The area that would become Bradenton (originally spelled “Bradentown”) was first explored in 1539 by the Spanish during the famous expedition led by Hernando De Soto. Bradenton was established in 1842. The original town of Bradentown was incorporated on May 19, 1903. The city took the name of Dr. Joseph Braden, whose nearby fort-like house was a refuge for early settlers during Seminole Indian attacks. The current city of Bradenton was formed in 1943, when the Florida legislature merged the cities of Manatee (incorporated in 1888) and Bradentown.
Historic properties in Bradenton include
Braden Castle Park Historic District, off of Manatee Avenue and 27th St East
Bradenton Bank and Trust Company Building, 1925, now the Professional Building, 1023 Manatee Avenue, West,
Iron Block Building, 1896, 530 12th Street West (Old Main Street)
Manatee County Courthouse, 1913, 1115 Manatee Avenue, West
Old Manatee County Courthouse, 1860, 1404 Manatee Avenue, East
Peninsular Telephone Company Building, 1925, 1009 4th Avenue, West
Geography and climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, Bradenton has a total area of 14.44 square miles (37.4 km2). 12.11 square miles (31.4 km2) of it is land and 2.33 square miles (6.0 km2) of it (16.14%) is water.
Bradenton is located on US 41 between Tampa and Sarasota. The area is surrounded by waterways, both fresh and saltwater. Along the Gulf of Mexico and into Tampa Bay are over 20 miles (32 km) of Florida beaches – many which are shaded by Australian pines. Bordered on the north by the Manatee River, Bradenton is located on the mainland and is separated from the outer barrier islands of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key by the Intracoastal Waterway.
Downtown Bradenton is located in the northwest area of the city. Home to many of Bradenton’s offices and government buildings, the tallest is the Bradenton Financial Center, 12 stories high, with its blue-green windows. The next tallest is the brand new Manatee County Judicial Center with nine floors, located next to the historic courthouse. Other major downtown buildings include the Manatee County Government building and the headquarters of the School Board of Manatee County.
The eastern side of Bradenton is growing at a rapid rate. Initially starting as the popular subdivision Lakewood Ranch, it is now becoming a heavily populated part of town. Most of the communities are newer than in West Bradenton. However the majority of foreclosures in Manatee County have taken place in that area due to the fact that a much higher loss in value happened compared to the areas of West Bradenton which is located nearer to the beaches.
Bradenton is served by Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in nearby Sarasota, Florida and is connected to St. Petersburg, Florida by the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The Sunshine Skyway is a 5.5-mile (8.9 km) cross-bay bridge that rises 250 feet (76 m) above the bay at its highest point. Remnants of the old Skyway bridge have been converted into a fishing pier extending into Tampa Bay from both sides of the bay.
Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) buses serve Bradenton along with the cities/communities of Palmetto, Ellenton, Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Longboat Key, Tallevast and Samoset, with transfers to Sarasota. Free trolleys run north-south on Anna Maria Island, as well as to/from various points on the mainland. Amtrak charter buses run through downtown Bradenton outside the courthouse to Tampa Union Station and Venice.
Bradenton is home to the Village of the Arts, a renovated neighborhood immediately south of downtown where special zoning laws allow residents to live and work in their homes. Many of these once dilapidated houses have been converted into studios, galleries, small restaurants and other small businesses. The Village of the Arts promotes its ‘First Fridays’ activities celebrating the seasons and different holidays. The Village of the Arts remains the largest arts district on the Gulf Coast.
The Manatee Players, who reside at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, have a three-year record of first-place wins within the Florida Theatre Conference and the Southeastern Theatre Conference competitions. In addition, the theatre currently holds the first place title from the American Association of Community Theatre competition.
Located on the Manatee River in downtown Bradenton is the South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium and Parker Manatee Aquarium. This one-stop museum-planetarium-aquarium offers a glimpse of Florida history, a star and multimedia show, and ongoing lecture and film series. The Parker Manatee Aquarium is the permanent home to Manatee County’s most famous resident and official mascot, Snooty, the manatee. Born at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company on July 21, 1948, Snooty was one of the first recorded captive manatee births. He is the oldest manatee in captivity, and likely the oldest manatee in the world.
ArtCenter Manatee is the center for art and art education in Manatee County. The nearly 10,000 sq ft (930 m2). building in downtown Bradenton features three galleries, five classrooms, an Artists’ Market gift shop and an art library featuring over 3,000 art volumes.
The nonprofit organization Realize Bradenton works with the above-listed cultural partners to promote Downtown Bradenton as a destination for the arts. It also produces events in the downtown area with a focus on arts & culture like the annualBradenton Blues Festival, ArtSlam public art festival as well as several smaller public art and music events throughout the year.
Additionally, the town is the subject of the We The Kings song “This Is Our Town”; they, as well as the band Have Gun, Will Travel (band) come from Bradenton.
Bradenton is the spring training home of Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates who play their home games at downtown’s McKechnie Field. During the regular baseball season, the stadium is home to the minor league Bradenton Marauders who play in the Florida State League in Class A-Advanced. Though no other professional teams call the city home, the State College of Florida’s Manatees compete in several sports, and Manatee County high schools produce several highly competitive teams including Manatee High School whose football team was nationally ranked in the 1950s, 1980s, and 1990s and regained their national status in 2009. Manatee High School has won five football state championships. The Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy is also located in Bradenton. Bradenton is also home to the IMG Soccer Academy, the home of the U.S U-17 Residential soccer program, and the Pendleton School.