History of Longboat Key

In the late 1800’s veterans and pioneers began to settle on Longboat Key, awarded the land through homestead grants. One of seven historic sites on the island marks the location of the first home built on the island by one of these settlers, a shack belonging to Thomas Mann, a veteran of the Civil War and a recipient of 144 acres of land. In 1921, the State of Florida amended its constitution separating the island in half to include Longboat Key homes in Manatee and Sarasota counties following a major hurricane that took out the once thriving farming industry on the key.

The northernmost part of the island became part of Manatee County, and the southernmost part of the island belonged to Sarasota County. A short time later circus tycoon, John Ringling, purchased two-thousand acres of the land on Longboat Key and began developing it. In 1926, Ringling pursued his vision of building a Ritz-Carlton on the key; however, financial complications encountered by Mr. Ringling during to the Great Depression prevented its completion. Having purchased the land from Mr. Ringling in 1962, the new owner, Arvida, demolished the partially- constructed resort.

The island remained scarcely populated and undeveloped through World War II and therefore served as a target range by the Army at that time. Following the war, newfound prosperity contributed to a rapid escalation in tourism around 1950 and consequently the town of Longboat Key formally incorporated on November 14, 1955. Development of single-family homes on the island climbed steadily, peaking in the 1960’s and 1970’s and construction of the key’s first Condominium, Longboat Key Towers, soon supervened.

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