Florida Society of American Foresters

Woodmere Lumber Company and Town

The following information is based on a listing of historical markers by Sarasota County and information from Sarasota History Alive. The presence or location of the marker has not been verified.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/show/25512

Text of the Marker

The Manasota Land and Timber Company purchased over 80,000 acres of land and the Gulf Coast Railway Company from Southern Investment Company of Baltimore, Maryland, in 1917. This land was south of the Palmer properties in Venice and bordered Lemon Bay. In view of the estimated quarter million feet of long-leaf yellow pine timber on the land, the company began negotiations for the construction of a timber mill.

Manasota Land and Timber transferred 250 acres to the Manasota Lumber Company in 1918 for a sawmill and company town. This land was on both sides of today's SR 776, between 1 and 1 1/2 miles south of US 41. The company hired Herman C. Kluge to supervise the construction of a four-story coal-fired sawmill. By 1919, the sawmill was in full operation. At its busiest, it employed an estimated 1,500 workers.

Kluge also directed the laying of narrow gauge railroad tracks through the woods, over which steam engines pulled flat cars of logs to the mill. Finished lumber was then shipped via the Gulf Coast Railway line to Venice, where it was transferred to the Seaboard Air Line Railway for points north.

In the company town surrounding the mill, substantial houses were provided for supervisory personnel. Others, including larger dormitories for single men, were built for the predominantly black workers. A commissary, run for awhile by C.G. Strohmeyer, then Floyd Zeigler, provided staple foods, ice, and fresh meat that came from cattle and chickens kept in the area. A large frame building served as dining hall, recreation center, movie theater, and place for religious services. Elementary school classes were also offered.

After bootlegged liquor contributed to undesirable fights among the workers, the company installed a fence around the mill compound. No one could enter or leave after 9:00 p.m. except those taking the train to Sarasota on Saturday nights.

In 1922 the Manasota Lumber Company became the Woodmere Lumber Company and the company town became known as Woodmere. By 1923 much of the area's timber had been cleared and lumber production diminished. Machinery was sold or moved. Some of the better houses were moved to Siesta and Casey Keys, Englewood, and Venice. A fire in 1930 destroyed the mill. Little remains today of the once-vibrant company town of Woodmere.

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