.

The cemetery for the Laurel community was located in what is now a section of the Mission Valley subdivision. In 1958, Laurel resident C.B. Wilson referred to an event he witnessed when the Highlands Circle roadway was under construction. He said, “I came up and saw a boy on an earth mover and asked him if he knew what that piece of wood was sticking up out of the dirt….The boy said it was just an old piece of rotten board. I told him no, it was part of a black man’s box.”

Ms. Terry who is a third generation Laurel resident, daughter of turpentine industry workers, and the Executive Director Emeritus of the Laurel Civic Association, shakes her head at the loss of this burial ground in which so many Laurel residents were interred. “It’s so important to understand our past history, not just for the people in Laurel but for everyone,” she states.


Laurel residents (L-R) Sandra Sims Terry and Bertha McCoy

James Sims Jr., oldest African American born in Laurel and still residing in Laurel

Centennial 2021 Update

Sarasota County’s Centennial 2021 is well underway with events posted at  We want to bring to your attention this free event:


July 4. 2021

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Celebrate the 4th of JULY at the Historic VENICE Train Depot

with the
Starting at 3:00 pm!

Click here for more details.

One novel offering is a phone app with a set of eight "Auto Tours" of Englewood, Sarasota, and the Venice-Nokomis area.  Two examples are the VAMO to Laurel Auto Tour and the Fruitville to Miakka Auto Tour.  Audio narration and travel directions trigger automatically as you drive with GPS navigation services enabled on your phone.  Shannon Staub, a former County Commissioner, told the Centennial Committee that she took one of the tours and loved it!

In the works, with no date set as yet, is an Automobile Caravan from the Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce to the Venice Chamber.  An historical marker will be placed at the Sarasota Chamber and at the Venice Chamber.  Both are gifts from the Centennial 2021 Committee.  If the City of Venice allows the Holiday Parade to go forward, usually held on the Saturday evening following Thanksgiving, the Centennial 2021 Committee hopes to have a spot in the parade.

by Betty Intagliata

Centennial 2021 Committee Member

Update from the VAHS Development Committee

Is it over yet?  Keep your thoughts positive that the Covid-19 Pandemic is well on its way to becoming history!  I hope you will join me in coming out of this dark period with hope, optimism, and enthusiasm.

As the new co-chair of the Development Committee of VAHS, with a history of organizing fundraising events for various nonprofit organizations, I am very aware that Development is more than organizing fundraising events.  It includes “developing” events that serve our members and the public; soliciting funds from individual donors and foundations; and writing grants that fund special projects—all so that VAHS can carry out its mission, goals, and purpose. 

While many nonprofits closed or completely suspended activities during the past year, I am happy to say that VAHS continued to receive support through new memberships and donations from different sources during this difficult time.  This was due to the hard work of so many of our dedicated members and volunteers.  The Circus Train Car was moved to the Depot on January 28th, and thanks to permanent funding from the Bill Jervey, Jr. Charitable Foundation, the Betty Intagliata 2021 Lecture series was held virtually on our website from January-May 2021 with wonderful attendance. Thank you to all members involved in those important initiatives.

We will close out 2021 with a Holiday Luncheon in the beautifully decorated upstairs Sunset Room at the Venice Yacht Club on Friday, December 3, 2021.  We are happy to announce our program will be a presentation by local historian Larry Humes.  His many articles on Venice History have been published in several Venice Gondolier papers in recent months.

The Development Committee is planning a full program of activities for the 2022 season.  Starting off the new year, dates to be determined, will be the gala grand opening celebration of the new RBBB Circus Train Car that will include a ticketed dedication ceremony, as well as a community grand opening with tours included.  We are currently also exploring honoring a local, particularly important organization at a fundraising luncheon.

The Giving Challenge dates for 2022 are April 26-27. One of VAHS’s priority needs is office space and storage space.  VAHS is a growing organization, operating without a real place to call home.  Ideas are being explored for funding, but many grants do not fund this type of need.  We are hoping that we can present this need and receive funds.  

I am also thinking about putting together a group of members who are interested in working on “special events” that are either in the planning stage or still in the brainstorming stage.  If you are interested in working on special events, please contact me at  I look forward to hearing from you!  My goal is to have this group ready to meet in September. As the saying goes…. Come Celebrate History with Us!

“Human history in essence is the history of ideas” H.G.Wells

Serena Cannarelli

Co-Chair, VAHS Development Committee


Use AmazonSmile

and Donate Now Button

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.

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.


Business of the Year Awards

The Venice Area Chamber of Commerce "Business of the Year Awards" luncheon was held at the Plantation Country Club on May 21.  Vice-President Betty Intagliata represented VAHS in the absence of President Sue Chapman who is in New York for the summer.  VAHS was one of 19 finalists for a Not-For-Profit Organization Award.  As part of the application process, Sue completed a lengthy form and took part in an interview about VAHS.

Jon Thaxton, representing the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, presented the $500 award to Family Promise of South Sarasota County.  Jon recounted the many ways that this organization helped families during the Covid pandemic.  He then announced that each of the remaining 18 finalists would receive a $250 check from the Foundation for their contributions to the community.  This was a very nice surprise!  Betty sent a letter of appreciation on behalf of VAHS to Dr. Mark Pritchett, President/CEO of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Historic Preservation Committee Report

by Betty Intagliata

The Historic Preservation Committee of VAHS is composed of VAHS members Betty Intagliata, Nancy Deforge, Ann Keohan, and Alicia Scarpellini.  Betty, Nancy, and Ann have become new Board Members of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, a county-wide organization. Its members have a great deal of knowledge about historic preservation, and the VAHS team hopes to learn a great deal from them and help in their endeavors.

The Alliance Board members held an outdoor social for members on May 22 at The Reserve in Sarasota, a restaurant complex made up of three historic homes that once stood on the grounds of John Ringling's estate. They were used as homes by some of Ringling's circus performers.


Steven and Eileen Leapley

Jay and Lynn Matthews

Paul and Geraldine Weldon


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.

In Memory of Dr. Allen N. Jelks, Sr.

Longtime VAHS member and supporter Dr. Allen N. Jelks, Sr. passed away peacefully on May 26, 2021 in Panama City.  His wife Mary, who was also a medical doctor, predeceased him in 2018.  Known affectionately by many families as “Dr. Allen and Dr. Mary,” they were well known pediatric practitioners in the Sarasota area.  They and their children formed the Jelks Family Foundation and continued to support many local projects.   Dr. Allen loved trains, and his love of railroading was reflected in some of their trips.  He was a generous supporter of VAHS’s Circus Train Car Project.  Many tributes to him and his family can be found by clicking here.

Dr. Jelks at the 85th Anniversary Celebration of Train Depot

Photo by Dick Smith

Correction Spring 2021 Newsletter

In our Spring 2021 article "Spring Citrus Blooms," we incorrectly stated Frank Higel lived in the Lord grove house and managed the grove for Lord.  It was George "Nemo" Higel, NOT Frank Higel.  Thank you to Dorothy Korwek for bringing this to our attention.

Support VAHS Business Members

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