St Armands Key was first purchased by Frenchman Charles St. Amand (the misspelling of his name has persisted to the present) in 1893, and was then later sold to John Ringling in 1917. Visionary circus magnate Ringling planned the development of the Key to include residential lots and a central circular shopping area. At that time the Key was not connected to the mainland, so Ringling used an old steamboat, the “Success”, to shuttle his work crews and materials. Ringling hired crews to dredge canals and build seawalls, streets and sidewalks. In 1925 Ringling began building a causeway to connect the Key to the mainland. Myth has it that Ringling used his circus elephants to haul the large timbers used to build the bridge. In 1926 the John Ringling Causeway and Ringling Estates development were opened to the public, with John Ringling leading a parade across the causeway. Free bus service from downtown Sarasota to St. Armands Key ran hourly to take prospective purchasers and sightseers to the Key. Property sales were brisk, but as the nation sank into depression sales stopped. In 1928, unable to afford maintenance costs, Ringling gave the Causeway to the City of Sarasota. Over time the wooden Causeway rotted and native vegetation overtook the streets and sidewalks. Not until 1953 did businesses move back to the Key.
Today, there aren’t many places where you can enjoy tranquil, luxurious living and still be within walking distance to extraordinary shopping, first class dining, and outstanding beaches. Homes range from approximately $500,000 to $10 million.