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DeSoto Hotel - Sarasota circa 1886

DeSoto Hotel AKA the Belle Haven Inn Sir John Hamilton Gillespie (below) was born in Maffat, Dumfrienshire, Scotland in 1852, the son of Sir John Gillespie, head of the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company. Gillespie built the DeSoto Hotel, Sarasotaís first place of lodging. The DeSoto Hotel was later renamed the Belle Haven Inn. Gillespie was also past President of the Manatee County Bar Association, a member of the Florida State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. Mr. Gillespie was the first to introduce cement and sand buildings to Sarasota.

Following the incorporation of Sarasota, Gillespie served six one-year terms as mayor and one term as councilman. He studied law in Edinburgh and in 1886 was sent to Sarasota to represent his fatherís company. The company owned the entire original town site, as well as an additional 50,000 acres.

Gillespie was the only attorney and real estate agent in the community until after 1900. He also served as a justice of the peace, and was a founder of the first railroad service in town. He has been credited with creating one of the first golf courses in the United States in Sarasota in 1886. He later laid out golf courses in Jacksonville, Kissimmee, Tampa, Bellair and Havana, Cuba. John Hamilton Gillespie died September 7, 1923.

Sir John Hamilton Gillespie (Right)

DeSoto Hotel Photo Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources

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