A Quick History of Anna Maria Island
For thousands of years, humans have cast their nets on the sand flats and barrier islands in and around Anna Maria Island. Anna Maria’s location at the mouth of Tampa Bay has made it an important part of the history of the Gulf Coast, and the United States. It is one of a string of barrier islands along Florida’s West Coast, including Marco Island, Sanibel Island, Gasparilla Island, Casey Key, Siesta Key, Lido Key and Longboat Key.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, our region was the home to the native Calusa, a proud maritime nation who ruled the Gulf Coast from north of Tampa to the Florida Keys. Nearby to Anna Maria is the Hernando de Soto National Memorial, which commemorates the 1539 arrival of Hernando DeSoto. In the name of the King of Spain, DeSoto came ashore with 600 conquistadors to explore the interior of "La Florida."
Three Cities of Anna Maria
Ladle-shaped Anna Maria Island is actually three cities, Anna Maria to the north, Holmes Beach in the middle and Bradenton Beach to the south. Each of these Manatee County cities has a slightly different identity, but all share the same relaxed feel, and the same beaches. Of the three, Holmes Beach is the largest, and has the most activity, including our island Publix.
While George Bean is generally considered the first modern settler (1893), Anna Maria Island was first developed by Charles M. Roser, whose Boston-based Kennedy Biscuit Company became Nabisco. Roser gained wealth as the father (some here call him the Fig Newton King), but he is remembered on Anna Maria by the Roser Memorial Church, built in honor of his mother (the chapel is open to visitors weekdays). Today, you can step right into the Roser era with Sato Realty; its offices are in the purple Roser Cottage, Charles Roser’s original real estate sales spot. While owner Barbara Sato welcomes visitors, she has long since given up stocking Fig Newtons. "We had Fig Newtons here, but we kept eating them."
Roser’s old Community Center, brought to the island by barge in 1912 to be used as a pavilion when the town was founded, still houses community events as well as the local theater company, The Island Players.
Over the years, many have recharged on Anna Maria, including James Agee, the novelist, and Walter Lippman, the famed journalist. It’s not a stretch to call Anna Maria a real, live Fantasy Island. No less than Ricardo Montalban, Mr. Roark, first heard about tropical islands and planes when he filmed On an Island With You at the old Holmes Beach Airport.
The picturesque pieces of Anna Maria’s past are still a part of island life today, including the Anna Maria City Pier, which opened in 1910. While so many historic Florida fishing piers have been lost to time, the City Pier and nearby Rod & Reel Pier have survived. In 1922, a bridge opened up from Cortez, the island began to grow even more; during World War II, the island had strategic importance as German U-boats prowled the Gulf of Mexico. Through the 20th century, the island slowly developed its character, without losing its soul, even in 1964, when tolls came off the island.
Anna Maria residents are content to let Longboat Key, the island just south, grab all the glitz, glamour and high-rises. There was even a bit of a buzz back around 2000, when numerous national magazines "discovered" Anna Maria Island. But the island’s character won out.
Want to play your part in the pageant of Anna Maria history? Contact Sato Real Estate, and you too can be a part of the story of this most unhurried island.