Postcards from the Friendly City are large-scale art panels located along the Riverwalk depicting this history of the Manatee River and Bradenton area.
Art Connects, a project coordinated by Realize Bradenton and the Downtown Development Authority, engaged students and artists in studying the history of our community and conveying their findings through art. Expanding upon students’ research, artists Jean Blackburn and Don Brandes were commissioned to express the rich history of the Manatee River through ten postcards, which are placed along the Riverwalk.
Welcome To Manatee Lands
Don Brandes and Jean Blackburn
Before automobiles and the Interstate System, the Manatee River was the main transportation route for people and products. When first opened for settlement, the area was called the “Manatee Lands.”
Manatee County was once one of the largest cattle producing areas in the United States. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, local ranchers shipped live cattle to Cuban markets from docks on the Manatee River. To Cuba is sponsored by the Manatee County Cattlemen’s Association.
Our Roots Run Deep
Farming was a way of life for Manatee’s earliest settlers. The Manatee River was the only connection that local fruit and vegetable growers had to markets as near as Tampa and as distant as Chicago. Later, the railroad bridge, still in use today, expanded the connections to those markets. Our Roots Run Deep is sponsored by Tropicana Manufacturing Company.
Seafood from the Manatee River fed the aboriginal Indians. In the 1800s, Cuban fishermen made their homes along the river’s shore. Fishing kept early residents alive, sustained people during the hard times of the Great Depression, and provides food and recreation today.
Water Above, Water Below
Before reaching the Manatee River, water filters over and through the land of a 360 square-mile watershed. This system has supported the animal and plant life in Florida for millions of years and we still rely on it today. Water Above, Water Below is sponsored by The Mosaic Company Foundation.
Imagine a world where roads were rivers. Docks along the river were the commercial ports of their day and everything moved in and out of Bradenton on boats, from small family-owned rowboats to steamships. Without boats and boat-building, Manatee County’s growth would have been greatly limited.
Come Back Soon
Tourism began when the first settlers told the country about the wonders of the Manatee River. In 1924, the City of Bradenton coined the phrase “The Friendly City” which still characterizes Bradenton and Manatee County. Come Back Soon is sponsored by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
June: Life on the River
Life on the river meant hard work in the Florida climate. Early homesteaders were isolated from the town-life inland, and the river was their connection to Bradenton and their neighbors. Some African-Americans came to Manatee County as slaves. After emancipation, some of those families who remained lived on homesteads along the Manatee River.
People have lived along the Manatee River for over 2000 years. Spanish explorers met the descendants of the earliest inhabitants, called Tocobaga, in the 1500s. The South Florida Museum has a collection of pottery, tools, and other traces of these first peoples.
Baseball has been a Bradenton tradition since 1923 at the site now called McKechnie Field. Many major and minor league teams have called Bradenton home. Since 1969 the Pittsburgh Pirates have used McKechnie Field for spring training and starting in 2010 the Bradenton Marauders began their minor league games. Bradenton Baseball is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bradenton Marauders.
More To See
You can also check out more public art along the Riverwalk.