Beginnings from Indians to Depression

The Longboat Key formation by early settlements of migrating northerners

Shell mounds in Sarasota and Longboat Key
Early Shell Mound - This mound in Sarasota is evidence that Indians once inhabited Longboat Key

As in today, Longboat Key was used as a vacation destination long before the European explorers landed on the island. As comical as that may sound, there is evidence that native Indians came to Longboat Key to escape persecution or as we do in modern times, travel to a warmer climate. Studies of bone, pottery, with hunting and fishing artifacts lead archaeologists to believe that these early settlers were living on Longboat Key anywhere from 1,000 BC to 800 AD.

There is even evidence they vacationed here. But not from the north, but from the neighboring mainland areas that surround Longboat Key. It may have been paradise to them then just as it is now. Most of this evidence has been gathered from the area around what is now known as Bay Isles. This includes the area of Queens Harbour, Corey’s Landing and Grand Bay.

The skeletons that have been found depict a tribe of very large people. The remains of Indians as tall as 7 to 8 feet have been uncovered. Of the five tribes in the area, anthropologists suggest that either the Timucan or Calusa tribes were most likely these early settlers. Their diet consisted of mostly seafood as you might expect, but I read one account that indicated tiger and deer bones have been unearthed.

It is suggested that any remaining Indians were forced out when European settlers discovered the island and began inhabiting it around the time of Hernando de Soto. The two tribes either fled or were wiped out by small pox and other diseases. Although no official historical records were kept, de Soto’s chief scout Juan Anasco may have been the first. He was commissioned by de Soto to explore the area of Tampa Bay and the surrounding islands.

There is no confirmation but wrecked vessel parts found in the area of Whitney Beach on the Manatee County northern end were believed to belong to Anasco. A current Longboat Key road was named for the scout, Juan Anasco Drive is on a canal that opens to Bishops Bayou. It is even suggested that de Soto himself explored Longboat Key with Anasco in 1539 but moved north to the Palma Sola area when they could not find fresh water.

Thomas Mann home
First settler Thomas Mann and his thatched roof house

Although some locals from the mainland traveled to Longboat Key in the years after, it wasn’t until 1888 when Thomas Mann acquired 144 acres through a homestead claim that Longboat Key had its first full-time settler in recorded history. A few years earlier, Colin Witt was granted 7 acres on the north end and Rolin Witt claimed 57 acres on the south end. Their settlement on the island was postponed. Elizabeth Mann, the wife of son James Mann, was granted land in 1892 and along with others, Longboat Key had its first population growth. The Mann’s meager survival came from farming the land on Longboat Key.

Communities were seeing their first formations. Longbeach on the north end was platted on old maps. Other plats were named Long Beach, Long Boat Beach, Long Boat Key and Longboat Key. They converged and is now considered one town Longboat Key, celebrating its 63rd anniversary as an incorporated town on November 13. The island town is divided into two counties, Manatee and Sarasota. It is one of three cities in Florida with this distinction.

The beginnings of Corey’s Landing, now behind the gates of Bay Isles was forming its growth in 1904. Corey’s Pier was a stopover of the first regular steamer to frequent the island, the Mistletoe. Byron Corey was operator of the pier and the location of the island’s first post office in 1907, with Corey as its first postmaster. His regular trips to Sarasota for mail was on his own boat the Vilas. Corey was also a produce farmer and shipping entrepreneur. Today Byron Lane in Corey’s Landing offers exclusive views of the bay and flows through a stretch of Harbourside Golf Course, one of two championship courses of the Resort at Longboat Key Club. Named for the steamship, Mistletoe Lane runs parallel to Byron Lane.

At the turn of the century Longboat Key experienced more growth and was becoming known for its resorts and winter homes. The fertile soil made for tropical fruit growth which was transported by steamship for sail on the mainland. Boat was the only transportation for tourists to visit Longboat Key but had limited room accommodations. The Jordan Hotel on Broadway began its operation in 1913 and had become the place to stay on the island. Named for its first owner, Rufus Jordan, the hotel was renamed the Longbeach Hotel after its 1925 sale.

Soon after, famed circus promoter and real estate magnate John Ringling put his eye on Longboat Key and sought to create a destination for the rich to come and play. His first bridge to Lido Key was built in 1925 so his target audience could find their way to the key. The bridge was replaced two times after the initial bridge, the most current is a Sarasota landmark 60-foot segmental bridge completed in 2003. Ringling started his grand endeavor in 1927 to build the best destination hotel in the world, and market it under the Ritz-Carlton trademark. But the great depression plunged the country into economic chaos and the project was abandoned months after its start. Its shell was demolished in the 1960s and a new wave of development started for the next chapter of Longboat Key.

The Legacy of John Ringling was covered in my 2016 REALTALKplus™ article and the iconic bridge in this 2018 REALTALKplus™ article. A light and lively poem in 2016 on the History of Longboat Key was penned by our own Mary Kay Ryan, director of customer care.

Much of the history of Longboat Key has been preserved by the Longboat Key Historical Society. The organization has been looking for a new home and is hoping to receive enough funding to purchase the land at the intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street. There they have moved a displaced cottage that once belonged to the historic Whitney Beach Resort. This was one of 13 cottages built in the 1930s by Gordon and Lora Whitney.

1710 Kenilworth Street
West of Trail - 1710 Kenilworth Street, Sarasota

I listed three new homes for sale on Longboat Key and Sarasota last week. The first is a rarely-available 3BR townhouse residence located directly on Longboat Key’s Gulf shores at 260 N. Shore Rd, #4, offering stunning modern upgrades. Begin your dream home or a renovation project in my second listing at this waterfront site in Country Club Shores. Just a stone’s throw away from Sarasota’s open bay waters, this 3BR/3BA is located at 570 Yardarm Lane. In my third listing immediately enjoy a luxurious lifestyle West of the Trail! This newer, 4BR home at 1710 Kenilworth Street is in a sought-after, centrally-located neighborhood. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
260 N. Shore Rd, #4 $1,899,000   Photo Slideshow
570 Yardarm Lane $899,000 Video Photo Slideshow
1710 Kenilworth Street $889,000 Video Photo Slideshow


Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing