There’s so much history surrounding Anna Maria Island and its Old Florida charm. Perhaps one of the most well-known places on the island is Holmes Beach. Today, it’s a very popular tourist destination with many activities and places to visit. To truly enjoy all there is to offer, you first have to understand how Holmes Beach came to be.
Colonizing Holmes Beach
Before modern Holmes Beach history, there were ancient Native American tribes that inhabited the Bradenton region. Dating back as far as 1000 A.D., these tribes consisted of farmers, fishermen, and warriors.
Ponce De Leon was unable to colonize the area when he landed there, but several years later in 1539 Hernando Desoto arrived and enslaved much of the Native American population. He forced them on his quest for gold in El Dorado, but they never returned.
Even though Anna Maria Island and the Bradenton area are largely developed now, back before it was fully settled, early residents had to cut through jungle-like brush to clear paths and create roads. Rattlesnakes and wildcats were also common in the early days of Holmes Beach.
The First Settlers
In 1896, Sam and Annie Cobb, some of the first settlers on the island, developed a homestead in central Anna Maria Island. Building on this spot on 160 acres of land, it evolved into its own distinct area – Holmes Beach.
Other people and families soon joined the Cobbs, some even piloting boats between Tampa and Cuba. Sam and Annie’s daughter, Anna Maria Cobb, was born in 1897 in Holmes Beach, and became the first official “non-Native” born on the island.
The Cobbs are also known for establishing the first Post Office in 1902 right in their home. At the time, Sam Cobb was the only government representative on the entire island.
In 1948, an airstrip was built for small planes to arrive and depart from the island. This allowed settlers to open up for business a little bit more. On An Island With You (1948) was partially filmed in Holmes Beach, and starred Esther Williams and Peter Lawford.
Even though the Cobbs were the first to settle in this area, it is named after a man named Jack Holmes. He was a developer who came to Anna Maria Island after World War II. He then started to build a 600-acre community to add to what the Cobbs had already started on.
The Vote for Incorporating the City
In 1960, a meeting was held consisting of just more than 60 freeholders and registered voters, who talked about the advantages and the negatives of becoming incorporated.
Some of the main arguments involved taxes and maintaining the roadways. Ultimately, 46 people voted to incorporate Holmes Beach, 13 voted no, and one abstained.
Holmes Beach Development
Jack Holmes is largely credited for the massive expansion of the island. By the time it became incorporated, he had nearly 200 homes for sale. Many of these properties became classic vacation rentals on Anna Maria Island.
Schools were built, a dentist opened up shop, and the first island doctor arrived to make house calls. 1952 saw the first shopping center in Holmes Beach, and just two years later the Yacht Club Restaurant (later known as the famous Pete Reynard’s) was erected.
A bank came in 1960 and Holmes Beach started building reasonably priced housing with luxurious settings by 1962. Holmes Beach, and by extension Anna Maria Island, were fast growing and would soon become what it is today.
Today, you can see much of what those early settlers strived for. You can seek out Old Florida shopping, plus visit beautiful homes and affordable vacation rentals close to pristine and relaxing beaches.
To learn more about Anna Maria Island history, vacation rentals and the other communities on the island including Bradenton Beach and the City of Anna Maria, reach out to our staff toll free at 800-737-9855.