Market snapshot: Ware's Creek


 PHOTO GALLERY: See more photos from Ware's Creek neighborhood

In 1845, Elbridge Ware moved with his wife and father-in-law from Tallahassee and built a home on the west bank of a creek that separated them from what later became Bradenton.

The following year, a hurricane so strong that it sucked the water out of the Manatee River destroyed the house. The discouraged Ware family returned to north Florida. But their name became permanently associated with the tributary of the Manatee River and the historic neighborhood of Ware’s Creek (with an apostrophe).

The Royal Palms Apartments date to 1925 on Seventh Avenue West in Bradenton's Ware's Creek neighborhood. Staff photo / Harold Bubil

The Royal Palms Apartments date to 1925 on Seventh Avenue West in Bradenton's Ware's Creek neighborhood. Staff photo / Harold Bubil

As other settlers arrived, the area gained the reputation of an up-and-coming neighborhood, although for some years the only way to cross Wares Creek (no apostrophe) was at a shallow spot known as Taylor’s ford. In 1884, a wooden bridge on green pine pilings was built on Manatee Avenue at a cost of $840. It was later replaced with a concrete structure and supplemented by two additional bridges at Seventh and Ninth Avenues in the 1940s.


Today, Historic Ware’s Creek is one of Bradenton’s oldest and most charming neighborhoods. Its boundaries extend from the creek to 26th Street West, and south from Manatee Avenue to 14th Street. More than 300 of the 549 lots have structures 65 years or older; a few date to the 1880s.

Most of the historic buildings are one- and two-story Florida bungalows from the first two decades of the 20th century, with a sprinkling of Spanish-style architecture, including the 1925 Bradenton Women’s Club on Manatee Avenue. Moving west from the creek, more of the homes are ranch houses dating from the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.

With its mature oaks, tall palm trees and picturesque homes, the neighborhood exudes “Old Florida” charm, serenity and a neighborly atmosphere.

It wasn’t always like that, however.

By the 1990s, rezoning had converted many of the homes into rental units and crowded apartment buildings. Vagrancy and crime seeped into the area, and many of the homes were neglected.

But a determined group of residents started the Historic Ware’s Creek Neighborhood Association and turned things around. They successfully petitioned the city to restore single-family zoning, organized a neighborhood watch, conducted periodic cleanups of the creek and the streets, and worked with the city’s code enforcement department to get negligent landlords cited.

Their efforts paid off, and today, Ware’s Creek is once again an up-and-coming neighborhood.

The Bank of Ozarks’ decision to build its Manatee County headquarters on a 2-acre lot between 19th Street West and Manatee Avenue has helped raise the profile of the area, as has the recent dredging of Wares Creek. The work was part of a massive, $51.8 million project to prevent flooding and to eliminate the creek’s mucky, clogged appearance.

Jay Burrell, president of the homeowners association, has lived in Ware’s Creek since 1999 and occupied his current waterfront home since 2004. He has boated on the creek, along with others who canoe and kayak.

“I’ve seen otters and owls, coyotes and raccoons, manatees, lots of snook, sharks, alligators and even a large iguana,” he said.

He said he also loves the camaraderie of the residents.

“Each Friday, we all get together for a social event. Old neighbors come back to visit and chat and look at their old homes,” he said. “It’s a very friendly place.”

Guy Larking, who has lived there since 1966, agreed. “People are neighborly, but not nosy. It’s a nice, quiet neighborhood — a good place to raise a family.”

According to Larking, a third of his neighbors are retirees and the rest are working people with families. There are 60- and 70-year-olds, but also children and teenagers skateboarding down the streets.

Part of the attraction of the area is its convenient location. Besides the proximity to downtown Bradenton, there is Ballard Elementary school right across the creek, and Manatee High School not far to the west. Shops, restaurants and grocery stores are within walking distance on Manatee Avenue; Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria Island are just a short drive down the road.

Axel Weiss of Sea to Sky Realty has a listing at 718 20th St. W. and lived in Ware’s Creek when he came to town.

“It’s unique — lovely, old houses, close to downtown and reasonably priced. You can’t find that in Sarasota,” he said.

The housing bust was hard on the neighborhood, though. “A lot of people invested and bought high, and property values plummeted, so we had quite a few foreclosures and short sales,” Burrell said. “Now, because of the efforts we’ve made to improve the neighborhood, people are coming back. Prices are going up again.”

Seven properties are for sale, ranging in price from $42,000 to $298,000.

“I’m pleased with the resurgence, but there are still things to do,” Burrell said. “We want to take the neighborhood up another notch.”


Last modified: September 14, 2013
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