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Since early in the 4th century, the area now called Treasure Island was settled by the Tocobago. The peaceful Native American tribes traded with each other until the quests of Ponce de Leon and Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528 searching for the Fountain of Youth and the promise of gold, respectively, nearly wiped out the indigenous people.
During the 18th century, with the island now almost completely uninhabited, pirates and smugglers hid along the coastline where they pillaged and plundered unsuspecting travelers collecting their booty along the way! As small villages developed and settlers began migrating from Georgia and the Carolina's to this gulf coast area, forming communities in the late 1800's, all of the pirates and most of the smugglers had left the area.
John's Pass was carved out when the last great hurricane hit Pinellas County in 1848 and created the north boundary of Treasure Island separating it from Madeira Beach while two smaller islands off of Treasure Island were created - the Isle of Capri and the Isle of Palms.
Thomas F. Pierce was the first owner of Treasure Island, purchasing the island from the state of Florida in 1908 for $1.25 per acre. Whiteford Smith Harrell built the island's first hotel in 1915, the Coney Island Hotel, which was a 25-room property and was a success as Harrell used his own boat, "Don," to ferry tourists to and from the mainland. As the news of Harrell's success spread, other developers flocked to the area and Treasure Island was on its way to becoming a tourist destination.
What's in a name? In an attempt to boost property sales, it is said that, a number of property owners buried and then subsequently discovered "buried treasure" in wooden chest on the beach in 1915 and from then on the island was so aptly called Treasure Island.
Treasure Island experienced a construction boom through the 1950's as many veterans returned to the area following the end of World War II. Familiar with the area due to their training at the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair and with easy access by automobile via the Treasure Island Causeway Bridge, built in 1939, there was a residential development boom to the area boasting 3 miles of white sand beaches.
During this time there was a petition to combine all of the small beach town along the barrier islands from Pass-A-Grille to Redington Beach which caused these towns to quickly take action. On May 3, 1955, by a Special Act of the State Legislature, the towns of Sunset Beach, Boca Ciega, Treasure Island and Sunshine Beach were incorporated into the City of Treasure Island.
Sunset Beach, a narrow barrier island, is located on the west fork of Gulf Blvd at the southern-most point of Treasure Island. There is the Treasure Island Pavilion (also called the Sunset Beach Pavilion), the Sunset Beach Boardwalk and the infamous, Caddy's Beach Bar!
Treasure Island has a thriving bar and restaurant scene in its downtown.
Notables: Babe Ruth, the legendary baseball slugger, following his retirement had a winter beachfront home on Treasure Island.
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