St Armands - A Brief History

Visitors to St. Armands Circle today find a wide variety of shops, restaurants and beautiful homes. What would surprise most people is that St. Armands was nearly forgotten 50 years ago. Before the 1920's St. Armands was a tropical island only accessible by boat. St.Armands' history begins with its first homesteader Charles A. St. Amand who came to the key in the late 1880's to fish and grow vegetables. In 1893, St. Amand filed a government claim for 131 acres encompassing three island tract and was granted a homestead deed. He cleared one acre of land, built a small shack and claimed his land for a $13.00 fee. He sold the land in 1894 for $1,500 to Augus McInnes. Between 1895 and 1917 the land was sold several times. During that time an "R" was added to St. Amand's name by mistake. E. M. Abogast sold the key to the man who would lay the groundwork for St. Armands, John Ringling.

John Ringling started work on his multi-million dollar development of St. Armands and Lido in late 1923 and continued through 1925. Owen Burns Construction Company laid out the street, sidewalks and landscaping. three large dredges moved millions of cubic yards of fill to build up the mangrove islands and make solid land. Ringling bought Italian statuary to place along the boulevards, and thousands of coconut palms and Australian pines were planted. Sewer and water mains were installed, roads were surfaced and canals were dredged. When Ringling Estates went on sale, Burns Realty Company was the sole agent for the property.

To connect Lido and St. Armands with the mainland, Ringling and Burns began construction of a causeway on January 1, 1925. It was completed one year later. On the day the causeway was formally opened, February 7, 1926, Ringling Estates was also opened to the public.

After the land boom ended, work stopped on St. Armands. The bridge was closed for a short while due to rotting planks. The dredges rusted on Otter Key and trees and weeds started to take over paved roads. St. Armands went into a period of hibernation between 1228 and 1953.

After 1953, businesses began slowly returning and with the development of Bird Key and Longboat Key in the late 1950's and early 1960's St. Armands began to spring to life. Today the Circle represents the vision John Ringling had over 75 years ago.