Ponce de Leon was said to have named the island for Maria Anna von der Pfalz-Neuburg, the queen of Charles II of Spain, the sponsor of his expedition. In the past, pronunciation of the name differed: old timers said “Anna Mar-EYE-a,” but most people today say “Anna Mar-EE-a.” According to a regional historian of note, Lillian Burns, the daughter of the early land developer, Owen Burns, the correct pronunciation of the name of the island by its early settlers was, an-na ma-rye-a, since it was named for the strong winds occurring in the area, using the German term for the wind, Maria. This pronunciation may be heard in the popular song, They Call The Wind Maria, from the musical, Paint Your Wagon.
Anna Maria Island was discovered by the local Timucan and Caloosan American Indian tribes and, later, by Spanish explorers (including Hernando de Soto) in the name of the Spanish Crown. Hernando de Soto and his crew entered the mouth of Tampa Bay, north of Anna Maria Island, in May, 1539, passing it by to make their landfall on the mainland.
In 1892, George Emerson Bean became the first permanent resident on the Island, homesteading much of what is now the City of Anna Maria. After Bean’s death in 1898, the land’s ownership transferred to his son, George Wilhelm Bean, who partnered with Charles Roser, a wealthy real estate developer from St. Petersburg, to form the Anna Maria Beach Company in order to develop the area. The company laid out streets, built sidewalks and houses, and installed a water system.
Anna Maria Island today is divided into the three cities of Anna Maria in the north, Holmes Beach in the middle, and Bradenton Beach in the south. In 2005 the United States Census Bureau estimated the combined population of the three cities at approximately 8,500.