Originally settled by the Calusa Indians 12,000 years ago, Venice, like many Florida towns, didn't start attracting settlers until the 1800's. Originally called Horse and Chaise after an unusual tree used as a landmark by fishermen, the city acquired its name in 1888 from Frank Higel the "Father of Venice" who saw in the canals a similarity to the Italian original, where he grew up. In 1916, Dr Fred Albee, a New York physician and major landowner, commisioned John Nolen, a well-known Boston city planner to create a beautiful city. In the 1920s beautiful Italianate homes and offices were built. Even in 1950 there were only 863 people living there! But by 1957 there were 10,000 and now there are approaching 100,000 in the greater Venice area.
The city reflects its careful planning with beautiful landscaping using palms, silver trumpet and oak trees. Venice is one of the few cities on Florida's west coast that is not cut off from the gulf by a barrier island. Fourteen miles of white sandy beachfront provide plenty of room to stretch out, or take advantage of watersports and boating. There is abundant wildlife, from loggerhead sea turtles to manatees and alligators, and beautiful wading birds like the egret and blue heron.
There are more than a dozen golf courses in the area, and municipal tennis courts lighted for night play. This scenic stretch of coastline is only twelve miles south from Sarasota. Shark's tooth hunting is a popular pastime at low tide, when teeth from ancient sharks, some millions of years old, can be dug up with special screened scoops. Diving and fishing opportunities are plentiful. Nearby are the attractions of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, and world-famous Busch Gardens in Tampa.
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