Having previously posed the question – whereabouts in the south-east of the USA were they? Is it a lido or the beach? Florida (possibly), Georgia (more probably) or Alabama (probably not)?
I’ll now give the answer – which was pretty much in the query itself – the location for the photo was the Lido Beach Casino, Sarasota, Florida. The key to the identity of the place is in the Art Deco design by architect Ralph Twitchell – those distinctive towers.
The City of Sarasota acquired the Lido site, a stretch of beach, from the John Ringling Estate, transferred to the city in a deal to settle ‘delinquent taxes’ of approximately $35,000. Federal funds were secured from the Works Progress Administration for construction of the casino which opened on 23rd May 1940 – the official opening took place on 28th December. The complex was constructed for around $250,000
The modern architecture would have seemed home from home to the pilots u/t based at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia as their accommodation had been newly constructed in the modern style of Miami architect Stefan Zachar.
Between 1926 through to his death in 1978 Ralph Twitchell made a significant contribution to Sarasota’s architecture. The Art Deco style of the Lido Casino reflected the modern influences which contributed to Twitchell’s work from the late 1930s. The strong geometrics of the clean stuccoed buildings were made all the more striking by giant sea-horse reliefs.
Construction of the Casino complex started in 1939 – the accommodation including a ‘junior olympic-sized’ swimming pool, the Sunset Ballroom, Hawaiian Lanai dining rooms, the Bathers Grill, Castaways Bar, Cocktail Loggia, Casino Ballroom, Marine Lounge, Coquina Grill and 39 cabanas. The ballrooms were graced by famous bands and Hollywood celebrities, events ranged from athletic events to beauty pageants.
Twitchell’s ethos for the design of the Sarasota Beach Lido had been ‘in the spirit of democracy to welcome all visitors to America. Young and old, rich and poor will find attractions here which they can afford and enjoy.’ Just a year after the Lido’s grand opening the USA was pitched into the Second World War and soon young servicemen from the UK were enjoying the delights of the complex during their recreation time away from their training bases – Sarasota, Arcadia and others within easy range of the Lido.
I recommend you spend a moment to look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URYFZ1L7JDI which gives a flavour of the place. Look again at the photo of Jim and his colleagues – on the beach in front of the cabanas of the Lido Beach Casino, Sarasota.
On January 20, 1969, the City Commission voted to demolish the casino. One of those working on the demolitions opined:-
‘A real piece of history wasted, it was the hardest building I had ever worked on. It was hard as a rock. If they would have left it, it could have stood for 500 years.’
Incidentally – the date of Ralph Twitchell’s death in Sarasota in 1978 – 30th January – the ‘sly day’!
Any ideas on the identity of the ‘more mature’ pilot cadet? Let me know.