The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 18 - February 26, 2014


Island’s just fine for Margaret Chapman

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Margaret Chapman sits on the deck behind
her house where she can see the Gulf and hear
the roar of the surf.


ANNA MARIA – Margaret Chapman’s roots run deep on the Island, and she still enjoys the beach and the people who live and visit here, even though age has slowed her some. She turns 90 on March 2.

In 1950, as the country adjusted to the end of the war, her parents, Carlos and Irene Wells, bought the Anna Maria Motel, 806 Bay Blvd. N., the first motel on the Island.

“It was the only structure in the area except two houses on the beach,” she said. “My father had retired from DuPont, and it was a six-unit motel. They added two more units.”

Over the years, her father served as mayor of the sparsely populated city and president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

“I remember he went out by boat to see the opening of the Skyway Bridge,” she said.

Margaret helped her parents run the motel.

“I loved it,” she said. “I loved the people and got to know the regular customers. We became friends.”

Her father died in 1956 and Margaret married, moved away and had children. Two of her children were born while she and her husband were living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They returned to the United States and lived in Delaware from 1965 to 1980 when she returned to the Island to be with her mother. She ran the motel by herself until she sold it in 1989. She still lives in one of the early houses on the beach near the motel. Newer, taller structures dwarf her cozy, beachy house, but it’s convenient to Margaret when she wants to go to the beach, a few steps beyond her back yard, but she sometimes needs a walker.

Inside is a wall of photos and other documents in a bedroom with memories of raising the children on the Island. One photo showed her 1954 Packard. Everyone knew it was her when she pulled up in that sedan.

While she owned the motel, she said she remodeled it because people were becoming skeptical of its cleanliness due to its age.

“I got tired of customers asking if it was clean,” she said. “I would answer, ‘It may be old, but it’s clean,’” she said. “One customer decided to try it for one night and when he tried to book it for more nights the next day, I told him it was taken.

“It really wasn’t,” she said with a sly grin, her blue eyes flashing with spirit.

After she sold the motel, she volunteered for the Chamber.

“I left it after all my friends left,” she said. “I enjoy the Historical Society because I love to be around people.”

She also joined Save Anna Maria, the citizen’s group formed to fight the Florida Department of Transportation's decision to replace the Anna Maria Island Bridge with a higher, fixed span. The group got its way when a judge ruled the DOT did not give enough notice to residents who lived near the bridge.

Margaret misses the people – whether taking classes at the Community Center or volunteering for the Chamber – and she is aghast at the crowds of people who come here now, but she still has the Gulf of Mexico right behind her house and the memories of those years at the motel.

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