In 1893, Charles St. Amand, a Frenchman and first resident of the island, purchased three tracts of land totaling 131.89 acres for $21.71. Later land deeds misspelled his name, giving us what is now “St. Armands.”  However, St. Armands was originally coined Harding Circle with the surrounding properties called Ringling Isles. Circus magnate John Ringling purchased the land in 1917, naming it in memory of his friend, President Warren Harding. Ringling had envisioned a wheel-shaped street grid to resemble the circus “ring”, as the blueprint for a glorious attraction with world-class shops, dining and luxury homes. His vision lives on today with his legacy very much still present on the Jewel of Sarasota.

1923: Work crews ferried over to the island on Ringling’s paddle wheeled steamer, Success, while circus elephants dragged timber to begin construction on the causeway.  After a huge grand opening celebration in 1926, development halted, forcing Ringling to donate the causeway to the county in 1928.

1945: New life began to emerge on the Circle after the Depression. The Colony Night Club opened, as well as a service station and a host of restaurants. By 1972, the last vacant lot was developed.

1986: The Circle pays tribute to Ringling with a sculpture in his likeness and a year later the Ring of Fame was introduced to further pay homage to his legacy and honor circus performers across the world.

2001: The Circle celebrated its 75th anniversary the entire year, with a defining moment being Harding Circle receiving its Historical Designation. A life size statue of Ringling was added in May, the month of his birthday. The enchanting Italian and Grecian statues that adorn the Circle were unveiled in 2007.


Source: Article originally appeard on Sarasota Magazine, 3.8.19