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Although Longboat Key officially became a town in 1955, the island’s colorful past dates back hundreds of years. In the early 1990s, the town joined forces with the Longboat Key Historical Society to create seven markers that detail Key history. Jump on your bike, put on your walking shoes or hop in the car and take a trip back in time.
Historic Hotspots
Overlook Park Drive north on New Pass Bridge and make a sharp left before the Chart House Restaurant. You’ll see Marker # 1 located at the site where John Ringling began building his luxurious Ritz-Carlton Hotel in 1926. Even though Ringling never completed the hotel, it’s still the source of local legend—and was known as the “Ghost Hotel,” because it stood empty for almost 40 years.
2162 Gulf of Mexico Drive Before Long- boat Key became a vacation paradise, the island entertained a small, vibrant farming community. In the early 1900s, near where Marker # 2 stands, roughly 18 families grew a variety of fruits and shipped them from Key pioneer and farmer Byron Corey’s dock. Farming on Longboat Key came to an abrupt end after an October 1921 hurricane.
3960 Gulf of Mexico Drive On a sunny day, you’re almost guaranteed to see boaters en- joying the Gulf of Mexico’s clear, turquoise waters.
Marker # 3 explains the crucial role of boats on the island. Timucuan and Calusa Indians reached the Key by canoe, and during the 1500s, Spanish ships were common sights. In 1539, explorer Hernando de Soto made landfall with 600 men just north of the Key on the shores of the Manatee River.
4250 Gulf of Mexico Drive Today, Long- boat Key’s beaches are serene, but as Marker # 4 describes, this wasn’t the case during World War II. Fighter pilots assigned to the 717th base unit at Sarasota Army Airfield routinely skimmed across Sarasota Bay for training exercises, shooting at German tank silhouettes.
4800 Gulf of Mexico Drive	These days, residents and visitors plan their schedules around a plethora of fun-filled activities on Longboat Key. However, during World War II, their day-to-day lives were dictated by the frequent military drills that resulted in a mid-Key portion of Gulf of Mexico Dr. being blocked off for these exercises, as described in Marker # 5.
Opposite 631 Broadway in Longbeach Village	Back in 1888, Civil War veteran Thomas Mann became Longboat Key’s first permanent resident when he built a thatched hut in what is now the Village, where Marker # 6 is located. By about 1915, nearly a dozen homes were built throughout the Village, using an innovative concrete mixture. A majority of those antique structures still survive today. Although many have undergone major renovations, they stand as testa- ment to these early settlers’ fortitude.
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