Decades after conception, St Armands Circle has fulfilled John Ringling's dream of a premier shopping district. Conceived during Florida's real estate boom, St Armands was part of the John Ringling Estates Development and the jewel of Ringling Isles, an ambitious venture encompassing planned resorts, a casino, subdivisions and a shopping area scattered from Bird and Lido Keys to southern Longboat Key. Designed by architect John J Watson of Ohio and Sarasota engineer Leon Pickett the circle and surrounding development were made accessible by construction of Ringling Causeway.
After its grand opening as the centerpiece of Ringling Isles, St Armands Circle lay neglected a Depression-era victim of the 1920s Florida land boom. Sandspurs and weeds overran concrete curbs and sidewalks, imported statuary and a bandstand. The key reverted to nearly its state of nature when Charles A St Amand had homesteaded in 1885. St Amand, whose name was misspelled in subsequent deeds, built a home, cleared one acre, and claimed his land, 130-plus acres, for $13. Little could he know he would buy less than one square foot of leased area on today's St Armands Circle.