Before there was a single house built in the Sarasota Bay area, it was already a fashionable location for winter retreats and tourists. Bertha Palmer established Sarasota as a fishing resort shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, and the area was incorporated as a city in 1913. When a new county was carved out of Manatee County in 1921, it was named for the city of Sarasota, which was designated as its county seat. The name itself comes from Zarazote, the name Native Americans had given to the bay.
The Ringling Brothers Circus has been associated with Sarasota since 1919, when Charles and John Ringling selected the city as the winter home for their show. The Ringlings did much to develop the area and its surrounding islands, including founding a bank and donating land for the new county's government buildings and courthouse.
Today, Sarasota is a cultural center, thanks in large part to the influence of John and Mable Ringling. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art resides on their sizable estate, next to Ca d'Zan ("House of John"), their lavish, waterfront home that was restored in 2002. The Ringling Museum of the Circus, devoted to "The Greatest Show on Earth," can be found on the estate as well.