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    Tuesday, 10 March 2015

    The History of Anna Maria Island

    Anna Maria Island is steeped in some wonderful history and none are more proud of this than the islanders of today.

    All around the Island, you will find buildings, museums, murals, paintings, exhibits and events celebrating the rich history that has developed on Anna Maria and made the island what it is today.

    Anna Maria Island – The Beginning

    George Emerson Bean was the first permanent resident on Anna Maria Island, in 1892, settling with his family at the North end of the Island. George and his son George ‘Will’ Wilhelm, along with Charles Roser, are the persons most responsible for developing much of what is now the City of Anna Maria.

    From 1910 they surveyed, laid out streets as well as sidewalks and built houses. They assembled a dock, the same City Pier, which attracts fishermen and tourists today at the end of Pine Avenue; as well as large steamers which would bring supplies, mail and visitors to the Island. A bathing pavilion was constructed where the Sandbar restaurant sits today as well as many other historic landmarks, which can still be found on the Island.

    Anna Maria Island City Pier

    As the island continued to develop, more people began to settle here, including some young entrepreneurs.  And, with them came further builds including the islands first resort lodge – The Gulf Park Hotel, where German-Americans would come for the weekend or on vacation, a bridge linking the island to the mainland and the installation of phone lines.  Florida’s Famous Year-round Resort’ began taking shape. 

    Charles Roser also built himself a Real Estate office, situated within easy walking distance to the City Pier which accommodated all the boats brining the influx or visitors and potential residents. Sato Real Estate (the fantastic Management Agents that look after all our guests when they visit) is still using this building as a Real Estate office today. A beautiful purple colour, it’s not hard to spot!

    Sato Real Estate office on Anna Maria Island

    Historical Sites to visit on Anna Maria

    Bean Point

    A visit to Bean Point while on the island is a must. Named after George, it is the point at the very tip of the island, where the sandy beaches meet and showcases the most breath-taking views of the sunset on a beautiful, serene and secluded stretch of beach.

    Historic Green Village

    One, more significant development on the island is the Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue. As its name suggests, it is home to a number of historic buildings including the Rosedale Cottage, built over 100 years ago by Captain Mitch Davies for George W. Bean. Mitch also built the Roser Church, which is across the street from the Green Village, and you can see that both buildings use the same moulded concrete blocks that were shipped in from Tampa. 

    Anna Maria Island's Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue

    The City Jail was another one of Mitch’s constructions, which still stands on Pine Avenue, the icehouse and the Anglers Lodge, another wonderful building, again over 100 years old, that is also on site at the Green Village. 

    The Anglers Lodge was a huge undertaking, as alongside the Sears Cottage (an original Sears Catalog flat pack home), they were literally picked up and moved to the Pine Avenue site from other parts of the island. A significant investment not only of time and money but planning, determination and nerve. As these two old buildings came across water and roads where they were then painstakingly and lovingly re-developed to become the most energy efficient buildings on the island, and one of only 100 buildings with the green accreditations they have in the world! 

    If you would like to read more about the Historic Green Village and the buildings on site click on this link. 

    All around the island you will find lots of information about historical sites. Plaques have been written and installed by the Historical Society at key sites of historical prominence and it’s a really great way to discover more about AMI.

    Anna Maria Mural

    Anna Maria Island's infamous mural was commissioned by Mike and Lizzie Thrasher

    One other notable piece of artwork is this fantastic mural. It depicts Anna Maria during the early part of the 20th century when the City Pier was a hive of activity. Passenger steamers would bring visitors and produce from Tampa and fishermen sold their catch to buyers from the mainland, whilst the guitar player played for pennies from the visitors.  

    Anna Maria Island's mural depicting the lively community at the City Pier at the start of the 20th Century

    Commissioned by Mike and Lizzie Thrasher, it can be found on the wall of 314 Pine Avenue! Go and take a look, it is incredible and another wonderful part of the island heritage.

    Anna Maria Historical Society and Historical Park

    To find out more about this fantastic island, a visit to the Anna Maria Historical Society and Historical Park is a must. Located in Anna Maria’s old ice house on Pine Avenue, which was built in 1920, you will discover Anna Maria through the years with lots of fantastic old photographs and artefacts from the early 1900’s. You will also find on site, the Anna Maria City Jail and Belle Haven Cottage. 

    Anna Maria Island's Historical Park

    Most troublemakers who found themselves in the Anna Maria City Jail were nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes since the 1927-built jail lacked any windows (but had bars!). Needless to say, a night in the jail proved to be the best preventative for trouble on the Island. After the first couple of dozen offenders were put behind bars, most of the violations stopped. 

    The jail was used until the 1940s when a fire burned the wooden structures including the roof. Thanks to the foresight of Harry Varley, founder of the original Islander newspaper, the jail was left standing. Eventually slogans were painted on the walls and it became a “must stop and see” for over 60 years. It was even featured in Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” 

    Anna Maria Island's famed City Jail

    The story of Belle Haven is a beautiful one. It was originally built as a fish packing plant and was also used as a bait shop and even a rental cottage, when after many years and being riddled with worm, it was deposited into Tampa Bay in 1926. 

    Anna Maria Island's Belle Haven

    After being purchased by Lyman Christy and his wife for $125 it was then barged around the point to 109 Palmetto Avenue where is served as their home for 50 years. After this it was then donated to the Historical Society (circa 2000) and the cottage was then moved to the historic park in 2001, where it was restored some years later. It now sits on the banks of Lake LaVista canal just steps from the City Pier and its original home on Tampa Bay!

    You will have so much fun learning all about this wonderful island on your visit to Anna Maria. It really is fantastic to see so much support and love from the islanders today, in protecting their heritage. 

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