Palmetto plan would resurrect Sea Horse site


A photo of the old Sea Horse Gift Shop. Jeff Burton wants to bring back a taste of the past to improve Palmetto’s future. At last week’s City Commission and Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, the CRA chief pitched a plan to knock down an empty building on the pier by the Green Bridge, replace it with a cafe and bait shop, and perhaps give it a seahorse motif. (Photo provided by Palmetto Historical Park )

Palmetto Historical Park

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 3:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 3:44 p.m.

PALMETTO – Jeff Burton wants to bring back a taste of the past as a way to improve Palmetto’s future. And it will all start with a seahorse.

The head of the Community Redevelopment Agency recently offered a plan to knock down an empty building on the pier by the Green Bridge, replace it with a café and bait shop, and give it a seahorse motif.

The nautical theme would be in deference to “The Sea Horse Gift Shop,” which was on the site from the early 1950s until 1976. The store featured an iconic giant seahorse in the days before Interstate 75 was built, when tourists would stop for a break and buy orange juice and trinkets before continuing down Tamiami Trail.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said she has fond memories of the place, and hopes the site is brought back to life.

“The Sea Horse is part of Palmetto’s history, part of our heritage,” she said. “Those of us that grew up here are a little bit older and all remember the Sea Horse. It was just one of those cornerstones. As you came into the city of Palmetto, you had to see the Sea Horse.”

The shop featured a display of alligators, rattlesnakes, monkeys and “Scarlett,” owner Ed Winter’s scarlet macaw, according to a 2003 history of the business compiled by Alice V. Myers of the Palmetto Historical Commission.

The estimated cost of the new pier building is $375,000. Backers say it could help revitalize the Palmetto side of the Manatee River that has had trouble growing, and put to good use an existing structure there.

“It’s just sitting,” Burton said. “It’s just in need of not just repair, but redevelopment.”

The CRA Board approved the plan last month.