Step Back in Time

By Robert Plunket August 6, 2008

Braden Castle offers small-scale, old-fashioned Florida living at a modest price.


By Robert Plunket


Braden Castle is unique. It’s a perfectly preserved and functioning bungalow colony from the 1920s, the sort of place your grandparents used to vacation in. Little houses stand on tiny plots of land, just feet from each other, everything within walking distance – exactly what Seaside and the New Urbanism are trying to recapture. Only this is the real thing.

The ruins of Braden Castle.

 It’s built on what may be the best piece of land in Manatee County – the point where the Braden River meets the Manatee River. And right in the center of its 34 acres, set on a rise overlooking the water, are the ruins of the area’s first home, the castle itself. It was an imposing two-story home, owned by Dr. John Braden and built by slaves in the 1840s. Today it’s a pile of picturesque debris. Poor Dr. Braden – he defaulted on his mortgage and had to go back to Tallahassee. The first house, the first foreclosure – some things never change.

Today Braden Castle is an over-55 community, and its residents are mostly retired Midwesterners who drive down for the winter. But some locals live there year round; I met a guy who works for the Sheriff’s office. I would live there in a heartbeat except for the fact that they don’t take pets.

 A quiet streetscape.

The price is certainly right. You can easily get something for under $100,000. The house below is listed at $65,900.



 The $65,000 house at 6 Oak St., Braden Castle; call  Re/Max realtor Jill Berg at 954-5454 for more information.

But keep in mind it’s less than 600 square feet. Braden Castle homes are tiny vacation homes from the 1920s, don’t forget – charming but very small in scale. Even the amenities are in keeping with the place’s character – there’s a clubhouse, a great old fishing pier, shuffleboard courts, and my favorite (pictured below), the library.

Braden Castle's charming library.

 The amazing thing is that it has lasted so long. I guess that’s because the residents own it and have no intention of selling it to a developer. There is an equally picturesque trailer park called Two Rivers which adjoins it; its future is a little less secure.

 The community's lake.

And yes, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Drop by for a visit; this is a step back in time, Old Florida at its purest. Let’s just hope they rethink the no pets policy.

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