Anna Maria Island is well-known for its exclusive and luxurious Anna Maria Island vacation rentals, many lovely beaches, “Old Florida” charm, and restaurants and attractions.
The island also has an impressive and intriguing history, with plenty of old buildings and historic sites that still stand today, and fascinating stories about each one.
You can learn much about the island’s journey to the 21st century right on 402 Pine Avenue at the Anna Maria Historical Society, a destination full of exhibits and historic structures and one of the top things to do on Anna Maria Island.
There’s no admission cost, making it an ideal stop for a group or family. Spending just a short time here will get you up to speed with some of the traditions and stories that shaped the island into the incredible vacation destination that it is today.
The Old Jail
One of the most popular Anna Maria Island attractions is the Old Jail, and its remnants can be found right in the back yard of the Historical Society.
The jail was opened back in 1927 for the sole purpose of dealing with the bar patrons who were disturbing the neighborhood at night.
Because it was exposed to the open air with no windows, anyone who had the misfortune of being held there overnight would be bitten by countless mosquitos.
The jail became a popular photo location after it caught fire and could no longer be used in the 1940s. The slogan painted on the outside of the jail reads, “No Roof, No Doors, No Windows, No Bars, No Guests for Yrs n’ Yrs. Anna Maria City Jail. Air Conditioned.”
Another Anna Maria Island historic attraction is the Mangrove Walk, located in the Anna Maria Historical Society Park. This site was a well-established picnic destination in the early 1900s and was also one of the original fresh water wells established on the island. It now offers visitors an education on the native plants of the island along with “green” landscaping techniques.
Belle Haven is a historical cottage that was originally built as a fish packing plant in the year 1920 on the City Pier. The cottage fell into the bay in 1926, and after being pulled from the water it was used as a home for almost 5 decades.
In order to be saved from demolition, the cottage was moved to the Historical Park in 2001. Today you can still find it in the park filled with antiques, heirlooms and furniture to showcase what life was like in the early days.
Other Historic Buildings on Pine Avenue
After visiting the society, stop by some of the other historic buildings and destinations that are within walking distance on Pine Avenue, along with plenty of restaurants and dessert shops.
The Roser Church was originally built in 1913 on Pine Avenue by Charles Roser, one of the island’s founders, in memory of his mother. The church still stands and is still active at 512 Pine Avenue. It has served the community for over a century, making it a fascinating building to view.
The Historic Green Village is also nearby where you can enjoy both a historic and modern island experience. This is an environmentally-friendly small group of buildings located at 501-507 Pine Avenue. The owners self-funded projects to restore the buildings and make them energy efficient, including some structures that were over 100 years old.
The buildings in the village are powered by solar panels and use recycled rainwater. Many of the buildings are also cooled by dumping heat into groundwater. Historic houses and cottages were moved from other parts of the island to the Green Village in order to preserve and update them.
Explore Anna Maria Island History on Pine Avenue
The Anna Maria Historical Society is an excellent resource to discover local history, and it’s conveniently located near some of the top things to do on Anna Maria Island.
The Historical Society also offers a book called “The Early Days” that provides some intriguing facts about the island’s history and is well worth picking up for some great reading material during your vacation.