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Buildings and Exhibits

Buildings and Exhibits: Text
Lanier family members in a strawberry field - Providence Region, Florida c1915 - State Arc

Living Off the Land

Temporary Exhibit

Available on-site January 17, 2023

through November 2024

Living Off the Land: Florida’s Pioneering Efforts to Make a Living explores the various ways settlers in the mid-1800s through the early 1900s took advantage of readily available natural resources of the land and sea. 


As Manatee County developed during the Pioneering Period (1830-1918), a number of commercial activities grew out of the environmental realities people moving into the area built upon. One of the earliest brought fishermen who set up seasonal camps along our shores. These fishermen set up semi-permanent Fishing Ranchos where they caught and prepared schools of mullet and other fish for Cuban markets.


In the 1840s, when the first waves of American expansion into the area started, sugar production became a major economic engine. At its peak, there were over a dozen sugarcane plantations established within the Manatee River area. After the Civil War, a number of family-operated cattle operations carried out the shipping of thousands of wild cattle to the Cuban markets. Others began to take advantage of the longleaf pine forests, tapping into the trees to collect pinesap processing it into turpentine and other products required by the maritime industry.


By the late 1800s and early 1900s, Florida’s population was growing. Pioneer communities, experiencing economic prosperity and a rising quality of life, started branching out. Florida’s open lands, climate and soil conditions were optimal for growing citrus and other tropical fruits, along with vegetables and flowers not readily available in the north during the winter months. With the development of steamship lines, connected to the first railroads, local businesses began to send products to ports and destinations around the nation and throughout the world.


Image Credit: Lanier family members in a strawberry field - Providence Region, Florida. 1915 (circa). State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. 


Digital Exhibits

Available online 

Enjoy these exhibits from the comfort of your device!

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Buildings and Exhibits: Welcome
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Old Cabbage Head

This 1913 steam engine, known as Old Cabbage Head, got its name from its rounded smokestack. It served in northern Florida as part of the turpentine industry before coming to Manatee to shuttle supplies for the Manatee-Nocotee Crate Company. Old Cabbage Head is in need of conservation.


To make a donation, sign into Paypal and donate to "Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc." here.

Hear an "Ode to Old Cabbage Head"
by Brian Milgate

Read an article about our restoration plans.


Wiggins General Store

Our 1903 Wiggins General Store includes exhibits and employee offices. King Wiggins built the store from bricks shipped in on the railroad. The store served the Town of Manatee. Upstairs, Wiggins operated a boarding house for visitors who came from miles away to shop in his store.

Current exhibits include:

  • One Century Plus of Ranching in Manatee County

  • Rev. Herbert Loomis Collection

  • Living Off the Land: Florida’s Pioneering Efforts to Make a Living temporary exhibit on display through 2024

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Fogarty Boat Works

Built by Captain Bat Fogarty, member of a boatbuilding and seafaring family, the boat shop contains original tools and equipment. The Fogarty family's arrival in Manatee County was the start of the boat-building business in our area.


Blacksmith Shop

A replica of a typical pioneer blacksmith shop. The blacksmith was essential to frontier settlements making everything from nails and horseshoes to wagon parts and farm equipment.


Stephens House

A typical Florida pioneer farmhouse built in a “Cracker Gothic” architectural design. The Settler's House was constructed in 1912 by the Will Stephens Family and commonly referred to as the "Stephens House." It was originally located on a farm near the community of Ona in Hardee County, Florida.

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Smokehouse and Mill

The smokehouse and sugar cane mill and kettle were important parts of a pioneer farm. They were used to preserve meat and to make cane syrup.

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Potter Barn

A replica of the Harllee Barn and represents a Florida barn. Barns in Florida did not have to be as large as their northern counterparts. Florida barns did not house animals since the mild climate allowed them to stay outside all year long. Florida barns typically housed seeds, tools, and equipment

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1887 Church

The 1887 church took two years to build due to an outbreak of yellow fever. It was originally the home of the Union Congregation, which later became the Methodist-Episcopal Church South.

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1860 Courthouse

Manatee County was formed in 1855. Five years later, the community built this small wood framed courthouse. All government activities for the sprawling 5,000 square mile wilderness took place in this courtroom.

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The community of Bunker Hill was located in Manatee County’s northeast corner. Community members built this one-room schoolhouse in 1908. It was a “strawberry school” as the children only attended class from August to December. During the rest of the year, they worked on their family’s farm.

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1850 Manatee Burying Grounds

Located across 15th Street East (East of Manatee Village), this is one of the oldest organized burial grounds on the west coast of Florida and the final resting place of many Manatee Village pioneers. The Burying Grounds are open during museum hours, ask staff in the Wiggins Store for access and you will be given a key that allows a self tour.

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Junior Junction

This train-themed playground provides a place for visitors age 2-12 years to let off some steam during their time at the Park. Picnic tables and live oak trees provide a place for families to relax.

Thanks to our sponsors:

  • Kiwanis Club of Bradenton Foundation, Inc.

  • Mosaic

  • City of Bradenton

  • Macy’s 

  • Kiwanis Club of Cortez, Inc.

Buildings and Exhibits: Programs
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