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Pioneering Palmetto, FL: A Look Back at its 122-Year History

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Historic postcard of Palmetto, Florida showing Green Bridge across Manatee River. (State Archives of Florida/Smith)

Palmetto, Florida was incorporated on June 15, 1897, when Florida’s governor signed the charter declaring Palmetto a city.  That’s almost six years earlier than its neighbor to the south, Bradenton, was recognized, five years before Sarasota, and thirty years before Venice.

A photo from the 1800s in Palmetto. J.K. Parrish’s store “The Old Reliable”. (State Archives of Florida)

Palmetto’s proximity to water, touching both Terra Ceia Bay and especially the mile-wide Manatee River, was an attractive resource for the first settlers who arrived in the mid-1800s. Considered the “Father of Palmetto”, Samuel Lamb relocated to the area in 1868 and named the town Palmetto after his home state of South Carolina, “the Palmetto State”.

Beyond the waterways, the railroad arrived in 1902 and with it, a flurry of new activity. Building was made easier thanks to the steady supply of materials. Palmetto and the region soon earned a reputation for its hospitality and abundant agriculture production.

1895. Thomas A. Mitchell engine of the Palmetto Terminal Company at Palmetto. (State Archives of Florida)

Today, nearly three-million Floridian’s live within a 50-mile radius, creating one of the state’s most stable marketplaces and workforce. But Palmetto itself has remained small with the population listed at 12,606 in the 2010 census.

“People are attracted to Palmetto for its affordable cost of living, rich history, and of course, its scenic waterfront location,” explained Linda Formella, Manager of the Michael Saunders & Company Bradenton offices. “It’s a true community rooted in its shared sense of history and appreciation for the natural environment.”

And Palmetto has done much to preserve its history and the natural environment. The Palmetto Historical Park, featuring buildings that date back as far as 1880, is always open to the public and can be freely explored any day of the week. Meanwhile, The Palmetto Historical Commission actively fosters an awareness and appreciation of the local heritage, preserving historical resources. Emerson Point Preserve is a 365-acre preserve at the tip of Snead Island in western Palmetto home to wildlife, native plant communities, and both prehistoric and historic sites.

Keep scrolling down for a series of photos that will have you truly wondering what life was like in this region over 100 years ago.


The Oaks Hotel, no longer in existence.

(State Archives of Florida)


The Seaboard Air Line Railway crew on a handcar at the depot in Palmetto. Between 1902-1905.

(State Archives of Florida)


The Palmetto Band in front of a store on old Main Street. 1910.

(State Archives of Florida)


Postcard with a note on the back: “New Palmetto Pier… Built by the City of Palmetto at the foot of Main St. overlooking the beautiful Manatee River.”

(State Archives of Florida/Smith)


Discover your own slice of history in this historic Sarah A. Harlee riverfront property for sale that dates back to 1915.  Situated on 1.1 acres on the Manatee River, the estate is comprised of a 3,800 sq. ft. home and a detached garage with carriage house.

301 14th Ave W, Palmetto, FL 34221 | $1,490,000


Learn more about the Palmetto of today by contacting one of our Michael Saunders & Company agents or view Palmetto real estate on



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Pioneering Palmetto, FL: A Look Back at its 122-Year History was last modified: June 14th, 2019 by Kathryn Parks