ABOUT MANATEE COUNTY
Manatee County lies along the Gulf of Mexico north of Sarasota and south of Tampa Bay. The County boasts 150 miles of shoreline along the Gulf, Sarasota and Tampa Bays, and the Manatee River. Named for the West Indian Manatee, the county treasures this large, easygoing aquatic mammal. In the warmest months, manatees can be seen in area waters grazing through pastures of sea grass.
Picturesque villages and resort communities dot the barrier islands, bay & river shorelines. Inland are bright cityscapes, modern family oriented developments, luxurious country club communities, and thousands of acres of peaceful countryside. The eastern part of the county, with its rural atmosphere, is an area of recent development and a center for fruit and vegetable production and colorful crops of flowers and cattle.
Area history takes you into the past, to the arrival of Hernando DeSoto in Tampa Bay in 1539. In May of that year, he led an army of 600 conquistadors ashore at the mouth of the Manatee River in search of gold and other riches. DeSoto never found the gold he sought, and ignored the riches of land and water all around him. It was another three centuries before anyone discovered the treasure that DeSoto overlooked. But finally in 1842, Josiah Gates came upon the haven of the gentle Manatee, and when he and others laid out their settlement, they gave it the name of the creature the Spaniards had called the sea cow.
When the railroad came shortly after the turn of the last century, and bridges and highways made access easy, the once rural area became a mecca for retirees and vacationers. The first winter residents came in 1924, and by the 1930's, major league baseball players were regular springtime residents. Some, like St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Dizzie Dean, stayed through the winter. In 1969, the Pittsburgh Pirates began spring training in Bradenton, and today, they train at a newly renovated McKechnie Field. Today, it is not surprising that so many people have chosen Manatee County. Their choice attests to the vitality of the area that continues to draw people from all walks of life, whether young families, corporate executives, or retirees.
Interstate 75, the major north-south route through the county, brought a boom in residential development to surrounding areas. The unincorporated community of Parrish in northeastern Manatee County is also developing rapidly.
In the past two decades, the county's population has more than doubled, attracting national attention when Money Magazine ranked our area as the 21st Best Place To Live in America in 1997 and PC World ranked us as the 2nd Best Mid-Size City To Work From Home.
Manatee County has six major population centers. The two largest incorporated communities, Bradenton and Palmetto, are on the mainland. The next largest encompasses the island of Longboat Key. Anna Maria Island at the entrance to Tampa Bay is the site of the other three communities: Anna Maria at the northern tip, Holmes Beach near the center, and Bradenton Beach to the south.
The county's largest city and the county seat, Bradenton, with a population of close to 50,000, is also its center of commerce, government, health and social services, and much of the area's cultural life. Increasingly cosmopolitan in character, the city retains its small-town charm. A number of new residential sections complement older established neighborhoods in both urban and suburban settings. Founded in the 1840's as the Village of Manatee, Bradenton is one of the southwest Florida's oldest cities. It was named for Joseph Braden, an early settler who grew sugar cane and operated a sugar mill. A century later, food processor Anthony Rossi settled in Bradenton and founded Fruit Industries, a company known worldwide today as Tropicana North America.
Lying along the northern shore of the Manatee River, Palmetto is the second largest municipality in the county with a population just under 10,000. Chartered in 1897, the city blends past and present. Restored elegant older homes on Palmetto's west side lend an atmosphere of days gone by, while large condominium developments speak boldly of today. Palmetto is the agricultural center of the county and is noted for its fruit and vegetable production, especially tomatoes. Many business owners have also discovered downtown Palmetto as an excellent place to locate their businesses. The area continues to grow and has been the target of much redevelopment.
Popular since the early 1900's, Anna Maria was founded by Charles Roser, father of the Fig Newton, who reportedly made his fortune when he sold the recipe to Nabisco. The town numbers about 1,800 residents who treasure the life they enjoy on the island. Between the Gulf and the Intercoastal Waterway, Anna Maria is surrounded on three sides by beaches, which are part of an island-wide program to replenish and protect them from erosion.
The 600-acre village on the Gulf of Mexico got its name from developer John Holmes. Incorporated in 1950, it is the island's largest community. Several condominium developments and shopping areas serve the resident population of nearly 5,000. Here prime assets are the Manatee Public Beach and the community's population of free-roaming peacocks, which never fail to charm visitors
Near the southern end of the island, Bradenton Beach has a population of about 1,600. It was incorporated in 1953 and grew up around the first bridge to the mainland. Much of the community's restored business district is oriented toward vacationers who come to enjoy the surrounding beaches, especially Coquina Beach which is a 96-acre public recreational park.
The island of Longboat Key lies between the Gulf and Sarasota Bay and is within both Manatee and Sarasota counties. Twelve miles of white sand beaches and a highly rated golf course have helped to make this a luxury resort community. A large number of its nearly 6,000 residents are retirees who enjoy the island's championship golf course, tennis club, fine dining and shopping.