What is now Manatee High School has had at least four names over the years and has had several different grade configurations during that time.
What is now MHS began in 1897 as Braidentown High School in a building located on the northwest corner of 9th Avenue and 14th Street, West, where the city shuffleboard courts were later located. In 1912, a new high school building was built on the south side of Manatee Avenue and west of 1st Street, just east of where the school district offices are now located. Sometime before 1915, students from Palmetto were added and the school became Manatee County High School for the first time. Coach Julian Howard brought football to Manatee in 1914 and local merchants outfitted the team with uniforms and equipment. When 1915 rolled around, local fascination with football had peaked and there were 13 players on the roster. The schedule consisted of 6 teams but played Tampa Hillsborough and Plant City each twice. Without giving up a point, Manatee swept through eight games unbeaten. To play St. Pete, Manatee had to travel by boat to the old Municipal Pier, and then walk 56 blocks to the field. Trips to other schools in the area were 2 day affairs and always by train. Manatee was regarded as the best team in the southern part of the state and Gainesville was the best in the northern part of the state – Manatee traveled for 2 days to Gainesville and continued their winning streak with a score of 10 – 0. There was no state organization for high school sports, coaches were not allowed to send in plays or signal instructions from the sidelines, offenses never huddled before a play the way they do today, there were no bleachers and spectators moved with the action up and down the field. The 1915 MCHS football team gained fame for never losing a game as well as never being scored upon. Sometime in the 1920s MCHS became Bradenton High School (BHS) when Palmetto students once again had their own high school to attend.
In 1930, the Manatee Avenue building was closed and BHS was moved to the red brick building at 1000 32nd Street, West, which had been built in 1926 as the Biltmore Grade School, but had been closed after less than a year's use because of the collapse of the Florida Land Boom. This building is now called the Davis Building in memory of longtime principal, Paul F. Davis. In 1938 the old building on Manatee Avenue was opened as Bradenton Junior High School with grades 7 through 9.
In 1947, Florida adopted the present system of having a single school district for each county and as a result Palmetto High School was merged back into Bradenton High School and the school's name again became Manatee County High School, which required changes in many school traditions. The school colors became red, white and blue by taking red from Palmetto's "red and black" and blue from Bradenton's "blue and gold" and adding white. BHS's teams had been the Golden Wave, but that was replaced by the Hurricanes. Palmetto's year book had been the Palmetto Leaves, so the new one got the incongruous name of Manatee Leaves. The school newspaper became the Macohi.
1955 was another year of change for MCHS. The three junior high schools south of the Manatee River, Bradenton, Manatee and Oneco were consolidated into a brand new school, Walker Junior High School, which was built across 11th Avenue, West from the high school. Walker had state of the art music facilities which were used by MCHS's orchestra, chorus and band.
The MCHS graduating class of 1958 was the last one to have students from both sides of the river, since Palmetto High School had been phased back in beginning in 1956. During the summer of 1958. the school's name was shortened to the present Manatee High School to reflect the fact that it no longer drew students from the entire county. Student and public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the name Manatee instead of reverting it to Bradenton High School.
Since 1958 many other changes have happened at Manatee High School, including:
Integration when the school district ended racial segregation in all schools.
The addition of the 9th grade when the school district converted its junior high schools (grades 7-9) into middle schools (grades 6-8).
The Manatee Leaves became the Cane Echo.
The annexation of the Walker school campus;
The demolition of the old Walker Building and the old Science building on 9th Avenue.
The completion of new buildings, such as the Science and Technology Building (1996).
The demolition of the Davis Building due to age and condition (2009–2010)
Completion of the New Davis Building (2011)