Historic Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach has a great deal of history to tell, with a few spirits along the way. The street takes its name from being the site of the first
bridge connecting the island to Cortez on the mainland. Construction started in 1921 but was slowed due to hurricane damage. The bridge was completed in 1922.
The new route to the island was very popular with cars and bridge construction being what it was, it is said that a car crossing the bridge sounded like a series of
gunshots. Part of the old bridge still exists as the pier which is popular for dining, fishing and sightseeing. From the pier, you’ll have an excellent view of the new
drawbridge, built in 1956. You may even catch a glimpse of the spirits known to walk the span. A man has been spotted at times, as well as two individuals missing their heads. The man was riding on the tailgate of a pickup truck when it went over a bump; he lost his balance and fell onto the road. The car coming behind could not stop in time and it hit and killed the man in a tragic accident.
The headless spirits are a couple who were engaged in an illicit affair. The woman’s husband was a very violent and vindictive man. When he caught them together, they fled in a convertible and headed for the bridge. Unfortunately, as they raced onto the bridge, it was in the process of opening. Fearing the woman’s husband, they kept going, but didn’t make it. They were both decapitated as their car flew off one rising leaf and slammed into the other.
At the island end of the new bridge was the Bayside Inn, now the Bridge Tender Inn Dockside Bar & Grille. It has been reported that when the new owners took over the building in the 1980s, an old chest was found hidden away on the second floor. Inside were bones, believed to be human. Perhaps not by coincidence, Al Capone was known to have frequented a bar and dancehall right next to the old Bayside Inn.
Across the street from the Bridge Tender is the legendary Drift-In Liquors once owned by none other than Babe Ruth, whose name is on documents from the 1920s. It is now owned by a gentleman named Jose Cuervo. The Bambino may stop by now and then to check in on his favorite island bar.
George Bean was the first permanent resident of the island. He settled on the northern tip of the island but is a fan of Bridge Street. George was an associate of Charles Roser, and together they built the 678-foot pier in Anna Maria that still stands today. Roser built the first church on Pine Avenue for his wife and was also the creator of the Fig Newton cookie.
As you are walking along Bridge Street, you may come across George Bean in the area of the new shops. He seems to like the more mature women rather than the younger ones. He’s known to walk along with you to where the buildings start on the pier. Sometimes you may find you are missing something around this point. It seems George likes to collect souvenirs.
On New Year’s Day of 2009, Sheena Morris and her boyfriend rented one of the units at the BridgeWalk resort for a little getaway from Tampa. Guests in a neighboring unit heard them fighting and called the police. Before entering the unit, police may have passed Sheena’s boyfriend in the hallway not knowing who he was. Sheena was found hanging from the shower head. A rope was around her neck, and she was almost in a sitting position. The police ruled it as a suicide. Sheena’s mother hired a private investigator who deemed it a murder. Recently a report came out that Sheena’s body had an imprint on her rear that matched up perfectly with the pattern of a wicker chair that was in the unit. This could only happen postmortem, although it sounds more like foul play.
While you’re walking through the post office parking lot and down the sidewalk towards Gulf Drive, Sheena may try to get your attention. She has been known to bang on walls and cry for help. Using a voice box during an EVP session, we found that she just wants everyone to know the truth. She didn’t commit suicide. She does appreciate hearing that you believe her story and she misses her mom very much. Such a sad story.
What is now the Island Time Inn is where town meetings used to be held. Part of the building was a hardware store at the time the first bridge opened. There is a male spirit here, though his identity is unknown. He has been reported to throw objects and create messes for the staff to clean up.
Some may have heard of the Oar House, which stood at the north corner of Bridge Street and Gulf Drive. It originally opened in the 1940s and changed owners and names many times over the years. It had a rough reputation and burned in 1978. The fire was reputedly set by rocker Gregg Allman or one of his associates. It later became Key West Willie’s before being torn down and replaced with a new structure in 2002. On the site now is Island Time Bar and Grill along with the Bridge Street
Bistro. When the bistro was known as Sun House under a previous owner, employees reported items disappearing, seeing shadows and hearing a couple arguing. Leftover energy from the Oar House perhaps? An investigation in the restaurant found strong evidence that the site is haunted.
So much activity for just one street! Imagine what the rest of the island has. While strolling down Bridge Street, remember the spirits they may be trying to get your attention.