The historic Reid House will become an art center
On Friday, a historic Sarasota home that once belonged to Leonard Reid was relocated to city-owned property. It will become the first home of a new Sarasota African American Cultural Arts Center. This week, we’ll explore Reid’s life and accomplishments.
Leonard Reid’s historic home was successfully moved via flatbed trailer early Friday from its original location in Sarasota’s Rosemary neighborhood to North Orange Avenue in Newtown. It is called to become the seat of a new cultural and artistic center for the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition (SAACC).
The one-story house was built in 1926 and belonged to Reid, one of the founders of Sarasota’s first black community, Overtown (currently known as the Rosemary District). The 1400 square feet vernacular style structure was a typical 1920s design and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to a City of Sarasota press release.
The venture was a multi-faceted collaboration between the city, the former owner, and SAACC, which spanned two years. After the owner expressed a desire to donate the structure, vacant land was purchased in Newtown and talks with SAACC began, as the organization sought space to establish an art and cultural center. story within the city limits, according to the release. .
In January 2022, the Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved a lease agreement with SAACC for the use of the Reid House as a venue to host conferences, programs and exhibits to promote history and education by bringing diverse people together.
It’s an apt use for the historic structure where Reid, his wife Eddye, and their four children Ray, James, Ethel, and Viola resided for most of their lives.
Historians believe that Reid’s legacy in Sarasota may have been accidental. Born Leonard Sproles, in Greenville, SC in 1881, he took his stepfather’s last name and later moved to Savannah, Georgia, where he attended Savannah Normal SchoolI for a career in teaching. In 1900, he left for Cuba, making a detour to Sarasota to catch fish that he could sell on the Cuban market to start his life there. But after meeting friends and going out one night, he slept in, missed the boat and decided to stay in the area, according to historian Jeff LaHurd’s “Leonard Reid Historic House” article on the website. . Living Sarasota History.
While working in the fishing industry, he was introduced to Colonel Hamilton Gillespie, a Scotsman of insatiable ambition and determination on his way to becoming Sarasota’s most prominent citizen. The two quickly became friends, and Gillespie invited Reid to his home and offered him a job. Not only did Reid serve as a butler, coachman, and householder, but he also became a confidant and companion to Gillespie, who was becoming one of the most powerful men in town. Gillespie encouraged Reid to continue his education. Reid excelled in high school, even becoming valedictorian, according to LaHurd.
A young woman of color named Eddye (Addyes) Colman also worked in the Gillespie household. Colman had lost his father at a young age and was placed in the care of Gillespie’s first wife, Mary, after her mother could no longer afford to support her as a single mother. Under the care and employment of the Gillespies, Colman worked as a housekeeper. Colman and Reid married in 1901 but continued to live in the Gillespie household until the birth of their first child, Ray. Then they moved into a small rental house on Central Avenue.
Around this time, Reid accompanied Gillespie on a walk through palm bushes downtown and sketched out a nine-hole golf course that would become the first in Florida and possibly the United States. Reid helped Gillespie in his development and became the first greenskeeper and caddy in the United States, according to LaHurd.
Reid confided in Gillespie that he wanted to go into business, and Gillespie sold him four lots for $400. He built his family home on one of these properties and founded the community of Overtown with the others.
Leonard Reid continued his close association with Gillespie until Gillespie’s death in 1923. Rumor has it that after Gillespie’s death, Reid told the story that after he and Colman were married, Gillespie knew that they would need a house of their own, but said “not too much”. away, because I cannot do without you.”
According to LaHurd, the Reid house originally had three outbuildings; to the north, a small frame storage shed; a larger frame shed or small barn to the southwest; and a frame garage to the west. Inside, the house had its own library. A strong advocate for the importance of education, Reid obtained hundreds of books and established a library in his own home for neighborhood children. He required visiting children to read each night they were staying there. Reid also bought a piano and hired a teacher from Tampa to give lessons at his house every Wednesday. He was also an inspiration to many in the community and mentored young men and women in hopes of success.
He continued to accumulate land throughout his life. He and his wife have also made significant contributions to the community. They were founding members and officers who played a leading role in the establishment of Sarasota’s second oldest African-American church, Payne Chapel, the AME Methodist Church.
Leonard Reid died at home of a heart attack on November 19, 1952, a week after being introduced as one of the pioneer citizens honored for Sarasota’s 50th anniversary celebration..
His children continued his legacy of life in various ways. Ray became a commercial fisherman, James became a musician, Ethel became a lifelong educator, and Viola became a preschool director. Eddye lived in the house until his death in 1970. After that, Ethel and Viola lived there for many years until they were no longer able to care for themselves.
Making the house the hub of the African American community is a fitting way to honor Reid’s legacy and his lifelong commitment to creating a better future for local children. For the first time in more than 50 years, music and literature will again emanate from the structure, enlightening and inspiring children and families for generations to come.