Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Holiday Greetings from Punta Gorda Business Men almost 100 years ago

Almost 100 years ago, Punta Gorda business men thanked their customers and wished them a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  

Monday, October 31, 2016

Governor Gilchrist's Halloween Gift

Albert Gilchrist, early Punta Gordan and only Punta Gordan to become Governor of Florida, didn't have children of his own.  He loved kids though.  When he walked down Marion Avenue, he frequently gave kids pennies he kept in his pocket so they could buy ice cream or candy from the local store near his apartment above his realty business.

But he forecast a day, he wouldn't be able to give the kids this present.  In his will, in addition to generous bequeaths to numerous local charities, for example,  funds benefitting he local high school, funds for poor children, he specified something very special to be used on Halloween.

He said in his will:

"It has been my custom, when in Punta Gorda on Hallowe'en night, to set up to all the boys and girls at one of the drug stores generally ice cream-cones; I want the Lodge (Masons) to continue this custom, using a part of the interest (principal he left the Lodge). It costs little and affords much happiness."

So the Masons continue this tradition.  And tonight, Halloween, and every Halloween, they continue the gift in Gilchrist Park, the park Punta Gorda named after its famous citizen and generally good guy.

Friday, October 28, 2016

From Dilapidated Fishing Dock to Major Southwest Florida Tourist Attraction

Forty years ago the dilapidated dock at the edge of the historic area of Punta Gorda was an eyesore for the City.  On top of that, Florida visitors who had stopped by the town and residents seeking places to shop either soon found or already knew that they had to keep going, either to Fort Myers to Sarasota.  That ended, with a vision of three gentlemen who saw the opportunity to turn the old dock into a shopping/tourist attraction with a New England fishing village theme.  Don Donelsen, a local developer, radio personality Earl Nightingale and publisher Bob Anderson imagined a complex with a fine dining restaurant, shops, apartments, a marina, a total entertainment complex for families.  Fishermen's Village was born.  Forty years later, as the Village expands and improves, the 2nd largest tourist attraction in Southwest Florida has come a long way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Hibiscus King's Historic Fisherman's Cottage Built in a Day has stood on Retta Esplanade over 115 Years

The original fisherman's cottage built in 1900 at 621 Retta Esplanade has been remodeled and expanded over the years.   "The Goulding Cottage," which was for many years the home of Harry "Pete" Goulding,  Punta Gorda's  Hibiscus King,  who created over 60 varieties of our town's favorite bloom, is a prime  example of one of the many “fishermen’s cottages” that once overlooked the harbor.  They have been referred to as  “dark to dark” houses because two men could  build one in one day's light-time hours.

Remarkably the cottage withstood hurricanes and time, and remains on Retta among the stately Victorians that now grace the Esplanade.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

For Easter - Punta Gorda's First Church Sanctuary Building

This First Baptist Church pictured here was, as best can be determined, the first Christian sanctuary to be built in Punta Gorda as a church.  (The first church was in a community building that served as both a school and a church for Methodists and Baptists).  The Baptists were the second group to organize a congregation here in the 1880s.  The original congregation consisted of nine members. Among the original congregation were James L. and Mary L. (nee Seward) Sandlin, James M. and Martha (nee Sandlin) Morgan, and Mrs. Nancy Linquish. 

This church  structure built between 1891 and 1895 was on the corner of Marion and Cross (41 South).  It was sold by the church to the Rebekah's for a lodge in the 1960s and later became a bridal store.  Then on August 13, 2004 the winds of Hurricane Charley took it down in minutes.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Burnt Store Road History Revealed

Long shrouded in mystery, Burnt Store Road now winds itself from somewhere near Taylor Road, abruptly ends at Jones Loop and picks up again across 41 to meander down through Charlotte County into Lee past Burnt Store Marina.  Many of Punta Gorda's communities have been built along the road, and residents are frequently curious about the origins of its name.

Graham Segger, a seasonal resident of Burnt Store Marina, was one of those and has spent considerable time researching both the name and the history.  Before Vernon Peeples passing, he too was curious and researched and wrote about the history much of which he shared with Mr. Segger.  

Mr. Segger will conduct a class Wednesday, February 24 from 10-11:30 at  The Renaissance Academy, Florida Gulf Coast, 117 Herald Court.  Based on his research and recent ebook, "Where Do We Live, Research by a Seasonal Resident of Burnt Store Road," Mr. Segger will reveal much about the history, geography, environment, and development of the area.   

To register: go to www.fgcu.edu/hcc or email nstaub@fgcu.edu or call (941) 505-0130.  Class is $18.   

Monday, January 18, 2016

Preserving Sources for Future History Detectives

A recent editorial in the Punta Gorda Herald  pointed out the dangers of people having mythic conceptions of what has happened in the past. The author contends that textbooks frequently scrub embarrassing truth from the history being taught.  

It is without doubt that secondary and tertiary sources of information regardless of intent will often omit or distort in some way the facts of history.  Written history often over summarizes and like any story told is interpretive - the product of the filters of its authors.  

This is why it's so essential to have access to sources that are primary - as close to the actual events as possible.  Articles written, deeds recorded, diaries, notes taken, correspondence exchanges in the course of business or personal all provide clues to the past.  While even these sources can often be somewhat filtered by their recorders by their purpose or viewpoint, they are as close as we can get to the actual facts of the past.  It is only in preserving these precious sources and providing access to them that today's and tomorrow's  detectives of history - students, researchers and those who just plain want to know can uncover truths that may have been scrubbed from more contemporary materials and texts.  

The Punta Gorda History Center through the efforts of Vernon Peeples and those who will continue his mission will identify, collect and preserve those sources for future history detectives.   

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Time in a Bottle - Stuff Out of the Archive

Vernon Peeples stored a significant part of his collection in a large study lined with book cases. The tops of those cases were adorned with a curious bottle collection that Mr. Peeples would frequently talk about when we visited.  The bottles, he said, he had found along Charlotte Harbor and collected from the time he was a young boy in the 1930s. Examining the bottle collection more closely as we unpack the boxes containing over 100 of them reveals glass  pointers to the history of the early Florida frontier.

The bottle pictured above was one of many remedies hawked in the 1800s to cure the various ills that plaqued people of the day.  Bitters became very popular in the South during the Civil War when Union soldiers were told the concoction would protect them from the maladies in the swamps and bayous.  Simon Herrmann was the maker of the Old Hickory Celebebrated Stomach Bitters.  He was born about 1832 in Germany and arrived in Louisiana in 1863.   He came to New Orleans and entered the staple dry goods, boots and shoe business under the business name Herrmann, Levy & Company.  Around 1884 or 1885, is when the first Old Hickory Celebrated Stomach Bitters was made based on a patent on 12 February 1885.  It's probable that early settlers many of whom were former Union soldiers were frequent imbibers of Old Hictory which had a very high alcohol content.

Prickly Ash Poke Root Potassium PPP was manufactured by one of largest druggists of the late 19th century headquartered in Savannah.  Since it was purported to cure just about everything from malaria to rheumatism, syphllis and menstrual problems, it is likely to have been widely available in Punta Gorda through the turn of the century.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hey Look At This - Stuff out of the Archive

Every day as we continue to process materials from the Vernon Peeples collection volunteers uncover fascinating pieces of Punta Gorda history and call out " hey, look at this."  It occurred to us that our followers might be interested in some of the items we are accessioning so time to time I will be writing a post on what we are finding in collections as we process them.  Today, for instance, we processed:

- the photo you see above of Trabue (before it was Punta Gorda) taken from the Hotel Punta Gorda (most likely in 1886).  It appears to be where Hurricane Charley's and Gilchrist Park are today.  In the background the recorder refers to a freight wharf on the horizon -- this was probably the Long Dock.  
- an original court document from Kelly B. Harvey's lawsuit vs. Issac Trabue

- A document fining Issac Trabue for vagrancy because he continued to occupy land he had dedicated to the City of Punta Gorda which had become a public park

- An actual newspaper from 1912 - with the headline of the sinking of the Titantic

- A book that was essentially a register of the day to day activities of a Florida Plantation mostly accounting for slave activities.  One noted the transfer of ownership of slaves with a marriage of an owners daughter.

- a map of the city streets of Punta Gorda from 1936

These are but a few of the fascinating things uncovered -- in one day!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Punta Gorda Did its Part in the WWII Era

This year, 75 years after the U.S. entered World War II, the Punta Gorda History Center will bring back the era in Punta Gorda's history which had a lot to do with Punta Gorda's subsequent development. Many who were stationed and made to feel welcomed  here during the war years returned in their later years to make Punta Gorda their home.

In November of 1943, the following notice appeared in the Punta Gorda Herald:

Greetings to the Army! Punta Gorda became an army town this week as troops moved in to prepare for activation of the new airbase here.

It was a spectacular change from the quiet community of a week ago when 10 lonely soldiers arrived to do some of the ordinary jobs. Streets that had not been crowded, except on Saturday nights, are filled with soldiers and their families.

Speaking of families, the statement that the United States Army is 'the marrying-est army in the history of the world' is evident here.

A very large percentage of the men apparently are married, and many of their wives and children are here with them. Rooms and apartments throughout the city and suburbs have already been snapped up. Real estate and rental agencies are urged that more rooms and apartments be made available.

There also was quickly shown a serious shortage of eating places. Steps already are underway to open more restaurants.

We have the greatest opportunity in our history to serve a group of soldiers -- and at the same time leave a favorable impression with them that will carry into the post-war period and bring them back as visitors.

Ultimately over 5,000 officers and enlisted men were stationed at Punta Gorda Army Airfield at one time, many of whom saw Florida for the first time and vowed to come back. And, in fact, did just that.  The post war development of Punta Gorda and Charlotte County can be largely attributed to the existence of the Punta Gorda Base.