Historic Markers Across Florida

The Old City Jail

Marker ID:  
Location: at the Anna Maria island Historical Society Museum on Pine Ave, Anna Maria, FL
County: Manatee
Coordinates: N 27° 31.775    W 082° 44.094
  27.52958333    -82.7349
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: WMVDEF


The Old City Jail

In 1927, a particularly rowdy tavern and dance hall on the beach near Spring Avenue repeatedly disturbed the quiet town of Anna Maria. Town mayor Mitch Davis built a jail to lock up the offenders. The jail was unique. With only bars on the windows, prisoners were exposed to clouds of ferocious mosquitoes during their stay. No one wanted to spend more than one night in jail and the dance hall quickly quieted down.

When the Great Depression hit, business on the island slowed down and the jail was no longer needed. In the 1940s, the jail caught fire during a storm, leaving only the concrete building.

A few years later, Harry Varley, founder of the Islander newspaper, decided the jail's building could be used as a tourist attraction and convinced the city to leave it standing. He painted it with catchy slogans, and it has become one of the most photographed attractions on the island.

Anna Maria Island Historical Museum