Monday, November 30, 2015

Coming to the Founders Day Southern Supper - Why Not Wear a Hat?

If you're coming to the Southern Supper on Saturday night, and  want to get in the mood of the early days when Punta Gorda was coming into being, you might want to create a hat from the era. All you would need is a straw or other wide brim hat  that you can adorn with some artificial flowers (there are plenty of Christmas adornments around) and add a bow or two.  Just a suggestion!  Here are some samples of hats from the era.

And while it was a frontier town if you look at the early pictures the women did wear fancy hats and dress was rather formal. Check out boating picture below - the men as well.

More information on event.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Downtown Christmas Celebration and Carol Sing Friday, December 4 is A Renewed Tradition

On December 4, 1988, a replica of the old clock that had once stood in front of the first National Bank, originally  the Merchant Bank of Punta Gorda, on West Marion Avenue (where Serendipity Salon and River City Grill are today) was dedicated to serve as a focal point for the City as the old clock had.  It immediately became the place for carolers, Santa Claus and Punta Gorda's Christmas celebration every December.  

This year on Friday, December 4th as part of Flounders Week that tradition will be renewed around Punta Gorda's beautiful newer Christmas tree right near the clock.

With entertainment provided by Mixed Up Duo, and choirs performing including the Community Church Choir and St. Mary's Primative Baptist Choir, Punta Gorda Christmas season will kick into full gear (the Christmas parade is Saturday). Local groups will lead in informal Christmas caroling. Santa will make an appearance.  And the weather calls for intermittant snow.

See below for more infomation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

City Proclaims Week of December 1 to 7 Punta Gorda's Founders Day Week

Gussie Baker, Martha McKenzie and Gene Murtha, President of the Punta Gorda History Center accept Proclamation of Punta Gorda's Founder Day Week for week of December 1 to 7.   

Monday, November 16, 2015

Travel Back to the 1920s and Punta Gorda's "Saved" Court House

While Charlotte County became a County and Punta Gorda was voted as its county seat by an overwhelming referendum vote in 1922,  the new seat didn't have its own court house until much later.  Initially the new County rented space in the Masonic Lodge which was then at the corner of Marion Ave. and Sullivan Street.  It wasn't until 1927 that the Commission accumulated sufficient funds to start the building of  a court house.

The initial plan was for the building  to be located on the harbor.  But unable to achieve an agreement with the landowners of those lots,  on April 11, 1927, the Commission voted to purchase two lots on Taylor Street owned by George Brown, owner of Cleveland Marine Steam Way.  He sold the land to the Commission for $25,000, and plans for the new court house started.
Clerk of the Court Staff work at Crowded Rented Masonic Lodge Building in the 20s before Court Hosue was Built 

A jail, which had living quarters and a kitchen for the jailer and his family, was added to the plan. There were 12 cells with doors operated by remote control.  A hallway led from the courtroom to the jail -- quick justice.   

The building originally had separate rest room and drinking facilities for black and white citizens, which were desegregated in 1964.  

The Charlotte County court house was ultimately dedicated on March 30, 1928.  A special edition of the Punta Gorda Herald celebrated its opening with ads from most of the local businesses and dignitaries congratulating the County on the grand achievement.    It was considered one of the most modern buildings in Florida at the time.

The Court House became obsolete when  the needs of the growing county outgrew it, and was falling in to disrepair when Hurricane Charley struck.  That may have been the final blow had it not been for a group of determined citizens who worked to preserve the building that now serves as the home of the Supervisor of Elections and staff, as well as an office for Representative Tom Rooney, and a juvenille court.  

Take some time during Punta Gorda's Founders' Day Week to travel back to the 1920s with County Supervisor of Elections Paul Stamoulis and staff to discover the history and stories of this wonderful old Punta Gorda building.    More information.

Find out more about events during Founders' Week.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

Punta Gorda Woman's Club to Celebrate 90th Anniversary During FoundersDay Week

It was November, 1918 and Punta Gorda was celebrating news that came first by way of Fort Myers where the conductor of a north-bound train and his passengers yelled out that the "great" war had come to an end.  As soon as the news was confirmed by a special dispatch to the Punta Herald "bedlam broke loose" and the then President of the Punta Gorda Fortnightly Woman's Club, Mrs. Francis B. Hewitt led the group in song, the National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs.   The Fortnightlies was initially a literary group, but from evidence found in their regular reports in the Punta Gorda Herald  also engaged in social and charitable activities, much like  today's Punta Gorda Woman's Club, which had its origin in 1925 when the Fortlighties (the oldest group founded in 1896) merged with the Married Ladies Social Club and the Women's  Civic Improvement Association. The Civic Group was credited for getting laws passed to  control cattle from roaming freely over lawns and properties.

It was Mrs. N. C. Hewitt (called "Frankie), who became President of the new club in 1925. And it was she with the early leaders of the club, in particular, Mrs. J.H. Hancock, that drove the building of the club's home on Sullivan Street in 1927.

Many of the purposes of the original three clubs have been perpetuated by the Woman's Club over the course of its ninety years.  The Punta Gorda Library owes its existence to its early start by the Woman's Club, which the Club built to 5000 books before it was turned over to the County and moved to a location on Retta Esplanande in 1958 and later to its current location on Shreve St.   The Club also contributed to the development of Ponce de Leon Park.

Long time Punta Gordan Helen Wrobbel who passed away in 2014, guided the club for many years as it continued its mission to serve the Punta Gorda community through support of local Veteran's organizations, scholarships, service to the community's children and many other worthwhile projects.

The Club, in keeping with its roots, will hold a Historic Tea to celebrate its Anniversary on Sunday, December 6 at the Woman's Club Building at 12:30 p.m.  Jacquelyn Pierce, member of the Naples Woman's Club will present "A Conversation between Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Lincoln." The event is part of the Punta Gorda Founders' Day Week Celebration.   For tickets call 941-979-0964.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Who was Issac Trabue?

Issac Trabue was the founder of Trabue which became Punta Gorda.  A Kentucky lawyer descended from French Huguenots, Trabue purchased land on Charlotte Harbor in 1883 for about $1.25 an acre and in 1884 hired Kelly B. Harvey to survey and plat it.  To bring more value to his holdings, in 1885,  he negotiated a deal to have the railroad come to his town.

Trabue was a man of contradictions For example, he was a slave owner, who fought for the union.   Concerned about perpetuating his name and those of family members, he gave the town his family name and named many of the streets after relatives (names like Virginia, his wife, Chasteen, his father, Gill, a brother-in-law, and more  that still adorn Punta Gorda's street signs).  Yet Trabue, was not willing or able to pay Harvey's  surveyer's bill or to provide the residents, who moved to the town as a result of his efforts and promotional activity,  the basic infrastructure required.  In the end this cost him the very name of the  town which was so important to him.  Angry with the lack of responsiveness to their needs, Harvey and other settlers joined  together and incorporated Trabue into the City of Punta Gorda in 1887.

Issac Trabue will be one of the first inductees to the Punta Gorda Founders Hall of Honor on December 5 at the PGHC Southern Supper.


Vernon Peeples, Punta Gorda in the Beginning 1865-1900.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Punta Gorda History Center opens on Sullivan Street In October

With the intent of making a substantial part of Vernon Peeples historic collection of books, manuscripts, maps and other documents accessible for researchers and the public sooner rather than later, The Punta Gorda History Center has opened a temporary home on Sullivan Street in downtown Punta Gorda.

 The longer term plan is to occupy a larger facility on Grace Street that will be retrofitted for an archive.

The temporary Center is located at 110 Sullivan Street, Suite   Initial hours are Tuesdays through Thursdays,  10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fridays 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m, and by appointment. Visitors will be asked to register to use the collection.

The historical resources associated with people, events, or aspects of a communitys past give that community its sense of identity, its place in the larger world, its clues to why people came there and stayed.  Vernon Peeples, who passed away in April, knew this and carefully assembled a library and an assortment of materials as well as in-depth  personal knowledge on local history. As a result, Mr. Peeples  was heavily relied upon by those seeking information about Punta Gorda's history. His death prompted the Board of the History Center to plan an interim facility to house his collection.   The Center will through access to his collection and its volunteer researchers and historians try to fill the huge hole left by his absence.  It is also planned to digitize many of the documents in the collection for access on the internet.

If you are history enthusiast or just plain care about preserving and promoting Punta Gorda history and would be interested in volunteering to help with preservation, documentation, docenting, research, education, fundraising, publishing or other Center activities, please register at, or send an email to or phone (941)548-6170.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Vernon and Edna Jane Peeples Get "Best People We Miss" Designation by Florida Weekly

In this week's Florida Weekly's Best of Southwest Florida insert Vernon and Edna Jane Peeples were honored with the distinction of "Best People We'll Miss."  The Peeples extensive collection will form the core of the archive of the Punta Gorda History Center.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

View Photos of Come Back to Hotel Charlotte Harbor Event

On April 17th with the help of sponsors and volunteers, the Punta Gorda History Center brought back the Hotel Charlotte Harbor.  Here is a slideshow of photos from the event:

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Housing Punta Gorda History

Members of the Punta Gorda History Center Board, John Chalifoux, Gene Murtha, Bucky McQueen and Ed Uhland hold up plans for new Center.