Wednesday, August 18, 2021

History of Twin Isles Golf Course originally Burnt Store Golf Course

When the Burnt Store Golf Course (now Twin Isles) opened in 1970 with nine holes,  its pro shop was a houseboat anchored on Alligator Creek.  The shop had been towed by three motor boats through the isles to the banks of the waterway near the then Allapathchee Lodge   

The course and ultimately club house was built on the site of the Lodge, which was erected in 1927  by Lou Calder, a paper manufacturing magnate, as a getaway hunting and fishing lodge.   In mid-January, 1969, Punta Gorda Isles, lnc. purchased 509 acres of land from a Trust that had bought it from the University of Miami. The land was inherited by the university and included the former Allapatchee Lodge, on Alligator Creek.  The by-then dilapidated lodge was burnt down during the construction of the course.  The burning building was featured on early scorecards (not the Burnt Store which has a history of its own).  

The course built  with "input" from noted Florida architect Ron Garl was completed to 18-holes in 1973. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Old Fish Dock Transformed To “Fishermen’s Village”

After the last of the old fish companies on the Maud Street Dock, the Punta Gorda Fish Company, ceased operation in the late 1970s, the dock fell into ruin.    Earl Nightingale, a famous radio personality of the day, discovered the rundown pier with its magnificent view of Charlotte Harbor.    He envisioned the end of the dock becoming a perfect setting for a fine dining restaurant.  But when Nightingale partnered with local developer F.M.Donelson and publisher Robert Anderson, a plan was developed that went beyond a dining venue.   

The partners created a vision for  a major waterfront tourist attraction that would become Fishermen’s Village.  After many months of planning and negotiating, the team had constructed a complex with shops, restaurants,  apartments, a marina, and  tennis courts. 

In keeping with the fishing history, when Fishermen’s Village held its grand opening  in February of 1980, shrimp boats and mullet fishermen could still be seen at the edge of the facility. Pleasure and fishing cruises were also part of the early activity,  as they are today, adding to the atmosphere of the colorful fishing and boating history of days gone by.

Sports Fishing

What was said to have been the first big game fish, a silver tarpon, was taken by ordinary rod and reel in 1885 by W.H.Wood. Articles about the feat in the London Observer and Scientific American launched the new sport of big game fishing and attracted anglers from all over the world to Charlotte Harbor.


The sport not only employed hundreds of fishing guides in Southwest Florida, it also created a leisure industry that included tackle shops, hotels, and restaurants. The diversity of sport fish, habitats, great weather, and year-round fishing soon made the Charlotte Harbor area a premier fishing destination. Game fishing was popular with the wealthy from the late 1800s to the early 1900s with Frederick Remington, J.P. Morgan, and several members of the Vanderbilt family among those who came to Charlotte Harbor to enjoy the sport. 

Anglers traveled to Punta Gorda by rail and then by boat to the tarpon fishing grounds of Boca Grande Pass.  In 1889,  Scribners Magazine reported that all kinds of fish could be caught off the piers in Punta Gorda. In addition to boats, piers and remnants of old bridges continued to be used for fishing. Over the years, anglers would display their trophy catches on Marion Avenue.


Theodore Roosevelt Sport Fishing in Charlotte Harbor

On March 26, 1917, an enthusiastic crowd of over a thousand people gathered to welcome the former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, to Punta Gorda.  He had come to conquer the “devil fish.”

Roosevelt had been drawn to Punta Gorda by an article written by a fishing guide, Russell Coles of Danville, Virginia, who had dramatically described in a magazine the catching of a manta ray weighing three tons. Roosevelt contacted Coles - he had to conquer this fish. Coles arranged for Captain Jack J. McCann and crew to take Roosevelt and himself on a fishing expedition on the E.C. Knight to what was then considered the leading sports fishing area of Florida.

Captain McCann transported the party between Punta Gorda and the inlets and passes of the area.   On their first day, Roosevelt succeeded in harpooning two “devil fish”, one of small size and the other a huge creature measuring over twelve feet across. They also explored the surrounding waters, spending one complete day inspecting the bird rookeries near Matlacha. 

Roosevelt enjoyed a week of fishing the waters of Charlotte Harbor returning to Punta Gorda on April 2, 1917,  a few days before the United States entered the First World War.  

The Long Dock


In 1886, after Isaac Trabue persuaded  the Florida Southern Railroad directors to locate their railroad down the east side of the Peace River, track was extended along what is now the linear park to beyond the original town of Trabue.  There a 4200-foot dock was constructed and for the next eleven years, it became the heart of Punta Gorda’s commerce. 

The Long Dock, located near where the Isles Yacht Club is today, extended to twelve feet of water which enabled steamships to arrive there.  The pier had a telegraph office, a post office, several fish companies, stores, and facilities. Among the seafood dealers located on the dock were A.K. Demiere, Carnes and Monk, M.M. Sullivan and Sons, and Bloxham and Lewis. In October of 1887, the steamer Hutchinson of the Morgan Line arrived at the Long Dock, and for the next nine years, every Friday Morgan Line Steamers left the dock for New Orleans, and every Saturday for Havana and Key West.

In 1897, Henry Plant purchased the railroad.  To eliminate any competition for Tampa, he had the rails from the Long Dock removed and terminated his railroad near the Hotel Punta Gorda,  where there was only five feet of water.   The era of Punta Gorda as a seaport ended.