Winter 2015 is going to be one to remember. Even in Florida, the temperatures are below normal with wind making it feel even colder. But no one is complaining! When I docent at the Anna Maria Historical Society, I mention the weather, and the response always is, “It’s not as cold as back home.”
I enjoy sharing information with visitors on the early history of the island. I tell them how in the mid-1800s George Emerson Bean came from Eastern Connecticut to the Tampa Bay region, and then by boat across the bay to this seven mile island. Mr. Bean received a 160 acre land grant, so he brought his family to the island in 1893 as the first settlers. He lived only another four years, so his son carried on with the development of the Island. He hooked up with Charles Roser who came to the island in the early 1900s with the million dollars he was paid for his Fig Newton recipe.
The famous Anna Maria City Pier, built in 1911, brought day trippers from Tampa to the Island for a day at the beach.
A bridge from the mainland was built in early 1920s, bringing more people, businesses, and then residents.
I tell people that as a child riding with my parents we would drive by Spring Lake located in the middle of the island and how I wondered how that could be. Now houses and mangroves crowd around the lake, so visitors have no idea it is there.
Visitors are interested to learn there was a small airport on the island, built to bring in the Hollywood actors (including Peter Lawford and Esther Williams) and film crews to make the film, On An Island With You.
What brings the men in is the historical society’s exhibit on the Boys of Summer. A number of baseball players from various teams had small homes on the Island. My family’s snowbird duplex was located across the road from the family of Cincinnati Reds’ manager Fred Hutchinson.
The historical society has interns working on archiving their collection. There are renovation plans in the works so that more of the collection can be exhibited. In the meantime, the collection is being put online for easy access.
The AMIHS board and docents are to be commended for their hard work in keeping the history of this island available.