Sarasota, Florida, was first chartered by a group of Scottish businessmen in 1903. Dunfermline, Scotland, became Sarasota’s fifth sister city in signing ceremonies at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in October 2002. Dunfermline’s ties with Sarasota include the magnificent interior of the 500-seat Asolo State Theatre, which contains the stage and interior decor from the turn-of-the-century Dunfermline, Scotland Opera House.
The Dunfermline relationship began in 1999 with first contacts followed by visits to Dunfermline by Sarasota delegations in the summer of 2000. The town twinning was first formulated in 2001, with an official signing ceremony in the Dunfermline City Chambers on August 23, 2001.
Sarasota’s connection with Scotland began in 1885 when 65 colonists, promised a ”sunny paradise,” left Scotland for Sarasota, but an unusually cold winter and hard life forced most of the colonists to leave the area. To keep their colonial venture from becoming a complete disaster, the directors of the Florida Mortgage and Investment Company sent Colonel John Hamilton Gillespie, a Scottish-American soldier, land developer, businessman and politician, to help manage the company’s interests in Sarasota. With Gillespie’s arrival in spring 1886, work crews began to lay out the new town. Within a month (months?) of his arrival, he had built a house and a two-hole golf course behind. He had installed a nine-hole course by 1904 thus officially bringing golf to Sarasota.
In 1902 the voters of Sarasota decided to incorporate. Colonel Gillespie was elected first mayor of the town, a position he held for six terms.
Dunfermline is the largest community, population 42,210, in West Fife, situated in close proximity to the Forth Bridges and easily accessible from the M90 motorway. Dunfermline’s royal and monastic past dominates a town with great historical significance in the United Kingdom.
The ancient capital of Scotland, Dunfermline boasts a royal palace, a twelfth-century Abbey—the final resting place of King Robert the Bruce and the post-Iona burial site of the Kings and Queens of Scotland—the restored 15th century Abbot House, and the cave in which Saint Margaret prayed. King Malcolm Canmore held court after the death of Macbeth at the now-ruined fortified tower in the heart of Pittencrieff Park, which abounds in wildlife. Dunfermline is the birthplace of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie—in a humble weaver’s cottage—along with featuring the Ornate City Chambers in the French Gothic Style and the elegant spire of the Old Sheriff Court. The latter remain impressive landmarks. The main shopping center for West Fife, Dunfermline is also home to the Dunfermline Athletic Football Club.