Generations have enjoyed life along the water on Little Sarasota Bay
Prehistory: People have been forging a life by the water here in Southwest Florida for thousands of years. Nearby, Historic Spanish Point chronicles 5,000 years of Florida prehistory in a National Register of Historic Places museum that is referred to as one of the largest intact actively preserved archaeological sites of the prehistoric period on the Gulf Coast of Florida. A prehistoric shell midden found there shows a window to the past, and how the native people lived. Pushing local prehistory back further in time, a submerged burial ground that dates back 7,000 years was discovered offshore of Manasota Key in 2017.
1867: The Webb family, white settlers from Utica, New York, acquired the nearby property under the Homestead Act and named the site “Spanish Point.” In the 1880s they established the region’s first tourist hotel, named Webb’s Winter Resort.
1910: Bertha Honore Potter Palmer, a Chicago socialite and widow of Potter Palmer, came to Sarasota to establish a Winter estate. The Webb homestead was part of the land she chose for her 350-acre estate, which she named “The Oaks.” She eventually acquired approximately 75,000 acres, including what is now Palmer Ranch, downtown Venice and a portion of Myakka River State Park.
1921: A hurricane blows through the area, opening up Midnight Pass, a new channel connecting Little Sarasota Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.
1957: Spanish Point Marina’s original building (now serving as a kitchen), operated as a fishing village with a small bar and marina. Fishermen used to offload their catch from the Gulf of Mexico by sailing through then-open Midnight Pass and into Little Sarasota Bay.
1960-1978: Longtime local residents fondly recall the Detroiter Fishing Camp, as the marina and bar were known, operated by Raymond Herrer and his wife, Helen. The property was flanked on both sides by mobile homes occupied by seasonal residents from the Michigan area. Anglers young and old rented small skiffs with outboard motors and bought bait and tackle to fish in the bay. The small bar was always bustling, even early in the morning, with snowbirds enjoying a drink by the waterfront. Food was self-serve, and patrons could make their own peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches on white bread at the bar to take with them on the water or enjoy when they came back ashore.
The camp’s modest docks also served as a staging area for racing boats during an annual festival that was a highlight for Osprey village residents and served as a precursor to what eventually became the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix. Festival-goers ate smoked mullet and swamp cabbage, and drank iced sweet tea and adult beverages from paper cups.
1979-80: The marina and bar are renamed the Madden-Bar Fishing Camp.
1981-85: After another ownership change, the property operates as the Bob White Fishing Camp and also as Marker 39 Fish Camp
1983: Midnight Pass is filled in to protect two homes from erosion. The channel remains closed, cutting off Little Sarasota Bay from direct Gulf access.
1986: The property changes its name to Spanish Point Marina, after Historic Spanish Point was established as a living history museum in 1983.
Early 2000s: Spanish Point Pub and Marina casual seafood restaurant opens and a waterfront, open air chickee hut reflects the native Floridians’ lifestyle and serves as a gathering place for boaters and others seeking a place to chill and catch a sunset. The waterfront restaurant is one of the few remaining icons left that pays tribute to the area’s rich history.
2016: The property was bought by the Evanoff family — Steve and his son Michael, who operate 10 destination-type restaurants in the Sarasota area. The Evanoffs improved the docks, expanded the menu and added entertainment offerings under the chickee hut that provides ideal sunset views on the banks of Little Sarasota Bay at Marker 38. Patrons come by boat and by car to Evie’s to enjoy Tiki Time, off the beaten path, preserving a vital part of Old Florida.
Source: Sarasota County Historical Resources Center, Historic Spanish Point, longtime resident Jon Thaxton and the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office.