New College of Florida students and Newtown residents came together on April 14 to beautify the Wright Bush home.
The Wright Bush house at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Maple Avenue was once a popular gathering place for Newtown residents and visitors. During World War II, African-American soldiers stationed at the U.S. Army base near the present-day Sarasota–Bradenton International Airport were not allowed to socialize with their white counterparts due to Jim Crow laws. Instead, they mingled at the Bush home, where some of them met their future spouses. Black community leaders used the home to host meetings, and blues musician B.B. King spent a night at the house.
During a tour of Newtown’s historic landmarks, New College of Florida students met the home’s current owner, Margaret Beverly Mitchell Moreland, who said the home was in desperate need of renovations.
Student Angela McTigue was compelled to help in some way. McTigue, along with four other New College students, decided to spearhead a community effort to paint the exterior of the home. They wrote a grant application to the Community Foundation of Sarasota, which provided $1,200 for paint and supplies. They also partnered with Newtown Alive, an organization dedicated to preserving the history of the neighborhood, and Newtown resident and contractor Calvin Bryant.
Volunteers spent their day on April 14 putting a fresh new coat on the exterior of the home.
“We learned that this house means a lot to the family,” said New College student Asia Lord. “Hopefully, as we do this, other people will hear about it and would want to help contribute to preserving this house.”
Wright Bush, a businessman involved in constructing Sarasota’s early roads, homes, schools and churches, built the home in 1920. Bush and his wife, Sarah, were also advocates for educating African-American children. Their home was the first to receive electricity in Newtown.
Moreland, the granddaughter of Wright and Sarah Bush, said her grandparents wanted to make sure the home stayed with the family so that no family member would ever be homeless.
“I'm happy and I thank everyone responsible for this project,” she said. “It's been needed for a long time. I'm happy it's going to look like it's worthy of its history.”