In Chicago, where she reigned over an extravagant lakefront mansion and the society world for more than two decades, Mrs. Bertha Palmer was known for her elaborate dinner parties, her exquisite sense of fashion and her impressive business acumen. At her winter home in Sarasota County, now known as Historic Spanish Point, her apparel and her entertaining might have been on a slightly more casual scale, but there was certainly still no doubt about her business sense.
The widow of retail and real estate magnate Potter Palmer, Bertha came to this area in 1910 and promptly purchased thousands of acres of land for cattle ranching, citrus groves and real estate development. At her ranch, Meadowsweet Pastures in the Myakka River area, she walked her fields in long gown and large hat; at her 350-acre estate, Osprey Point, she laid out lavish formal gardens and lawns. And she was also a tireless promoter of Sarasota, introducing the little town to many high-profile friends and acquaintances. By the time she died here, in 1918, she had set the tone for all later visitors and residents of wealth and taste who found in Sarasota the perfect haven of low-key luxury.
A Bertha Palmer Celebration in 2010 will mark the centennial of her Sarasota arrival. –Kay Kipling