Prehistoric native people were the first inhabitants of the Elling Eide Center’s property. Two archaeological sites have been identified on the property, “Indianola”, a prehistoric shell midden that was recorded along the bayfront to the west of the Everett Barney Lagoon in 1976, and the “Indianola Scatter Site”, which was recorded in 2010. Excavations of the site show that the most likely use of the land by early inhabitants was repeated, short-term use by small groups, as the edible resources were limited and seasonal. The “Ralston Mound”, a burial mound likely dating to circa CE 600-800, has been recorded just north of the property on the Sarasota County-owned Bayonne Preserve and the Indianola sites were likely formed in the same period.
Everett Hosmer Barney was the first person to continuously own what now constitutes the Foundation’s property. Toward the end of the Civil War, Barney and partner John Berry invented the widely popular clip-on ice and roller skates and formed a company, Barney and Berry. In 1902, he purchased land owned by Bullard and Bissell along Little Sarasota Bay and named the estate “Bayou Villa”. He commissioned a winter home, a one-and-a-half story Frame Vernacular house that was distinguished by its prominent brick chimneys, wraparound porch, and steeply pitched gable roofs.
Barney raised alligators for their hides in what is now named, “Everett Barney Lagoon”. A wire fence lined the perimeter to prevent the alligators from escaping. Workers gathered alligator eggs and placed them in an outbuilding north of the Barney Residence until they hatched. Then the baby alligators, estimated to number in the thousands, were released into a 30-foot wide spring-fed pool.
When Barney died in 1916, his estate was sold to Helen Brooks Smith in late 1920. In the 1920s Florida was amid a land boom and Smith sought to develop the expansive grounds into a residential community she named, “Indianola”. Smith served food and sold gasoline, fruits, fish, and oysters from “The Club House”, which the Barney estate renamed. No more than a dozen parties bought land in Indianola and the land boom soon came to an end, Smith decided to sell the property.
Smith eventually sold Indianola to the Longmire Company in 1925, but two years later it was back under the control of the Indianola Development Company, then led by president E.A. Donovan and secretary Walter H. Donovan. In 1930, Holt W. Page bought the remains of Indianola Park and the former Barney Residence had burned down by then.
On May 11, 1935, Oliver Luther Mitchell bought Page’s approximately 100-acre property for $12,317.67. Mitchell, a widowed Chicago medical doctor, sought relief from the severe asthma attacks he suffered in the winter. He traveled throughout Florida with his son, Oliver Luther Mitchell Jr., before he selected Indianola.
In March 1936, Mitchell bought a ca. 1895 house in Bradenton from Marvell J. Gainey for $1,500 and paid Robert T. Garrett $602.80 to float it on a barge to his tract. The Mitchell Residence was placed on the footprint where the Barney Residence once stood.
In fall 1936, Dr. Mitchell’s daughter, Dr. Grace Bush Eide, a medical doctor who also had studied law, moved to
the property with her husband, Dr. Iver Eide, and their son, Elling Oliver Eide.
Two agricultural operations were evident in 1948 aerial photographs. A citrus grove was located to the southeast between the water tower and pump house, and the stable. Mitchell’s larger grove to the north was also visible.
Elling would later describe life at Indianola as “bohemian.” He often fished and collected oysters, scallops, and clams from Little Sarasota Bay and his family had animals such as a horse, chickens, roosters, peacocks, opossums, gopher tortoises, dogs, and cats, including one with five legs named “Royal Flush”.
Dr. Oliver Luther Mitchell, Sr. died in 1958, and the estate was inherited by his children, his son Dr. Oliver Luther Mitchell Jr., and daughter, Dr. Grace Eide who continued to live on the property with her husband, Dr. Iver Eide.
Elling attended Southside Elementary School, Sarasota Junior High, and Sarasota High School. He graduated from high school in 1953 and matriculated at Harvard University on a scholarship. Eide graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard with a degree in Far Eastern Language in 1957. He then joined the United States Marine Corps and was stationed throughout Asia before he returned to Harvard in 1965 as a Junior Fellow. He was an assistant professor of Chinese at the University of Illinois until 1971 when he took a leave of absence to return to his estate to care for the family and the grounds of the estate. On his return, he planted hundreds of exotic fruiting and flowering plants.
In 2005, Elling Eide sold a portion of the estate for almost 30 million dollars. In 2008, Elling Eide began work with local architect Guy Peterson to plan the construction of a retirement home and library to house his personal collection. Unfortunately, as the foundation of the library was being laid Elling O. Eide passed away on January 2, 2012.
The hard work of the building of the center continued. Elling’s two cousins, Eide President & CEO Harold G. Mitchell, (son of Dr. Oliver Luther Mitchell, Jr.), and board treasurer, Lee Eide Elliot, saw the project to fruition.
The Elling Eide Center Research library is Elling O. Eide’s vision, realized.