Venice in Sarasota County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
Kentucky Military Institute
“The Military School with a Winter Home in Sunny Florida”
Text on the Front Side of the Marker:
During Florida's Boom Period, 1922-1928, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) purchased 30,000 acres in Venice, believing it was a sound investment where "rail, trail, and water meet." They hired renowned city planner John Nolen to design Venice. Construction soared, but land sales soon slowed and eventually halted. The BLE pulled out in 1928, and as a result of the economic bust and the Great Depression, Venice became a veritable ghost town.
West Point graduate Robert T. P. Allen established the Kentucky Military Institute (KMI) near Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1845. In 1906, KMI established a Florida winter campus in Eau Gallie, near Melbourne, to improve the cadets' health and academic performance by reducing sick leave through Florida's available year-round recreation. In 1932, Colonel Charles B. Richmond selected Venice as its new winter campus as the previous one had burned. KMI initially rented and later bought the San Marco Hotel (today's Venice Centre Mall), the Hotel Venice (now a retirement center), and the Annex between the two to provide housing for the faculty and cadets, as well as classrooms, kitchen, dining hall, offices, and infirmary.
Text on the Back Side of the Marker:
On January 5, 1933, 1500 people welcomed the first KMI contingent of students, faculty, and staff. Venice soon benefitted from the infusion of funds spent by the newcomers and their visiting families and friends; one report stated, "The school breathed new life into the discouraged city." The colorful and inspiring Sunday dress parades, held on the parade grounds (today's Centennial Park and municipal parking lot), quickly became a favorite attraction for residents and tourists; for the cadets it was "testing time" as they were inspected and graded. The cadet band and the Kentucky Rifles, a precision drill platoon, also participated. The Sweetheart Parade, held close to Valentine's Day, honored five local young ladies, each sponsored by one of the five cadet corps. Athletic competitions, such as track meets, were held on the parade grounds, too. In 1970 the Venice campus closed, and KMI sold its Kentucky properties in 1973. Decreased enrollment, higher operating costs, and anti-war sentiments during the Vietnam War contributed to the school's closure. Venice, however, has never forgotten the cadets and their important role in the city's history.
Erected by Sarasota County Historical Commission.
Location. 27° 6.043′ N, 82° 26.78′ Touch for map. This marker is located in the downtown business district, across the street (to the south) from the Venice Mall, and on the northern edge of the public parking lot in the center of the downtown business district. Marker is in this post office area: Venice FL 34285, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. San Marco Hotel (a few steps from this marker); Ennes Arcade and Hotel Valencia 1926 (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Hotel Venice (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Kentucky Military Institute (about 400 feet away); Johnson-Schoolcraft Building 1926 (about 500 feet away); Venice (about 500 feet away); Welcome to Heritage Court / Fred H. Albee, M.D. (approx. 0.3 miles away); Lord - Higel House Restoration Project (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Venice.
Categories. • Education • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 17, 2015, by Dale K. Benington of Toledo, Ohio. This page has been viewed 490 times since then and 261 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on September 17, 2015, by Dale K. Benington of Toledo, Ohio.