On May 13 and 14, the City of Anna Maria is throwing a party to mark the 100-year birthday of the much-loved City Pier. As soon as the festivities are over, an extensive face-lift operation will transform the waterfront and pier entrance in a way that is intended to make the pier even more accessible and attractive to tourists than it is in its current simple state.
Such a marketing effort is in line with the origins of the pier, which was built in 1911 by the founding Bean family, in order to bring rich tourists to the new town of Anna Maria via steamer. The 776-foot-length of the pier was necessary to reach the deep waters needed by large boats.
In her book The Early Days 1893 – 1940, Carolyne Norwood, of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, explains that George Emerson Bean, his son Will, and their associates had formed the Anna Maria Beach Development Company. They had built 60 homes, a hotel, bathing pavilion, bathhouse, church, school, post office and several stores, in just a few years. Now they wanted to generate some business. After the pier was built, the whole family went to great lengths to entertain those who arrived by boat. Bean’s 10-year-old daughter cruised around the steamers in a little red boat, greeting visitors. Another family member dressed up and told fortunes. A gift shop was opened at the foot of the pier.