Friday, July 21, 2017

Gone But Not Forgotten - The Historic Tower Bar of Riverside Drive

Many iconic historic structures in the Punta Gorda area are gone with the winds from Hurricane Charley.  One, a  relic of a key part of Punta Gorda's history, was a 30-foot tower that stood at the head of a creek right off Riverside Drive and US 17.  The tower was originally built as a sales office in 1921 at the start of the Florida land boom by William W. Wilson, a developer and vice-president of the Punta Gorda State Bank to attract potential buyers to land he had platted and provide a vantage point for them to view the area.   It became a successful beacon so much so that Mr. Wilson leased out the building to Chauncey and Lillian Headley as a home and part time business.

The Headleys operated a gas station and built a small cottage next to the tower for a living space and used the second floor of the tower as a bedroom.  Later the Headleys moved to town and rented the cottage as a tourist cabin.  Over time they started a barbecue business on the weekend. People from Punta Gorda would drive out to buy a roast pork sandwich.  They had a tent camp on the same land as the barbecue pit.

The tower survived the hurricanes of the 1920s, but the economy did not, ending the land boom and starting the depression.  The Headleys gave up their lease and Wilson sold the tower to Jesse Lanier , who built more touritst quarters on the property.  The cabins were used during WWII by families of cadets at the Punta Gorda Army Air Base.

After the repeal of prohibition, another owner, Sam Curtis, turned the old filling station into a bar, which was later purchase by a Mr. Kristyensen from Long Island, N.Y.  He filled the place with automobile memorabilia, license plates dated back to 1913 and old theatre posters.  A real traffic light told patrons when the bar was open or closed or "last call."   The bar passed through two more sets of owners,  And in 2004, the tower failed to survive another hurricane.  Hurricane Charley brought the it down, all in one piece.  The then owners, the Ervings, salvaged what they could and turned the bar into a tikibar on the creek.

If you have memories or more details about the Tower and the bar, please share them with us.

(Source: article by Lindsey Williams)

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