Historical Society shares Island history
AMI Historical Society | submitted
Uncle Sam Ditmas delivered the mail from the first
post office at Cobb's Marine Ways in Holmes Beach.
HOLMES BEACH – AMI Historical Society board member Lynn Brennan shared her love of Island history with a full house of interested residents and visitors recently at the Island Branch Library.
“My parents bought land here on Oak Avenue in 1949,” Brennan told the group. “Since then, we have lived there as a second home. My husband and I built a home on Oak Avenue and moved here full time about a year and a half ago.”
She explained that two residents got together in 1990 to preserve the Island’s history. The city of Anna Maria gave them the old ice house, which also had been city hall, a garage, a police station and the turtle house over the years.
“We recently had the museum refurbished and cleaned, and the documents are being digitized by interns from New College,” she continued.
“Our mission statement is to share the history of the Island with people and one way is through our docents. Another is with the help of two books by one of the founders, “The Early Days” and “Tales of Three Cities.”
Brennan then presented five questions “Jeopardy” style for audience members to answer by listening to the presentation. She started with the Indians, who came to the Island to hunt and fish, but did not live here.
The Spaniards explored the area in 1532 and in 1839, the U.S. government commissioned a map of the Tampa Bay area on which Anna Maria Island was called Long Island.
“In 1893, George Emerson Bean was the first settler,” Brennan said. “He had a government grant to develop a huge tract of land from today’s Bean Point to Ginny’s and Jane E’s. He dreamed that this Island would become a resort for day visitors because the only way to get here was by boat."
In 1896, Jose Casanas established a fish camp in Bradenton Beach. In 1897, Sam and Annie Cobb homesteaded in Holmes Beach, and in 1901, Rurick Cobb became the first settler in Bradenton Beach.
In 1903, Casanas applied for a homestead in Bradenton Beach, and in 1906, Rurick Cobb built the Gulf Park Hotel, the Island’s first hotel, across Gulf Drive from the current Sandpiper Mobile Home Park.
In 1907, Sam Cobb built Cobb’s Marine Ways, the Island’s first commercial establishment, at the end of 52nd Street. The first post office was housed there, and a colorful character named Uncle Sam Ditmas delivered mail.
John and Caroline Roser came to the north end of the Island in 1910 to invest money they made selling the patent to the Fig Newton to Nabisco for $1 million. They joined with George Emerson Bean and George Wilhelm Bean to form the Anna Maria Beach Company and create a resort.
Captain Mitch Davis, a developer and architect, also joined them and built the city pier in 1911, Roser Chapel in 1913 and the first schoolhouse, where the Island Community Center is now located, in 1914.
In 1921, the first bridge was built from Cortez to Bradenton Beach, where the city’s pier now stands. This opened the Island up to more people, who came and built homes, but little was done until Jack Holmes began developing Holmes Beach in the 30s and 40s.