We know growth in and around Parrish is getting big. Really big. You know, as in really, really big.
For example, developers are seeking to build 25,000 homes around the historic heart of the village.
Most recently, HC Properties requested the Manatee Planning Commission approve a change from 170,000 to 300,000 square feet for a planned shopping center at Harrison Ranch Boulevard and U.S. 301.
Parrish residents are hopeful that the Parrish Village Neighborhood Action Plan that the county commissioned will help stitch the patchwork of new development into a livable, cohesive whole.
With Parrish at the epicenter of growth in the North River area, here are 10 things to know about the once sleepy village:
▪ The first documented settlers of the community were William B. Hooker and William H. Johnson in 1850. The settlement was known as Oak Hill in its early days. The name was changed to Parrish with the opening of the post office to avoid confusion with another Oak Hill, south of Daytona Beach. The Parrishes were some of the village’s earliest settlers.
▪ The Florida Railroad Museum, located at 12210 83rd St. E., attracts thousands of visitors to Parrish annually with special themed events, including the Pumpkin Patch Express (Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27). Also planned before year’s end are Von Kessinger’s Express, Hole in the Head Gang Train Robbery and the North Pole Express. Biggest of all is Thomas the Tank Engine, which returns in March.
▪ The Parrish Heritage Parade and chili cookoff, set for March 7, is the biggest community event of the year. It started more than 35 years ago with a potluck and a few people walking along the road. Today, the parade moves along 121st Avenue to the Florida Railroad Museum.
▪ The Fort Hamer Bridge opened in 2017, marking the realization of a dream a century in the making. The bridge adds a north-south corridor over the Manatee River. Gretchen Fowler, president of the Parrish Civic Association, says the bridge easily saves her 20 minutes in travel time between Parrish and Lakewood Ranch. But the bridge can also cause big traffic backups at peak travel hours. “It should have been built as a four-lane bridge,” she said.
▪ Parrish Community High School opened this year, helping students get their lessons closer to home, and fostering community pride. It’s not unusual to have several thousand turn out for a junior varsity football game, long-time resident and community leader Norma Kennedy said.
▪ Much of the new development is planned along Moccasin Wallow Road. The east-west highway that started as a dirt road was originally called Red Top and later Fire Tower Road, according to Kennedy.
▪ The Fort Hamer Rowing Faciity opened in 2011, and immediately attracted some of the top collegiate rowing teams in the country. The legendary Harry Parker, who coached Harvard to 20 undefeated rowing seasons, was on hand for the grand opening.
▪ In 2009, The YMCA opened a Parrish branch in the refurbished historic Parrish School, built in 1924. The Parrish Y has become one of the most active branches in Manatee County. The YMCA has plans to build a full-service complex on Rutland Road.
▪ Fort Hamer Park is located near the site of a U.S. Army fort and hospital built during the Second Seminole War. It was one of a line of forts built from Manatee County to the Indian River on Florida’s East Coast. At the height of the conflict, in 1850, the fort housed 190 soldiers.
▪ Selby Groves & Llama Ranch was a memorable Parrish tourist attraction that was overtaken by development. Located down a dirt road at 11955 U.S. 301, it offered a bit of old-time Floridiana, selling soft-serve ice cream, gift fruit, jars of honey, orange marmalade, guava jelly, Florida souvenir T-shirts and Florida coconut patties. In 2003, the owner, Col. Edwin Selby, put the property on the market, making it available for development.