Palmetto Historical Park and Manatee County Agricultural Museum held our annual Halloween Social last week. Each year, more than 100 volunteers from a wide variety of service clubs help us make all of our little trick-or-treaters happy.
This event continues a long history of community organizations pulling together to support the Historical Park. The 1914 Palmetto Carnegie Library, located within the park, has been the recipient of community support for 100 years now.
Looking back a century to 1914, it seems this area was really hopping! It turns out the library is not alone in celebrating this anniversary. The Manatee County Fair and the Woman's Club of Palmetto will also quickly reach the century mark.
It's no coincidence the Woman's Club shares this milestone with the library. The Woman's Club was originally the Village Improvement Association. Some early projects included acquiring trash barrels for Main Street (now 10th Avenue) and planting shrubs around the school. Association members then rented a room and collected books for Palmetto's citizens.
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Once the Carnegie Library was built, the women helped to equip it by doing luncheons to raise money. In 1915, with the library well established,
the Village Improvement Association became the Woman's Club of Palmetto.
In 1930, the women were able to move into their own clubhouse. The new building served as a hub for social life, hosting school proms, wedding receptions and business lunches. In the 1950s, the Manatee Players held performances on the club's lighted stage. The Holy Cross Catholic Church and St. Mary's Episcopal Church both held services in the club while their sanctuaries were being built. Club members even organized a defense canning kitchen during WWII.
If you look through old copies of local newspapers, it's a rare issue that doesn't have some mention of fun activities planned by, or good deeds performed by the Palmetto Woman's Club.
The Dec. 27, 1915, Evening Journal notes that Palmetto's Christmas night was marked by "one or two brilliant affairs." One of these celebrations was a community Christmas tree ceremony under the direction of the Woman's Club. The Christmas trees were "tastefully decorated" large oak trees, and the ceremony included Sunday School children, Boy Scouts, Christmas carols and Santa. The evening ended with the distribution of Christmas candy boxes packed by the club and "quickly thrust into the hands of each one" by Boy Scouts.
Lenore Stewart, a descendant of Palmetto town founder Samuel Lamb, reminisces about attending dances in the 1930s held for local teens by the Woman's Club. She recalls that a little local band would provide the music and, if the girls went in early and helped the boys learn to dance, they'd get in free. Apparently, the only drawback was that their pupils expected to be partners all evening. Lenore is pretty cute, and I can see why they wanted to stay with her!
Today, the club continues its tradition of community service. Among many other projects, they provide a $1,500 scholarship every year to a local student attending SCF, which continues as long as they attend the school.
This Christmas, the Woman's Club will continue their 100-year-old tradition of supporting the Carnegie Library by participating in the Sweet Shop at Palmetto's Christmas in the Park. Monies raised from this event over the years have helped provide family programming and busing so local children can attend free educational field trips to the Historical Park and Agriculture Museum.
As the Palmetto Historical Commission works to preserve the Carnegie Library, it's important for us to remember how we began, and all the many people who worked so diligently to provide our community with this beautiful library. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 5-6 during Palmetto's Christmas in the Park, the Historical Commission will hold a silent auction to raise funds to correct the leaky library windows. We've received our first official auction item: a rental at - you guessed it, the Palmetto Woman's Club. Please mark your calendars to attend this free family event and start your Christmas shopping at the silent auction.
Amanda Polson, Palmetto Historical Park supervisor, grew up in Palmetto and feels historic because her high school annual is part of the museum's permanent collection. You can reach her at email@example.com or 941-723-4991.