Landmarks help define our community

Landmarks are often used when giving people directions how to find some place. The most prominent, yet low-key, landmark of Bradenton is the riverfront that forms the northern boundary of this community of about 53,600.

Stately homes, a downtown skyline, condominium towers and a linear park hug the banks of the Manatee River, the wide waterway that drew the original native peoples and early settlers to the area. As you cross the Green Bridge into Bradenton you'll notice the grow-ing skyline of the downtown area. Towering above the mostly 2- and 3-story office buildings are the Bradenton Financial Center, the historic Riverfront Hotel, the Professional Building and the new Manatee County Judicial Center. If you took a boat trip from the Municipal Pier marina at the foot of Main Street down the river toward the Gulf of Mexico you'd cruise by grand homes, mainly built by the movers and shakers of Manatee County in the early 1930s. You can take a walk west of the Green Bridge through Rossi Park, named after the founder of Tropicana, Anthony Rossi, along a wide sidewalk and under the shade of numerous trees. If you were directing visitors vacationing on Anna Maria Island on how to get to Manatee High School, you may tell them to take Manatee Avenue West and turn right at the building with a big, red letter "M" on the blue A-frame roof. Because the Shake Pit, at 3801 Manatee Ave. W., is only a couple of blocks from the high school, it has been a favorite teen hangout since it opened in 1959. If the traveler was heading downtown, you might warn them about Manatee Avenue West changing from two-way traffic to one at the tall, black-glassed building. The Bradenton Financial Building, a 12-story office building constructed in the mid-1980s, looms over the intersection where drivers heading east on Manatee Avenue into downtown have to make a sharp right and swing around to Sixth Avenue West. When giving directions from Interstate 75, on the eastern fringes of the city limits, to the antique district of Historic Manatee Village, one might tell a visitor to keep an eye out for the bright orange Rexall sign that wraps around Pelot's Pharmacy on Manatee Avenue East and Ninth Street. The 3-story gray-stoned building has occupied the half-block northwest corner since 1910. If you were going to meet someone downtown for lunch, you might say "meet you by the Civil War monument." A 20-or-so-foot obelisk has stood in front of the Historic Manatee Court-house since June 3, 1924, when the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confed-eracy had it erected. The monument honors the Confederate soldiers who demonstrated "peace, courage and chivaly" during the War Between the States. These are only a few of the landmarks that give Bradenton a sense of place and, with newer ones replacing the old, a vibrancy to a quality of life.