Florida Car Museum Evicted by State College With Only Few Weeks’ Notice

They have to move 150 cars, and soon, so Sarasota’s politicized New College can build an athletic facility.

byNico DeMattia|
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The Sarasota Classic Car Museum has been one of the city's most popular museums since 1953 and now, sadly, it only has a couple of weeks to pack up every classic car and leave. Sarasota's New College of Florida terminated the museum's lease in May and now the museum—and everything in it—needs to be out by the end of June.

In January, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed new board members for New College, the small liberal arts state school. The DeSantis-appointed board members fired the existing president and named their own, Richard Corcoran. According to the New York Times, the appointing of a new board and hiring of a new president were reportedly done as a conservative transformation, to make the school more like Michigan's Hillsdale College, a small Christian school that's been active in politics. Part of DeSantis' and Corcoran's transformation plan is to build a new athletics facility, which is where the classic car museum comes in—or, rather, goes out.

Martin Godbey

Martin Godbey, who runs the museum, was called by New College's new board in May. He was told that he had just over a month to get everything out so they could use the museum's facilities for their planned athletics program.

"At this point, they’ve given us a very short [eviction] timeframe of two weeks from now," Godbey told The Drive.

He asserts that simply isn't enough time to move more than 150 classic, incredibly valuable cars. Not only is the logistics of moving the cars a hurdle but there isn't anywhere to put them. "We have nowhere to go," he said.

Godbey plans to keep the museum alive, regardless of its location, but finding a new one in such a short time is the biggest obstacle to overcome. What happens if Godbey can't find a location for the cars or get them out in time? "We don’t know what expect, to be honest," Godbey said. He's tried asking for a time extension but says he hasn't heard back. In fact, he claims he hasn't heard anything from New College since he was told to pack up and leave.

The Sarasota Classic Car Museum is a local landmark, having been there for 70 years. The land used to belong to John Ringling—founder of the Ringling Brothers Circus—who left it to the state of Florida after his passing. Since then, much of the land has been used for museums, including not only the Classic Car Museum but also the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Naturally, then, the locals don't want to see it go.

"Local support is overwhelmingly warm," said Godbey. "[We're] finding a great deal of public support, both locally and elsewhere."

Prior to the recent makeover, the museum had a good relationship with New College. It's employed part-time students in the past and even held events for the college and its administrators. So this move from New College isn't only a shock to Godbey, it's a shock to most who live nearby.

Godbey doesn't want to be seen as controversial and he's trying to cooperate. After all, he acknowledges it's the state's land and they can do what they want. However, it's hard to not be frustrated about the situation.

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