History Meets Luxury on Longboat Key

Posted by William True on


For a long time, people have made Longboat Key a popular destination.

Native American Calusa and Timucua peoples found abundant hunting and fishing on Longboat Key for centuries; the many shell mounds and artifacts they left behind, evidence of fish fries and other meals, testify to the island's popularity. There’s also evidence that in 1539, Hernando de Soto visited with his scout, Juan Anasco, manning a “longboat” through the north pass that gave the barrier island its name. Juan Anasco Drive on Longboat Key is named for de Soto’s legendary companion, but the modern history of Longboat Key begins in earnest only in the late 19th century.

Civil War veteran Thomas Mann settled on the northern end of Longboat Key in 1891. Mann moved his family there to escape a yellow fever epidemic that was sweeping the mainland that year, and he became in effect Longboat Key’s first real estate developer. Mann received 144 acres as a homestead grant and sold his land at the turn of the century for $500, a handsome profit in that era. Visitors chartered the Mistletoe Steamship to the key in the early 1900s, and the first bridge to Longboat Key was built from Anna Maria Island in 1926 (and destroyed by storms in 1932). The Longboat Key Hotel opened in 1913 and became Longboat Key’s first “vacation resort.” There’s still no direct bridge from Sarasota; the island is only accessible from the south through Lido Key and from the north through Anna Maria Island.

Longboat KeyA number of homes were constructed on northern Longboat Key early in the 20th century, and some of those structures remain. Circus mogul John Ringling purchased hundreds of acres of land there in the 1920s. Ringling also oversaw planting of the Australian pines that line the island’s major thoroughfare. During World War II, Longboat Key was thinly inhabited, but the population quickly grew after the war and throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Longboat Key was formally incorporated in 1955, and development there peaked in the 1970s. Today, there’s very little undeveloped private land left on Longboat Key, but that means a variety of homes are almost always available to prospective homebuyers.

Fishing, boating, and water recreation buffs love Longboat Key; many homes and condos feature docks, providing quick access to Sarasota Bay and the Gulf. Golfers don't even have to leave the island; the acclaimed Longboat Key Golf Club and Resort is located at the island's southern tip. Pelicans, cranes, sand pipers, and seagulls are almost always visible on Longboat Key, and bottlenose dolphins can sometimes be seen in Sarasota Bay.

Banks, supermarkets, pharmacies, and several houses of worship are right on the island, but you’ll find no ugly billboards, busy shopping malls, or loud neon signs. For those who live there, the most important part of Longboat Key is the homes: traditional single-family homes, spacious condominiums, and majestic luxury estates. You'll find some of the grandest waterfront mansions anywhere in Florida, but condos and single-family homes can also be found in several price ranges. Every Longboat Key neighborhood and condo community has its own character and charm, so homebuyers are likely to find exactly what they seek in one of Longboat Key's several delightful communities.



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