Log in Subscribe

Sunday Favorites: Robert L. Taylor Community Center

https://www.thebradentontimes.com/clientuploads/news_images/201212/Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 11.00.46 AM.png
The Robert L. Taylor Community Center, 1845 34th St. Sarsota, when it served black servicemen during WWII. 

The Robert L. Taylor Community Center in Sarasota has a long and storied connection to the black community. Founded in during WWII, the center has played host to neighborhood kids, future sports stars and community leaders. Newtown resident John Floyd could be considered the community center's founder, but the recreational facility became one of many projects Floyd would have a hand in.

Floyd first built the Old Folk Aid Home, a first of its kind assisted living facility in Sarasota County that catered to the black community. It was the expertise gained by Floyd in the construction of the old folks home, that helped build the famed wood frame structure that would one day be the Robert L. Taylor Community Center.

Floyd came to Sarasota in 1925, at the height of Florida's building boom. During the next half century he made his mark on Sarasota. As a builder he helped make a new facility for Mount Moriah Baptist Church and taught carpentry at Booker High School. He died in 1974.

The building has had many iterations, starting as a "Colored Service Men's Club" that served black soldiers during WWII.

There were two airforce bases in Sarasota County because the area provided the perfect training center for wartime practice. However, as most of the soldiers were white, they had their own clubs which didn't welcome their dark skinned brethren.

Robert "Bud" Thomas was a semi-pro baseball player who played in the negro leagues. He played short stop for the Nine Devils, a Sarasota-based team that often beat clubs from larger cities, like Tampa and St. Petersburg.

He did not have the chance to play professional baseball, so he would later support Taylor's efforts to build programs aimed at youth sports at the center.

The path of the center changed in 1950, when Ken Thompson, then city manager, added recreational activities to the traditional programs. It was then he hired Robert L. Thompson, an up-and-coming community leader, to help guide the community center post-WWII.

Thomas would play a vital role in the center, acting as a mentor and guidling light for Taylor. Together they fashioned community-centric ideas for the communtiy, like a basketball program that began with an outdoor court.

The outdoor courts became a magnet for pick-up games, drawing players, fans and "wannabes" together to "The Rec", as it became known, for fun, friendship and self confidence.

The center is now a 44,000 sq ft complex that features just about everything, from a weight room to baseball fields to a swimming pool. It is even famous for helping to produce NFL stars. Because of Floyd, Taylor, Thomas, Thompson and the many others that have contributed to the project over the years, the Robert L. Taylor Community Center has immeasurably enriched the lives of Sarasota kids, and will surely continue to do so for a long time.


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.