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ANNA MARIA ISLAND

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About:  Anna Maria's history begins in 1513 with a man and a tale familiar to us all - Ponce de Leon's quest for the Fountain of Youth.  This mythical spring was reputed to have the powers to cure illness and to give eternal youth.   As an added incentive to discovery, the fountain was supposedly surrounded with gold and silver.

Juan Ponce de Leon had accompanied Columbus on his second trip to America in 1493.  In 1506 he discovered Puerto Rico and later became its governor.  Still, he thirsted for more power and finally convinced King Ferdinand of Spain to finance galleons and men so he could seek the Fountain of Youth.  

 The king granted his request and Ponce began his quest for the Fountain of Youth.  In that journey, he discovered Florida itself on Easter Sunday, naming it "Pascua de Florida" which means "Feast of Flowers", the Spanish name for this holy day.  His quest continued as he journeyed up the Gulf Coast of Florida nearly five hundred years ago and named our small island Ana-Maria-Cay to honor the Virgin Mary and her mother Anne. 

The Spanish dreams of wealth and magic in the New World intensified.  This painting of the Fountain of Youth was created by Lucas Cranach 25 years after Ponce passed away.

In 1539, the Spaniards returned.   Hernando De Soto landed just across the bay from Anna Maria at Shaw's Point in Bradenton and started a settlement.  De Soto, by the way, wasn't fooled by that old myth of the Fountain of Youth.  He was looking for El Dorado the City of Gold.  His passion for plunder led him to explore thousands of miles of the New World but eventually De Soto became sick and died.  When he did, his disheartened men soon returned to Mexico.

Things stayed quiet for a few hundred years . . .

In 1892, George Emerson Bean became the islandís first permanent resident.  Bean, a world traveler who hailed from Connecticut, homesteaded 160 acres at the north end of the island.  His property stretched from Magnolia Avenue, one block south of our resort, past the present location of the Rod & Reel Pier.  The tip of the island at the far right hand side is still known as Bean Point.

Mr. Bean passed away in 1898 but just after the turn of the century his son, George Wilhelm Bean, teamed up with a financier named Charles Roser. Together, they formed the Anna Maria Beach Company, laid out the streets and started developing the town of Anna Maria.
Roser, it turns out, is not only the father of Anna Maria; he's also known as the inventor of the Fig Newton. The Kennedy Biscuit Company of Massachusetts began producing the cookies in 1891.  Kennedy Biscuit had a tradition of naming cookies and crackers after surrounding towns and you still see "Beacon Hill" and "Shrewsbury" brands on store shelves.  Newton, Massachusetts was also in the neighborhood.
In 1898, Kennedy Biscuit joined a national network of bakeries to form the National Biscuit Company, later known as Nabisco.  While rumor has it that Roser made his fortune selling the "Fig Newton recipe" to Kennedy Biscuit Works I suspect that his financial windfall was more closely related to the stock of Kennedy Biscuit, especially after it became Nabisco.  Roser's original clapboard home, built in 1912, still stands next to the Siam Garden Resort.

In 1911, the company built a 678-foot long pier at the end of Pine Avenue enabling ships full of visitors and supplies to dock.  Despite numerous hurricanes, the pier still stands at the end of our block, the favorite rendezvous for tourists, fishermen and locals alike.

In 1913, Charles Roser built our island's first church; the Roser Memorial Community Church.  Its oil lit cross served as a beacon for fishermen returning from the Gulf of Mexico.

Starting in 1921 visitors could finally drive onto the island using a rickety wooden bridge that connected at the fishing village of Cortez.  It also came in handy for mackerel fishing, a delicacy that has largely been replaced with fresh Florida grouper, stone crab claws and smoked mullet.

1957, the county opened the modern drawbridges on Manatee and Cortez Roads.  The wining and dining continues but the town of Anna Maria remains charming, dignified and unspoiled.  If anything, perhaps it's a little quieter now than it was 50 or even 80 years ago!

We don't have McDonalds or Burger King or 7-11.  Actually, there isn't a single franchised shop or restaurant in the town.  There are no high-rise buildings.  Anna Maria doesn't even have a stop light. We do have beautiful beaches on both sides of our tiny town, and a collection of interesting, privately owned shops, marinas and restaurants to explore.  Anna Maria is a wonderful place to find peace.  Walk on the beach.  Sit by a pool.  Read a book.  Write a book.  Or just enjoy life.

Historical information provided by siamgardenresort.com

 

 

 

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