Prior to 1914, the Punta Gorda shoreline of Charlotte Harbor ran in its natural state to within a few hundred feet of Retta Esplanade. Refuse washed ashore. Flooding was an issue, as was erosion. It wasn’t always pretty.
Beginning in 1912, a group of citizens led by Dr. George Stone ( a Punta Gorda Mayor) came up with the idea to build a concrete seawall along the waterfront from Taylor Street to Berry Street, fill in behind it, and create a waterfront park filled with rare and beautiful tropical plants. To finance the project, they would create and sell waterfront lots, so they promised the new park project wouldn’t cost the city taxpayers a cent.
Many laughed at the idea and told Stone it was crazy idea and couldn’t be accomplished. Undaunted, he developed a plan and presented it to the City Council, who agreed with the project, and it went forward.
The construction project was a big success. Unfortunately for the developers, neither Dr. Stone and his partners nor the city had considered Isaac Trabue’s original instructions in platting the Town of Trabue, which was to become Punta Gorda. The deed specifies that all the waterfront be designated as public parks. Title to the newly created property could not be conveyed to the interested buyers, who were intended to pay for the entire project.
After 10 years of litigation between the bank that financed the project, Dr. Stone and his fellow property investors, and the City of Punta Gorda, a settlement was reached. The City would pay the cost of building the seawall and filling the land, and thereby own it free of all encumbrances. All parties were satisfied.
Today, we all owe a debt of gratitude, both to Isaac Trabue for his thoughtfulness in creating the town of Trabue required the waterfront would be protected for use by all its citizens, and to Dr. Stone for his efforts to create a beautiful waterfront, which didn’t work out quite as he originally planned, but which resulted in our beautiful Harborwalk parks. I have to believe that both would be pleased with the result. (J. Dodez)