In 1927, a particularly rowdy tavern and dance hall on the beach near Spring Avenue rapidly disturbed the quiet town of Anna Maria. Town mayor Mitch Davis built a jail to lock up the offenders. The jail was unique. With only bars on the windows, prisoners were exposed to clouds of furious mosquitoes during their stay. No one wanted to spend more than one night in jail and the dance hall crowd quickly quieted down.
When the Great Depression hit, business on the island slowed down and the jail was no longer needed. In the 1940, the jail caught fire during a storm, leaving only the concrete building.
A few years later, Harry Varley, founder of the Islander newspaper, decided the jail's building could be used as a tourist attraction and convinced the city to leave it standing. He painted it with catchy slogans, and has become one of the most photographed attractions on the island.
When you take a picture with the City Jail, you are continuing a more than 60-year tradition. Please share your City Jail photographs with us. Tag the Anna Maria Island Historical Society on Facebook or email your image, and it could appear in the museum!