The Buildings of Manatee

Kylee Souders, Staff Reporter

Built in 1897, Braidentown High School was founded by Doctor Charles Ballard, a legislator, entrepreneur and philanthropist. In 1948, the school merged with Palmetto High, causing the name of the school to change to Manatee County High. When Palmetto High School was built, our school changed its name. Due to the change of spelling of Braidenton in the 1920s, the school was renamed Bradenton High School. Following this, Palmetto rejoined, and the school returned to Manatee County High in 1978 due to Florida adopting a single school district for each county. Finally, in 1958, merging was deemed no longer necessary, new schools were built and the community agreed to drop “county” from the name.

The school has grown and produced essential leaders to our communities, many worth mentioning. From coaches to principals, several people throughout the 125 years of our schools’ existence shaped confident leaders within the United States.

The Wheeler Leeth Building Former principal and coach Wheeler Leeth name adorn Building 12 on campus. Coach Wheeler Leeth contributed to the school and the community for 10 1/2 years. “During football season and weightlifting class, we used the locker rooms to store our stuff, change out and it was nice to have convenience,” stated ninth-grader Coltyn Higgins.

Wheeler B Leeth

Wheeler Leeth, attended Sardis High School in 1934 and graduated in 1938. Very athletically inclined, Leeth participated in basketball and football at his Alabaman school. He pursued the military life while maintaining his love for sports. He played football, basketball and baseball while stationed at Fort Benning, GA. He led the post basketball league to a championship in 1945. After coaching at Tuscaloosa High, he was appointed athletic director and head football coach at our school. He coached winning teams, with three football players under his mentorship who went on to play in the NFL. Leeth later became the principal of Bayshore Junior High School in Bradenton in 1962, but eventually, he came back here. He joined as an assistant principal in 1963, then served as principal for 10 1/2 years. He was honored here by having our locker rooms dedicated in his name.

Gary Theiler

Gary Theiler was an assistant principal, as well as a coach. Today, he still teaches reading classes. Theiler was beneficial for the school due to his dedication and longevity. Theiler stated, “I was fortunate to be a part of four State Championship teams and I am fortunate to have been able to have worked under now nine different principals.” In 2010, the school dedicated Gary Theiler Way, the street in front of the Davis Building, to him as a thank you.

Joe Kinnan

Joseph Kinnan graduated in the year 1963. He was an outstanding example of a great student, for he was talented on the football field, in his musical classes/electives and his academic career was consistent of all As. He joined back in 1981 to reconstruct the at-the-time lacking football program. In the book “Manatee Magic”, Tad Reeves quoted former principal, Wesley Choate, “‘Let me tell you two things about Joe Kinnan that makes him a winner….First, he has the uncanny ability to put people in right place. And second is his ability to get kids to give 100 percent effort.” From 1981 to 2011, Joe Kinnan had the honor of coaching Manatee to win several games alongside five state championships.

The Davis Building The iconic Davis Building is a favorite and memorable building by the community. The building was built in 1926 and rebuilt in 2011. “A lot of my classes are located in the Davis Building, it’d be kind of weird to imagine them elsewhere or my classrooms looking aged,” stated ninth-grader Jonas Lennox.

Paul F. Davis

In 1926, the Davis Building was originally an elementary school named Biltmore Grade School. The elementary school was closed no more than a year later and was taken over by Manatee High. The building is now called the Davis Building in memory of Biltmore Grade School’s former principal, Paul F. Davis.

James R. Bruce Music Hall The music hall was dedicated to the man who ran the Manatee Marching ‘Canes for 30 years, James “Jim” Bruce in 2018. The new band director uses the room to instruct the newer band members to one day achieve all superior rankings at MPA, Music Performance Assessment. “Mr. Galletti is great at leading the band, maybe one day he’ll live up to Mr. Bruce,” stated Elijah Fulk (9).





James R. Bruce

The Director of Bands for 30 years, James Bruce retired three years ago. To honor his legacy at Manatee, at his final concert it was announced that the band room would become his namesake. He received the Oliver Hobbs Award, a lifetime achievement award, from the Florida Bandmasters Association. With his leadership, the Manatee Marching ‘Canes became a well-known, respected marching band, winning many competitions and receiving superior ratings at nearly every assessment.

The Frank Turner Building The weightlifting was named after Frank Turner due to his diligence and strength in coaching. It is used by many different teams, mainly the powerlifting team. Matthew Bowes (9) stated, “After school, the powerlifting team goes to the weightlifting room to practice for our upcoming meets, without that room, our team would be nowhere.”





Frank Turner

Frank Turner found himself on Joe Kinnan’s football staff at Manatee. He helped nudge the Hurricanes to win four different state titles in nine years. Turner also worked on the staff at Palmetto High in 1975 when they brought the first state championship to Manatee County. He received the honor of having the weightlifting room named after him.

Prominent names are found at our over 100-year-old school from alumni and staff to old town roots, these names will always hold significance on the campus.



Sources used:

  • History Matters: The beginnings of Palmetto High School › news › article159348914