Historic Groups Participating, Participants, Supporters

Bill Schustik, America’s Troubadour

It’s gonna be a great performance, and we can’t thank Bill enough for supporting our fundraising effort by volunteering to perform during History Day in the Park. We’re looking forward to enjoying VGO and Bill as singing, strumming, story tellers. From 2pm on, at the Farmhouse Porch, on Saturday March 25 2023. Free in the open air, but I’m guessing there will be the honored tradition of a hat to throw some money in!

“Bill Schustik travels the highways and byways of the United States entertaining audiences, accompanying himself on guitar and banjo, harmonica, concertina, and dulcimer. With his rich baritone voice and unique storytelling ability, he unabashedly carries his audiences on an enchanted musical journey of America’s history and folklore, spinning facts and trivia as vast and varied as our heritage.” — Friends of the Sarasota County Libraries.

A short snippet of Bill, filmed at the Bidwell-Wood House at the Historical Society of Sarasota County by The Observer newspapers.
A Taste of History, Supporters

Richard Capes: A Sarasota Treasure

We are so pleased to announce that, true to his lifelong support of history, Richard Capes has donated two of his discontinued prints of his painting, “Edson Keith Mansion”, to History Day in the Park to be awarded in a “pick-your-prize” raffle on Saturday March 25.

In this segment from Gulf Coast Journal with Jack Perkins, you’ll see Richard painting the Keith Farmhouse in 2008, before the exterior of the Farmhouse was restored. Now, 14 years later, Richard has donated his famed artwork of the Mansion itself to the cause of turning his artistry into a living part of current day Sarasota by encouraging donations for the planned Interpretive Center.

Click to hear Jack Perkins tell us about Richard Capes and his generous soul.

To see the complete Gulf Coast Journal with Jack Perkins show which aired on Christmas Day 2008, click here.

We would like to thank Richard and his brother, Jim Capes, for their generous donation which will thrill art lovers in our community. The second print will be used as a fund-raiser this coming fall/winter during “Afternoon at the Mansion”, a series of local history presentations.

Raffle tickets for the Capes watercolor and other prizes will be sold during History Day in the Park on Saturday March 25 in the Mansion itself and by roving costumed characters, so bring cash to buy your tickets. You need not be present to win.

Historic Groups Participating, Participants

Everywhere you turn, entertainment! And cookies.

Our schedule of events, and what each participant will be offering, is getting very exciting for History Day in the Park.

1910’s, 1920’s, 1930’s music to hum along to!

We’re hosting Sailor Circus and the high-schoolers’ feats of derring-do, the Sarasota Concert Band playing period songs for your enjoyment, speakers on topics as varied as Sarasota history and a win-win restoration of an amazing downtown landmark, and more folks donating their time and talents to our fundraising event.

And rumor has it that Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation is baking up some cookies for you, complete with the 1910 recipe to take home!


Barbie Dolls in Sarasota History

What, Barbie is a part of Sarasota history? Well, believe it or not… yup. And you’ll learn more at History Day in the Park!

Look at those outfits…. and look at the accessories!

You see, the second and last owner of the Keith Mansion was Mae Hansen Prodie. She bought the home and its land from Nettie Keith, Edson’s widow, in the late 1930s.

Mae was renowned for her success as a travelling toy salesperson, and she developed her won Marie Mae dolls and other branded lines of dolls for retailers like Woolworth’s. Marie Mae, Inc. was well known for making shoes and even rollerskates for dolls as well as some other accessories, so it is possible that the company did supply Mattel with some small items, but not the doll’s wardrobe, as Mae seemed to brag at times.

You have Mae Prodie to thank for every Barbie shoe you’ve ever stepped on.

Edit 3-21-23 Unfortunately, our friend Marl has broken her arm! She will not be able to attend History Day in the Park. For History Day in the Park, we are thrilled to present to you the world-renowned expert on Barbie dolls, Marl Davidson of Marl & Be. She’ll have collections for you to enjoy and, at her discretion, discuss the value of any Barbies you bring with you. There will be accessories, equipment (did you know Barbie had a plane!?!), and Marl is the author of several reference books, so we’re guessing you’ll be able to buy them too.

Marl and Brooke, AKA “Be”. Click to visit their site.

Find them in the sunroom inside the Edson Keith Mansion at Phillippi Estate Park during History Day in the Park on Saturday March 25, 2023. Breaking news on HDIP’s Facebook page, so follow us there.

A Taste of History, The Park

The Edson Keith Mansion: How It Came to Be. Part II: The Keiths

Here’s our favorite local historian, Jeff LaHurd, on the family who built the Mansion in what is now Phillippi Estate Park:

Edson Keith was a singular man. A well-rounded Chicago millionaire businessman, he left the hustle-bustle of Windy City life to spend his last years with his wife Nettie, on their Philippi Creek estate. Unlike their Chicago colony contemporaries who only wintered in Sarasota, the Keiths became year around residents.

Yale educated Edson, with a law degree from Columbia was multilingual, and a lover of music. To further his musical aspirations, he studied and performed at the famed Paris Opera. He was also a composer and author. According to the Sarasota Herald “He was a composer of note and had many successful musical productions presented in leading theatres … and was a frequent contributor to national publications.”

He was president of the Edson Keith & Co. a nationally known millinery manufacturing company.

It was in Paris where he was pursuing his musical endeavors that he met Nettie, traveling with her parents. They married shortly thereafter.

The Edson Keith mansion on Phillippi Creek was constructed in 1916. Today, the property is Sarasota County’s Phillipi Estate Park.

As was the journalistic practice of the time, while the Edson Keith Mansion was being constructed in 1916, The Sarasota Times assured it would be “one of the handsomest, if not the handsomest along the west coast of Florida.”

Like many of the other Chicago colony mansions, the Keiths’ Italian Renaissance home was designed by Chicago architects. Clark and Otis were well known for their upper-class homes and buildings.

To keep tabs on the construction, Keith built a bungalow on the property, which is now the Farmhouse, where he lived full time. Because the Tamiami Trail had not been completed, building material needed to be barged to the site.

The 40-acre property was nearly self-sufficient with electricity, hot and cold running water, fruit, and vegetables were farmed and animals were raised for food.

Edson died at the estate in February of 1939. The man for all seasons was praised by the Yale Club as “… a gentleman of the old school – a man of business and letters – reflecting high honor upon his alma mater …”

Nettie moved to Prospect Street. She died at age 87 at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Mae Hansen Prodie and her husband Charlie were the next owners of the estate. Mae made a fortune making clothes for Barbie dolls. Charlie, an avid golfer, ran the estate as the Phillippi Plantation Inn and Restaurant.

When Charlie died, Mae retired to the estate. After she passed away in 1986, Sarasota County purchased the historic estate in a referendum. Today it is the Phillippi Estate Park, a beautiful example of preserving the past for the present and a popular destination for all manner of events.

Jeff LaHurd was raised in Sarasota and is an award-winning historian.

Read The Edson Keith Mansion: How It Came to Be. Part I: The Land here.


An Author with a Mission

Richard Lee Cronin, writer and historian and author of multiple books on Florida’s history, will be sharing his vast and well-researched knowledge with us on History Day in the Park on Saturday March 25, 2023. We’re excited to welcome him and know you’ll come away from a visit with him with interesting stories from the past.

Richard Cronin, history raconteur.

I arrived in Florida Christmas Day 1971, a hundred years to the day, I later learned, from the day John Otto Fries’ arrived in central Florida. Decades passed before I learned of the precision surveyor whose work I routinely rely on today, but with this precautionary postscript. Fries was a precise land surveyor, but a horrible speller.

Observations as a youth, I’m convinced, laid a foundation for my obligation as a history researcher, trust information only after you take the necessary time to verify it.

I knew nothing of Florida’s rich history when I arrived, but wanted to discover as much as possible about my new home. 

The last half of the 19th century was a fascinating period in Florida, a time and place often described as an American Paradise, and the period during which my research and writing centers. This was a time of amazing people – men and women – who endured remarkable triumphs and tragedies.

Richard’s speciality as he travels the state, attending history get-togethers, is delivering his renowned “Snippets of Hometown History“, presentations of 15 minutes or less focusing on local lore.

We can’t wait to see what lore/ facets/ tales he chooses to tell us about the Sarasota region!

Richard’s website and his Facebook are full of information. Fun fact: Email him with the books you want to purchase, and he’ll bring them with him especially for you!


Bring your old toys!

Introducing and owner Ed Sandford. As a participant in History Day in the Park on Saturday March 25, he’ll be showing some of his wonderful wares and doing appraisals. Here’s what he says:

Sometimes it is dizzying to categorize toys.  Are they very old, newer, reproduction toys or desirable? We love old toys, so it is simply a pleasure to see what families have.  

And he’s just the guy to ask! Find him inside the Keith Mansion during the one-day event on Saturday March 25. Even if you’re not in the market for antique playthings or don’t have any to be appraised (appraisal fee applies), it’s wonderful to see some nostalgic items.

And Ed adds a note for those cleaning out their storage:

P.S. We love donations of ephemera and catalogs too! We enjoy the toy help and toy research.

A Taste of History, The Park

The Farm Market that’s really The Farmhouse Market

You’re familiar with farm markets, of course… but did you notice the Phillippi market is actually the “Farmhouse Market“?

That’s because it helps support the Keith Farmhouse! Here’s a shot of the back of the Farmhouse, with its cistern which saved rainwater for reuse.

Phillippi Farmhouse Market is an all-volunteer market managed by a Friends of Sarasota County Parks volunteer. The market of 50+ vendors is on grass, in a park, with live music, fun food choices, pet-friendly, free adjacent parking. Net proceeds from the Market are donated to the renovation of the historic Keith farmhouse located on the property.

And now is the perfect time to make a stop at the Farmhouse Market part of your Wednesday morning routine… just look at all the produce that’s fresh now locally!

Can you imagine the festive meals you can make out of all this?

Click for a larger image

Open every Wednesday from 8am to 1pm… and you’ll have fresh produce, live music, AND help the Farmhouse Interpretive Center museum become a reality!

Learn more on their website, and keep up with the weekly changes in live music and special events on their Facebook page.

And yes, there’s some amazing holiday gift ideas and hostess gifts to be gathered too!


Betcha a Boondoggle ain’t what you think….

Here’s how Collins Dictionary defines the word “boondoggle”:

  1. a product of simple manual skill, as a plaited leather cord for the neck or a knife sheath, made typically by a camper or a scout
  2. work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy
  3. a project funded by the federal government out of political favoritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation

Here in southern Florida, this is what a boondoggle looks like:

Photo courtesy of Historical Society of Sarasota County.

And if you think that looks like a simple manual skill…. you might be able to watch as one is created out of palm fronds during History Day in the Park!

We don’t have a boondoggler signed up yet for our event on Saturday March 25, 2023… but we DO have Civil War reenactors, butter-churning, traditional musicians and more. If you’re interested and have an historic skill you want to demonstrate and/or sell, contact Jane Kirschner, Participation Coordinator at to learn more! Take a peek at our Participants page as well.

And no, I will not be discussing the dictionary definition #3.

The Park

Dogs Not Just Allowed But Welcome

What’s fresh air and green grass without a dog to walk!

At Phillippi Estate Park, dogs on leashes with responsible human companions are not just allowed, but welcomed.

(Note: Of course, everyone realizes that no, your dog cannot attend the Historic Keith Mansion Guided Tours offered every Wednesday morning during season, which starts October 5 2022 this year and continues til spring. Century-plus old floors and fixtures need extra-careful safeguarding. If you use a service dog and wish to come on a Mansion tour, please contact Priscilla Brown, Program Coordinator, 941-316-1309 or, a few days in advance.)