From Then to Now

The New Edzell Castle

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Bird Key was a small island in Sarasota Bay, rising only a few feet above the surrounding shallow grass flats. In 1906, Thomas Martin Worcester, of Cincinnati, purchased the 12-acre island, and after some dredging and filling, began to build a castle for his beloved wife, Davie Lindsay Worcester. He would name it The New Edzell Castle, after his wife’s Scottish ancestral home. Sadly, his wife died in October 1912 and did not live to see the completion of her husband’s “labor of love.” The first mansion in Sarasota boasted electric and gas lights, steam heat, and hot and cold running water in every room. At the opening reception in 1914, the Sarasota Times wrote, “Set in one of nature’s fairest temples, it is a monument to the memory of a gifted and a good woman.”

John Ringling

Thomas Worcester left Sarasota not long thereafter, and in 1922, John Ringling purchased Bird Key. He planned to convert the Worcester home into a summer White House for President Warren Harding, but Harding’s death in 1923 changed his plans. The Bird Key mansion then became the home of John Ringling’s sister, Ida Ringling North, until her death in 1950. Ringling’s yacht, the 125 foot Zalophus, was often docked there before it sank off Lido Key after hitting an unchartered rock in 1930.

Bird Key

In 1959, Arvida Realty, Inc. purchased the key and filled it in to allow for 511 lots; 291 waterfront and 220 off-water sites. One unique feature of the development would be an underground electric utility system, well ahead of its time. Arvida promoted Bird Key in national newspapers, saying, “Who hasn’t dreamed of living on an idyllic tropical island?”

The Bird Key Yacht Club

The clubhouse was built in 1959 near the site of the New Edzell Castle, and now welcomes members from across the country and around the world. Today, Bird Key Yacht Club offers fine dining and wide array of activities on the idyllic tropical key that first enchanted its residents over a century ago.

Today, the Bird Key Yacht Club is celebrating 65 years as a Sarasota gathering spot. Our Vision is be the most welcoming, friendly and active private club in Sarasota. Our mission is to provide a premier club experience, a warm and friendly environment, encompassing a broad range of social and recreational activities, events, and dining venus resulting in high member and staff satisfaction and retention.