Many of us have passed the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point Campus while out and about. After all, it’s right up the street from us in Osprey, Florida. Lately, we have been staying home as much as possible. Finally, many are beginning to go back to work, places are opening, and people are going out more as restrictions loosen. Still known to many of us as Historic Spanish Point, it has just opened back up and if you go there for a visit, you are in for a real treat!
For history buffs, the archaeological site goes back as far as the Late Archaic Period (5,900-3,200 years ago) an
d continues through the Manasota and Late Woodland periods (3,000 to 1,000 years ago). That’s a really long time ago! The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Did you know that the Spanish did not settle there and that there is no historical data that they ever did? It turns out that back in 1867, John Green Webb and his family made a homestead there and named it Spanish Point. Apparently, he met a Spanish trader in the Keys who told him about the area, so John named it after him to honor the advice of his fellow trader. The Webb family went on to establish one of the first resorts called “Webb’s Winter Resort.” They built the Guptil House, Mary’s Chapel, the Pioneer Cemetery, and more. Many of these structures remain to this day and this is what became known as the Historic Spanish Point.
Among many talents, John Webb also became a Postmaster in 1881. Back then, the family would have to sail several
miles to pick up their mail. So John requested for a post office to be located at their homestead. Per his request, the U.S. Postal Service told him that he needed to pick a one-word name for the approved post office. He chose “Osprey.”
Later, the Webb Family began selling off parcels of their homestead. Enter Mrs. Bertha Potter Palmer. In the 1900's, this legendary widow brought her family to Sarasota. In 1910, she bought 350 acres of land she named Osprey Point that included the Webb homestead and resort. Amid her many historical achievements, she added beautiful gardens and connected them to the existing pioneer buildings. This is part of what you will see today if you choose to visit the historical Spanish Point campus. Eventually, the Palmer's donated the homestead and resort to the Gulf Coast Heritage As
sociation, a not-for-profit organization.
If you are a ghost hunter, come and visit during one of their ghost tours often held during a full moon. Supposedly, some have seen past resort guest Mary Sherrill roam the Pioneer Cemetery. People have said that they have heard church bells coming from the chapel that was named for her after her death at the resort. Perhaps you will encounter the famous Bertha Potter Palmer. Rumor has it that she can be seen walking through her beautiful gardens. Apparently, there are ghost hunters that have visited the Historic Spanish Point and have reported a heighten awareness of ghostly activity. Allegedly, there are reports of sightings at both the ancient native buria
l ground and at the Pioneer Cemetery. Would you dare to go on this tour?
I encourage you to visit the Historic Spanish Point! Personally, I cannot wait for the next ghost tour and I also love history! To purchase tickets, go online to www.historicspanishpoint.org or www.selby.org. To purchase tickets onsite, go to 337 Tamiami Trail (US 41), in Osprey. The Visitor Center is currently closed, so you
will need to proceed to the Gazebo onsite to purchase your tickets. They are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Please keep in mind that ONLY credit/debit cards can be used – no cash! Also, no dogs are allowed during the first phase of reopening. In addition, no tours are available, but may become available in upcoming reopening phases. Watch for tours in the future as the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point Campus continues to reopen in phases. They are following CDC guidelines so you can be sure to be safe. Bring water and wear comfortable shoes for walking. For more information, please call (941) 966-5214.