I’ve lived on Siesta Key for almost a year. One of the first things I noticed is that if you go to any Google map, mapquest or www.weather.com for the local radar there’s a town on the north end of the Key by the name of Bailey Hall. Of course I said to myself, “what is Bailey Hall?”
I googled “Bailey Hall”. There are a lot of Bailey Halls in the country as well as just in Florida. They’re mostly connected to a University (Cornell has one as well as Broward College). I found Bailey Hall on mapquest.com and bigdaddydata.com. These are just place-listing websites. After zooming in on the map and finding the exact location on the Key, I rode my bike there (less than a mile of fun) and found new homes. So I emailed the Siesta Key Association. They had no idea. Then, I contacted the US Post Office to find out if they had any history on Bailey Hall (since it appears to be a town of some kind) and if they had had a separate zip code at one time and if so why was it changed. Nothing. I was thinking maybe Siesta Key was once called Bailey Hall, just like Casey Key was once Treasure Island. But who was Bailey? Sarasota is rich in circus history so I thought it might be the one-time home of the Bailey’s. Wrong. The only other Bailey I could find, in the local history books, was a banker in Miami.
My search continued and continued. Nothing was found in the indexes of any book I could locate. I finally found the Sarasota County History Center located just east of Cattleman Rd near Proctor. The Sarasota County History Center is like a library full of books and reports and papers on local history. You can stop by during regular business hours to do your own research. Be aware though that there may be a meeting going on in the main room and you’ll have to go back another time. The address is 6062 Porter Way and their research hours are Monday-Thursday 10am to 3pm.
Anyway, I was greeted by Jeff LeHurd, who knew immediately what I was talking about because he had included information on Bailey Hall in his books. He found several sources of information for me including pages from the Sarasota Visitor’s Guides of 1942 and 1946, a page from his own book called Sarasota…A Sentimental Journey, and an article from the Sarasota Herald, the “Mail-It-Away” Edition of the Venice Section dated December 2, 1934.
So here goes…
Bailey Hall was a private school for “over-active, slow or retarded boys”. One ad called it “A special place for boys” while another ad heading read “For ‘Unusual’ Boys Bailey Hall”.
Bailey Hall was a school started in Katonah, N.Y., by Dr. Rudolph Fried of Czechoslovakia. It was first known as the Florence Nightingale School. (I looked this up and you can find stories online about the remaining abandoned buildings in Katonah). According to the Sarasota Herald article he had just moved 25 selected students and staff to FL for the winter. He believed that Sarasota offered the students “the needed opportunity … to learn the knack of relaxing and doing nothing.” How cool of a school!
Bailey Hall was first located on Treasure Island (now Casey Key) in the former Inlet Inn property owned by Dr. Fred Albee and later moved to the area near Ocean Blvd. and Givens Street on Siesta Key situated on the Gulf front. The enrollment in 1942 was limited to 35 residents and 10 day students.
The name Florence Nightingale School was changed to Bailey Hall to honor Dr. Pearce Bailey who founded the Neurological Institute and the Children’s Classification Clinic of Vanderbilt Hospital.
Mystery solved…or maybe only half solved. I still want to know: when and why it closed, where did it go and why is it a town location on mapquest?
I’m guessing it shut down permanently since its sister school in N.Y. is no longer around, either. As to when and why, maybe I can find out. And maybe City Hall can help with the “town” question. That will all be a later blog. For now, there are residences on the Gulf front where I imagine Bailey Hall had been. Ah….progress.