Bertha Palmer

By Janet Scherberger

Businesswoman, developer (Venice)

Years: 1848–1918

Remembered for: She contributed significantly to the development of the Tampa Bay region, from Sarasota to Temple Terrace, in part by advocating for expansion of the railroad lines. She also introduced groundbreaking cattle ranching techniques.

Why you should know her:

The widow of millionaire Potter Palmer, founder of the famed Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Bertha moved to the Sarasota area in 1910 after her husband’s death in 1902.

She was 61 when she relocated here, and proved to be a brilliant business woman. She more than doubled her $8 million inheritance, with a real estate empire and farming and ranching operations that revolutionized the cattle and hog industries. She convinced the Seaboard Air Railroad Line to extend its lines south of Sarasota to spur economic development in the region.

Her holdings included more than 100,000 acres on the west coast of Florida, which now holds such cities as Temple Terrace and Sarasota. But she also had an interest in preservation. She kept much of the native vegetation on her Florida estate, adapting her lavish landscaping to the environment and protecting the ancient shell mounds. Her interest in preservation means people can still enjoy the property she owned in its natural condition at places like Myakka River State Park and Historic Spanish Point, which was the first site in Sarasota County to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Featured imageBertha Palmer