Manatee Village Historic Park - Orlando / Florida Guide
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One thing we hadn’t realized on our first trip to Bradenton was just how proud the city is of their history and that the Manatee Village Historical Park provided a lasting legacy to those early pioneers of the nineteenth century.
Probably the most famous resident of the park is ‘Old Cabbage Head’ a steam locomotive. Apparently it had a wood burning boiler and needed a bulbous shaped chimney stack to catch any flying embers, hence the rather affectionate name. For many years the locomotive stood at the city limit with ‘Welcome to Bradenton’ emblazoned on its tender but was moved as recently as 2002.
The Manatee Village Historical Park is made up of several different dwellings dating back to the mid 1800s each with its own particular history. Within this article we have attempted to give a brief description of what we saw but please forgive any inaccuracies as a result of our rather scribbled note taking.
The Old Meeting House is a Methodist church completed in 1889. It stood on 15th Street East as a place of worship for eighty five years before being moved to the park in 1975. The building is still consecrated and remains a popular venue for weddings and memorial services.
The park can boast the oldest surviving County Courthouse in the whole of Florida although it was only used for six years following its construction in 1860. It was subsequently bought by the Methodist church and served as a social club after the construction of the Old Meeting House. The interior layout was completely renovated and restored to its original condition following its move to the current site with much of the main courtroom’s wooden tables and benches being carefully handcrafted. One interesting feature is the United States flag which only has thirty stars, representing the state of the union in 1860.
The story surrounding Fogarty’s Boat Yard makes interesting reading. In 1865 a storm forced Captain John Fogarty trawler to seek refuge in the Manatee River. When the weather cleared he was so impressed with the area that he and his brother Bartholomew moved up from Key West to start up a family boat building business which continued to flourish up to 1944. The boat yard was bequeathed to the park in 1993.
Without wishing to bore you we could go on, but feel that the above descriptions are sufficient to give the visitor a flavour of what to expect. Apart from the dwellings we have already mentioned don’t miss the schoolhouse, the smokehouse or the Wiggins store.
Admission is free so what have you got to lose.
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