Our mission is to preserve and share the heritage of Manatee County's founding period (1840-1918).
We do this through our museum exhibits and a collection of historical and replica buildings set on nearly four acres under the shade of hundred-year-old oak trees.
We have two permanent exhibits: "One Century Plus of Ranching in Manatee County" in the Wiggins General Store and "Life on the Florida Frontier" in the 1912 Settlers House.
In addition to our exhibits, we also host special events throughout the year like lectures, book signings, festivals, workshops, and demonstrations.
In 1974, a group of women left a business meeting of their church, the Manatee United Methodist, and stood beneath the steeple of the sanctuary built in 1887.
Tears welled up in their eyes as they thought about what they had just heard. The church building, along with a smaller building owned by the congregation, once Manatee County’s first courthouse, were to be torn down to make room for a new sanctuary and parking lot.
That night, they vowed to do all that they could to save the two historic buildings, and the idea for the Manatee Village Historical Park was born.
The initial group, who rallied to save the two buildings, became known as the H.O.M.E. (Heritage of Manatee’s Environment) Committee.
Realizing that Manatee County once had a Historical Commission, which was no longer operating, they petitioned the Board of County Commissioners to reestablish the Manatee County Historical Commission by ordinance, making the Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court a perpetual member.
They also organized the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. with its purpose to preserve Manatee County’s pioneer history for the enrichment of future generations.
As both a government ordained and a non-profit organization, the Manatee County Historical Commission stood ready to take on the task of saving the 1887 Church and the 1860 Courthouse. Both buildings were moved to the museum in December of 1975. The restoration effort became part of Manatee County’s celebration of the United States bicentennial and some funding for the bicentennial effort became seed money for the establishment of the museum. Most of the funding, however, came from private donors raised by Historical Commission members asking their friends, community leaders, and businesses for support.
The museum officially opened to the public on July 4, 1976, and over the years grew to include fourteen structures representative of pioneer life in Manatee County.
The effort continues today through encouraging historical preservation as Manatee County continues to grow and develop, as well as through raising support for the maintenance of the treasured collection of buildings at Manatee Village Historical Park.
Manatee Village Historical Park also serves as headquarters for the Manatee County Historical Commission’s other educational and outreach programs. These programs include Manatee History Day, an affiliate of National History Day; as well as local author book signings, festivals, exhibits openings, scholarly lectures, concerts, and more.
Staff and volunteers also conduct school tours free of charge to help enhance students’ understanding of Florida history and pioneer life.
For over thirty-five years, donations, grants, expertise and volunteers supplied by the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. and funding made available through the Clerk of Circuit Court by the Board of County Commission has allowed residents as well as visitors from around the world to experience Manatee County’s rich pioneer heritage in its various buildings and programming.
Mission & Vision
Preserve Real Places, Tell Real Stories
Our mission is to preserve & share the heritage of Manatee County's founding period (1840-1918). The Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. does this by:
Advocating for historic preservation and cultural tourism;
Preserving historic buildings and artifacts;
Educating the public through our programming;
Creating and maintaining the historical environment of the Manatee Village Historical Park;
Raising community and financial support to maintain and expand these efforts.
Statement of Beliefs:
We believe that knowing where we come from helps us understand who we are. We are committed to:
Empowering our county-wide historical partners to effectively preserve the resources that keep Manatee history alive.
Teaching Manatee County citizens and visitors to value historic assets to help create economic opportunities and foster a sense of place.
Supporting a culture of creativity and excellence for our staff.
Serving Manatee County residents and visitors with the highest standards of professionalism, responsiveness, consistency, accountability, and ethics.
Promoting Manatee Village Historical Park as a premiere regional living history center.
Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc.
A 501(c)3 Nonprofit
Manatee Village Historical Park operates thanks to a unique public-private partnership. This partnership exists through the support of the Historical Resources Division of the Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court & Comptroller, and the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit community benefit organization.
The funding received through the Manatee County Clerk's Office provides a modest operating budget for administrative support, regular maintenance, and educational programming, exhibits, and events that are produced for the public benefit. But that does not pay the full extent of all that we do here!
The Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. conducts fundraising to help further their mission of preserving Manatee County's pioneer history. The Historical Commission achieves this through advocacy, preservation, and education. Initiatives supported by MCHC include restoration efforts at the museum, care and maintenance of objects in the museum's collections, and educational programming, exhibits, and events.
For example, the latest project spearheaded by MCHC is to save Old Cabbage Head. MCHC is applying to grants and raising money to build a cover over the 1913 locomotive and then hire a professional conservator to conserve the train.
Our meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome. Meetings are typically held at noon, on the second Friday of each month, in the Wiggins Store building at Manatee Village Historical Park.
The Manatee County Historical Commission also has several standing committees, which focus on specific needs of Manatee Village Historical Park. Anyone can serve on a committee; Historical Commission membership is not required.
For more information about the Manatee County Historical Commission or to receive an application to join, contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-749-7165.
2022 Historical Commission Members
Riley "Rolf" Winans
Keith Van Leuven
Joseph “Joe” DesRosier
Angelina “Angel” Colonneso
Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller