Amish of Pinecraft
Pinecraft is a neighborhood of about 3000 Amish and Mennonites in Sarasota, Florida. It’s a tourist destination for Amish and Mennonites from all over North America, in addition to being a point of curiosity for other visitors to Sarasota who might do a double-take when they see an Amish boy roller-blading down Bahia Vista Street or several Amish teenagers walking back from the bus stop with a brand new tan from a day at Siesta Beach.
History of the Amish and Mennonites in Sarasota
The Amish and Mennonites have been coming to Pinecraft since the 1920’s. In the very early days, they farmed the celery fields east of Cattleman Road. By the 1930’s several groups of Amish and Mennonites purchased tracts of land in what is known today as Pinecraft. They worshiped together at The Tourist Church, which still stands on Bahia Vista Street.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s, Virginia Mennonite Conference, Ohio Mennonite Conference and Lancaster Mennonite Conference all established congregations within Sarasota, which had the effect of decreasing some of the interaction between the Amish and Mennonites. Many Amish and Conservative Mennonites remained in Pinecraft, while more moderate and progressive Mennonites dispersed to other locations where the various congregations met.
Sarasota served as the hub of the Amish and Mennonites in Florida for many years to come. The Southeast Mennonite Conference was established, displacing the involvement of other Mennonite conferences. Over the years, the Southeast Mennonite Conference helped to plant new churches throughout Florida, including many ethnic minority congregations in Tampa, Miami, and the Ft Myers area. Today, the Southeast Mennonite Conference is one of the most ethnically diverse Mennonite conferences in North America.
Pinecraft is a Winter Destination for the Amish
Pinecraft, however, remains a favorite winter home and popular destination for Amish and Conservative Mennonites. Because Pinecraft is essentially a Sarasota neighborhood, the Amish who winter there have made some compromises in terms of lifestyle. While they do not drive, neither do they have horses or buggies. Instead, many Amish of Pinecraft use bicycles or public transportation to get around. Likewise, there are no houses in Pinecraft that do not have electricity, so the Amish have accepted the use of electricity as a necessary compromise.
The Amish of Pinecraft enjoy the warm weather, gathering at the park, catching up with friends and relatives on the back streets behind the post office, and like many visitors to Sarasota, eating good food at Yoders Restaurant or Der Dutchman.