Leonard Reid, with his wife Eddye, was an original owner of the house, played a significant role in the development of Sarasota's African-American community's growth and settlement from the time of his arrival in 1900 until his death in 1952.
Leonard Reid was born Leonard Sproles, in Greenwood, South Carolina on August 24, 1881. He later took the last name of his stepfather. He grew up in Savannah, Georgia where he attended Savannah Normal School which educated future teachers.
In 1900, when he was 19, Reid headed for Cuba. According to a 1983 interview with his daughter, Ethel Reid Hayes, he stopped in Sarasota on his way for more fish to stock a planned fish market. He met some Sarasota people and spent an evening with them at a party. Upon returning to the dock to continue his trip to Cuba, he had missed the boat. Another version of Reid coming to Sarasota states that he came to Sarasota in January, 1900 with a Greek fisherman to start a fish market to provide dried fish to Cuban traders. Reid and his partner arrived too late to set up business. An ice plant had opened in Tampa and steamers had begun arriving in Sarasota three times a week to take fresh fish on board.
With little connection to Sarasota, he briefly went to work for a fish merchant. Sarasota being a small town, he came to be introduced to Colonel Hamilton Gillespie; Sarasota's most prominent citizen, the Town's first mayor, and its most important early developer and promoter. Soon after Gillespie first came to Sarasota, he became the local manager of the Scottish investment company, Florida Mortgage and Investment Company that owned all of the land that would become Sarasota at the time Gillespie arrived. The company had persuaded a number of Scottish colonists to come to Sarasota in 1885 with great promises. The colonists were disillusioned by Sarasota's rugged life and within a short time, and most of them left for other areas. Undaunted, Gillespie stayed and maintained a life long financial and personal interest in Sarasota making it his home for the rest of life. During that time, he remained committed to seeing Sarasota prosper and grow.
After and introduction to Gillespie and conveying himself as a man of good character to him, Leonard Reid was taken into the Colonel's home. Within a short time, he became Gillespie's man servant, butler, coachman, constant companion, and close confidante. Colonel and Mrs. Gillespie encouraged and supported Reid in continuing his education. In turn, he excelled and became his class valedictorian. As time passed, Gillespie placed great trust in Reid, even as far as leaving the Colonel's home in Reid' care when he returned to Scotland to attend the funeral of his father, Scottish Nobleman Sir John Gillespie.
While still in the Gillespie home and under their care and employment, Reid met a young woman of color, Eddye (Addyes) Coleman. She had been raised and educated by Gillespie's first wife, Mary, and had been living in the Gillespie home for a number of years. Eddye's mother was related to Lewis Colson who had come to Sarasota in about 1880. Subsequently, her family came to Sarasota sometime before 1886 from Perry, Florida in a horse and carriage. Eddye's mother died when she was 7 years old. Her father had previously passed away and in some manner she came under the care of Mrs. Gillespie. In a February, 1983 article in The Sarasota County Historian, Neal Chapline Swalm, a Leonard Reid acquaintance during Swalm's childhood in the early 1900s, states that "Addie"'s mother "had been left with six small children to raise and no means to support them and had placed her in Mrs. Gillespie's care".
In 1901, with the blessing of Colonel Gillespie, Leonard Reid and Eddye Coleman were married. Both he and his wife continued to work for the Gillespie's after they were first married. Their first child Ray Field was born in 1902 in the Gillespie home. They then moved to a small rental house on Central Avenue. They eventually had four children, all of whom received an education.
About the time of Reid's marriage in 1901, according to Reid in later years, Reid and Gillespie walked through an area of palmettos near downtown sketching a golf course on a map. Colonel Gillespie was an avid golfer based upon his Scottish origins. With Reid at his side, he set out to lay out what has been referred to as one of the first golf courses in the Florida, and perhaps the United States. Reid assisted Gillespie in laying out the nine hole course east of the central business district allowing Reid to be referred to as nation's first greens keeper and caddy. Within a few weeks of beginning to lay out the course, 50 men were clearing the land for fairways. Several years later, in 1916, Reid also assisted prominent landowner and Sarasota citizen Owen Burns in setting up the tees while Gillespie was away during World War I.
In 1904, Reid had conversations with Gillespie about investing $400 in savings in opening a grocery store to go into business for himself. Instead, Gillespie encouraged Reid to invest his money in land. Two years later, in 1906, Reid purchased four lots from Gillespie. The property was at the corner of Coconut and Florida Avenue, from where the house was moved.
While remaining under Gillespie's employment, often Reed was allowed to take on other jobs for other people when needed elsewhere. Apparently, with a love and understanding of children, he was often called upon by parents to watch their children. Parents noticed Reid's good influences such as his dignity, manners, and patience, for days afterward. Reid was also called upon by a number of local women to assist in preparing and assisting with dinner parties, teas, or dances.
Leonard Reid continued his close association with Colonel Gillespie until Gillespie's death in 1923. It was alleged, that after Gillespie's death, Reid related the story that when he and Eddye had married Gillespie knew that they would want a home of their own, but said "not too far away, for I canna do without ye" perhaps based upon Gillespie being childless. Reid allegedly responded that he would not.
In 1925, two years after Gillespie's death, Reid began to build on the parcel of property at the southwest corner of Coconut and 6th Street that he had purchased almost twenty years earlier from the Colonel. Reid oversaw the construction of the subject residential structure and some outbuildings. The house originally had three outbuildings; on the north, a small frame storage shed; a larger frame shed or small barn on the southwest; and a frame garage to the west.
After the demise of Colonel Gillespie and the loss of his employment, Reid went to work for C.N. Payne and worked for various people as a gardener and groundskeeper." The 1927-1928 Sarasota City Directory shows the Reid's living in the house and notes that Leonard Reid was working as the janitor of the American National Bank of Sarasota which opened in 1926. Over the years, Reid purchased additional land in Sarasota.
Leonard Reid was a religious man. According to his daughter, Ethel Reid Hayes, her father based his religion around the Masonic Order and read each night from Masonic books. He helped organize the Masonic Lodge #314 in Sarasota where he eventually rose to a 33rd degree Mason and served for many years as the Worshipful Master. He also was instrumental in the organization of other fraternal organizations in which he enjoyed membership, including the Odd Fellows, the Household of Ruth #3538 in which he served as secretary, and the Knights of Pythias.
He and his wife were founding members and officers who played a prominent role in establishing Sarasota's second oldest African American church, Payne Chapel, the AME Methodist Church, founded in 1906. Their first church building was a one room frame building and was built on land that Gillespie had donated at the northwest corner of today's 5th and Central. The frame church was destroyed in a hurricane in 1926. Subsequently, a new three-story masonry church building was completed in 1927. The building served as the only large meeting place available for large groups of members from the Sarasota African-American community. Substantially rehabilitated several years after a major fire, the church still stands restored on the exterior at 5th Street and Central Avenue.
Reid was a family man and strong advocate of the importance of education. He obtained books and established a library in his own home for children and required visiting children as he had his own when they were younger, to read each night. Reid hired a piano teacher from Tampa to teach piano in his home every Wednesday. He also took pleasure in gathering together young men and offering them guidance.
Less than a week before his death, an article in the Sarasota newspaper, The Breeze, published biographical information on a number of Sarasota's surviving earliest settlers. Reid is alphabetically listed and appears to be the only African American mentioned.
Leonard Reid died in his home on Coconut Avenue of a heart attack on November 19, 1952, one week after being featured as one of the pioneer citizens honored for Sarasota's 50th birthday celebration. Following his death, an article appearing in the Sarasota Herald Tribune on November 20, 1952, it referred to him as:
(The) "Pioneer Negro Citizen of Sarasota", and one of the old timers honored during Sarasota's 50th anniversary celebration.
As evidence of Leonard Reid as one of Sarasota's pioneer settlers, as well as for his many contributions to the Sarasota community, Leonard Reid Avenue was named for him. The street is one block east of U.S. 301, north of Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Neal Chapline Swalm who knew Leonard Reid in his youth, and encountered him again in Sarasota shortly before Reid's death, wrote in an article in The Sarasota County Historian in February, 1983, over thirty years after Reid's death: "Such love, trust and admiration for Leonard by everyone was never misplaced and was to have a lasting effect on the lives of all who came in contact with him".
For more on this article go to Sarasotahistoryalive.com/history/buildings/leonard-reid-family-house/
Luther was born and raised in Michigan, but has been in Florida since 1989. He never went to art school. He learning how to draw by looking, and asking. "I've loved to draw since I was a kid, couldn't afford paints, but always had a pencil, a #2 and a sheet of paper, later color. Color pencils taught me about color blending, now, painting, it all has just transformed. I have to add, Denise Kowal, the Chalk Festival, I love, I've been helped and inspired, to step out of the box. A person, an organization that are truly special to me, and one day we will all prosper because of it. No borders, no boundaries. Lastly, Sarasota, my home for decades, I didn't realize the length and breath of the trials and tribulations for people like me, having grown up in the North. But things are a changing, with folks like Denise, and myself. Lets make the change for the best! The story of black folks in Sarasota, their hard work to build this city, with no recognition, but I felt I would do my part. My part to bring history to the present and the future. Because it took all of us to do so, so lets give credit to where credit is do."