Friday, October 27, 2006

Celery Fields

I’ve been doing some research involving a piece of property near the Celery Fields in Sarasota County. This is a part of the county that was marshy, mucky, and wet land up until the 1920s.

To avoid the cold Chicago winter of 1910, Berthe Honoré Palmer visited Florida. She was the widow of a wealthy Chicago businessman, and she became a successful businessman in her own right. During her winter visit, Palmer became interested in buying very large tracts of undeveloped land, and started the Sarasota-Venice Company to manage and re-sell her property. After her death, her sons Honoré and Potter dug miles of canals to drain large sections of muckland. The Palmers then sold parcels to individual farmers, who then became members in an agricultural cooperative known as the Palmer Farms Growers Association. These farmers had particular success growing celery.

Celery has uses other than as a crudité or in turkey stuffing. In the early twentieth century, Celo was a popular celery-flavored soft drink in Florida. W. Truman Green came up with the original concoction in a Tampa drug store in 1915. The Celo Company prospered in the 1920s with the support of local investors and stockholders. Unfortunately, the company struggled through the Great Depression and never quite made it as big as Coca-Cola or Pepsi. Vernor’s Ginger Ale owned Celo in the 1940s, but the drink hasn’t been seen for many years. (Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 11 and 18, 1996).

After World War II, Florida experienced a population boom, and the agricultural lands at Palmer Farms were gradually sold to developers. The celery fields became suburbs. In the 1990s, as a way to control flooding problems in the Phillipi Creek watershed, Sarasota County built the Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility . The Celery Fields are also popular with local bird watchers.

1 comment:

  1. Celo originated in 1904 according to the trade mark application filed in the U S Patent Office. It remained an obscure fountain drink until 1930 when Rufus Thorne organized the Celo Corporation of America based in Tampa. I have one of the original 1904 fountain syrup bottles and a number of bottles, signs, trays, and other advertising/merchandising memorabilia relating to Celo in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, and Nebraska.


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