Historic Leonard Reid house relocating to North Orange Avenue in Newtown, where it will serve as home of Sarasota African American cultural arts center

Move scheduled to begin at 3 a.m. May 27

This is the Leonard Reid house on Seventh Street in Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Beginning at 3 a.m. on Friday, May 27, the historic Leonard Reid house is scheduled to be relocated to city-owned property in North Sarasota, where it will become the first home for a new Sarasota African American cultural arts center, the City of Sarasota announced.

The house will be moved from 1435 Seventh St. in the Rosemary District to 2529 N. Orange Ave. in Newtown, a city news release says.

“The Leonard Reid house is named for the highly respected early pioneer who helped establish Sarasota’s first Black community, Overtown, now known as the Rosemary District,” the release explains. The single-story frame, vernacular style-house completed in 1926 won a local historical designation and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the release adds.

The house will be transported on a flatbed trailer along a 2.6-mile route, the release continues. That process is expected to take two hours. The move was scheduled to occur overnight, to mitigate traffic impacts, the release points out. Public safety officers were to be stationed along the route to coordinate traffic control, the release says.

The move will necessitate the temporary disassembling of traffic signal heads at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and North Orange Avenue, to accommodate the oversized load, the release notes.

On May 25, the city provided more details about the move. The route, that release says, will take the structure from Cohen Way to Ninth Street, from Ninth to Central Avenue, from Central to 10th Street, from 10th to Orange Avenue, from Orange to 12th Street, from 12th Street to U.S. 301, and from U.S. 301 to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

“A fortunate confluence of events over two years led to this moment,” the earlier release continues.

The Leonard Reid house owner initiated a dialogue with city staff in 2020, expressing a desire to donate the historic structure to the city, the release points out. “Around the same time, in August 2020, the City Commission purchased a vacant lot at Orange Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Way.”

“Meanwhile,” the release notes, “the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition was looking for space in the city limits to establish a new cultural arts and history center.”

This is the property at 2529 N. Orange Ave. in Newtown, which will be the new location of the Leonard Reid house. Image from Google Maps

“Several key parts had to come together at just the right time for this to work and somehow they did,” said Mayor Erik Arroyo in the release. “This truly is an amazing partnership between the public, private and nonprofit sectors,” Arroyo added. “Because of the partnership, a beautiful historic structure is being preserved, and we’re about to see the much-anticipated launch of a Sarasota African American Cultural Center.”

In January 2021, the city entered into a cost-sharing agreement to move the Leonard Reid house to the recently acquired parcel in Newtown, the release points out. The owner of the house is responsible for expenses associated with the move, the release adds, while the city was responsible for paying to prepare the new site to receive the house, including clearing the property; constructing a foundation; and adding curbing, parking spaces, utilities and landscaping. The city also will be responsible for the necessary permitting fees, the release notes.

The city will take ownership of the house upon its delivery to the new site, the release adds.

In January, the release points out, “the City Commission unanimously approved a lease with the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition [SAACC],” so it can use the Leonard Reid house “as a cultural arts center to host lectures, programs and exhibits to promote history and education by bringing diverse individuals together.”

“The time has come for the Leonard Reid house to move to its new site where the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition will open a new cultural institution in a location where residents are anxious to access the arts and practice cultural traditions,” said Vickie Oldham, SAACC president and CEO, in the release. “Our gratitude and appreciation to the City Commission for jumpstarting the history project and supporting the effort at every step.”

Vickie Oldham is shown on the SAACC website. Image courtesy Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition

“The City is partnering to preserve this important structure and take a giant step toward fulfilling the SAACC’s goal of opening Sarasota’s very first African American cultural center,” said Stevie Freeman-Montes, the city’s governmental relations manager, in the release. “The house will be open for all to come together and learn about the events, culture, and contributions of our historic Black community to the Sarasota we see today, all in the very house where one of Overtown’s most beloved pioneers lived,” she added in the release.

“Leonard Reid was considered the ‘right hand man’ to Sarasota’s first mayor,” the release points out. Reid lived much of his life in the house with his wife and their two daughters, Ethel Reid Hayes and Viola Reid, “who also contributed greatly to the community,” the release continues.

“Both women were educated in Sarasota and went on to obtain higher educations,” noted Cliff Smith, senior planner with the city’s historic preservation program, in the release. “They spent most of their adult lives teaching in Sarasota schools and investing in children,” the release adds.

“The Reid family residence is a special place where books were handed out to Overtown’s children and the family’s parrot perched in its cage on the screened porch talked to passersby,” said Oldham in the release. “The house will be loved and cared for just as the Reid family loved and cared for us.”

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