Friday, December 8, 2017

Charlotte County's Christmas Parade in Punta Gorda started in 1979

Tomorrow is the 39th annual Charlotte County Chamber Christmas Parade. It  will march from the Charlotte Performing Arts Center (at Charlotte High School)  through to downtown Punta Gorda to the Event Center.

While Punta Gorda had Christmas parades prior to 1979, the first one sponsored by the Charlotte County Chamber took place that year.  It commenced on Marion Avenue on a Friday night and moved down Marion to Henry, onto Shreve and Maud Street and back to Marion to its starting point.  Fisherman's Village, Faucett Hospital, the Cultural Center  and other local businesses had floats based on themes like "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Toyland," and "Sleigh Ride."  For a time the parade alternated between Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, but for as far as we can determine its been mostly in Punta Gorda.

One of the largest parades, and perhaps the largest, was in 1987, for the Centential year of Punta Gorda. The grand marshalls were Gussie Baker and Cathy Johnson.   A photo of the Charlotte High School Band passing the Court House on Taylor that year is above.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

One Hundred Years Ago This Month - Early Snowbird Navigates Charlotte Harbor on The Aroostock

In the early years of Punta Gorda, in addition to sailboats owned by the town’s residents, many visiting yachts sailed into Charlotte Harbor perhaps our first "snowbirds."  A number docked at the Hotel Punta Gorda, some staying there as a base for the entire winter season.

Around this time, one hundred years ago, the Aroostock would be sailing into Charlotte Harbor. 
Owned by Charles A. Dean, President of the Hollingworth-Whitney Paper Company in Maine the Aroostook was likely named after a river and county in Maine.  Mr. Dean with his family was a regular winter visitor in Punta Gorda from 1888 until his death in 1921.     The Aroostook was built in 1903.

Dean would often rent the tower floor of the Hotel Punta Gorda for the season. He would then sail with his family down the Myakka, to Pine Island and Sanibel and Captiva down to Fort Myers and further. They frequently went fishing for tarpon.  If their boat was too large to navigate the streams, they leased Captain Connolly’s launch to take them.

(copyright 2017, Punta Gorda History Center. All rights reserved.)  

Monday, November 20, 2017

W. Luther Koon - One of Punta Gorda's Cattle Barons and Bank President

W. Luther Koon (1873-1956) was a “pony-express” rider and cowman, who became one of the area’s largest cattleman, President of the Punta Gorda State Bank and one of Punta Gorda’s most prominent citizens. 

Koon was born in Manatee County in 1873.  While still in his teens, he rode 80 miles a day in Florida’s version of the Pony Express and began acquiring cattle with all the money he could spare to invest.  In about 1895, he and his new bride, Serena Victoria, moved to Punta Gorda, where he became a merchant furnishing supplies to the phosphate and turpentine camps.

At about the turn of the century, he built a large house on Sullivan at Charlotte Avenue (1) and brought his widowed sister and her children (including Sallie Jones) to Punta Gorda from Barstow.  Meanwhile, he continued to build his holdings, and by 1909, Koon owned many residential lots in Punta Gorda, 1000 acres of land and 600 head of cattle. 

A hardworking and shrewd businessman, he recognized the opportunity in ranching and meat processing, and in 1910 he incorporated “the Big Cattle Company.”  Then in 1917 when the Punta Gorda Bank needed recapitalization, Koon made an investment entirely in Spanish gold coin (the payment received from Cuban ship captains when buying cattle at the cattle dock).  He became president of the Punta Gorda State Bank. 

His first wife passed away in 1919 and he later married Elsa Sophia Holtz.  They continued to make their home in Punta Gorda, which Koon wanted to see become one of the outstanding cities on the southwest coast.  Koon worked tirelessly for the successful development of the City and the County.  In addition to his role with the DeSoto Cattle Wharf Association, the bank, and his several enterprises, he served many years on Punta Gorda’s City Council.  


(1) His original house in Punta Gorda was located at Sullivan and Charlotte.  It was moved in 1999 to 360 West McKenzie. Photo Below:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The First United Methodist Church of Punta Gorda is 130

You won't recognize the building that once stood near where the First United Methodist Church of Punta Gorda stands today. Now its actually part of residence on Harvey Street. But this building was the original home of the Methodist Church and the first church building (actually used by several religions) in Trabue now Punta Gorda.

On Sunday mornings on the far-flung Florida frontier of the 1800s before Isaac Trabue landed on the shores of the Peace River, there were no church buildings for people to gather for worship. Preachers typically arrived on horseback or sometimes in a wagon if roads permitted. The communities they served comprised a “circuit”, attached to a church in larger town. Most of these circuit-riding ministers were associated with the Methodist faith and it was they who brought the Methodist Church to Florida and places like Punta Gorda.

But the new settlers of Trabue expected a real town with a real church and a school and a place for the people to meet and socialize, and they began demanding just that. So, in 1886, Isaac Trabue provided the land in block 29 for a building that would serve for a time as a multi-denominational church, school and community center. It was then Judge G.W. McLane and F.M. Durrance who spearheaded the movement that led to the establishment of the First United Methodist Church of Punta Gorda in that building in 1887.

Durrance, a local preacher and customs officer for the port of Charlotte Harbor, acted as the church’s pastor until Rev. W.C. Jordan was assigned to the church that December. The first record of members being received was in July of the same year, the first official members were G.W. and Emma McLane.  Initially, the Baptists, Presbyterians and other denominations worshipped along with the Methodists in the communal sanctuary, until 1889 when the building was deeded over for sole use as the United Methodist Church (though apparently the Presbyterians continued to worship there for a time).

Construction began in 1912 of a new church, near the old one that had been badly damaged in the 1910 hurricane. Mostly built by 1914, it was used in an unfinished state until finally completed around 1920. It now stands with its beautiful stain glass window as a beacon and landmark for Punta Gorda’s historic district.  And the old building.. remnants of the sanctuary were discovered at a residence on Harvey Street where it had been moved in around 1914.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Oyster Dock - one of Punta Gorda's many Historic Piers

There were many docks reaching into the harbor from the waterfront in the early days of Punta Gorda.  One of these, was the oyster dock, which was located between where the two bridges descend into Punta Gorda today (about where the Tikibar is). 

R.B. Smith, a dealer in oysters. clams, and fish roe was located on this wharf.  Oysters, in addition to being an important food source and product, were also used as road paving material.  Marion Avenue, in the 1890s, was surfaced with oyster shells.  Unfortunately, when a fresh batch of shells was applied to the street, swarms of flies were attracted, creating a public nuisance.

Once abundant throughout Charlotte Harbor, oyster reefs that provide a habitat for fish and shellfish, improve water quality, and can help to stabilize shorelines, declined over time to a fraction of their historic extent.

In 2015, the Nature Conservancy in collaboration with the City of Punta Gorda, Florida DEP-Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program initiated a project to restore the oyster reefs.  A new oyster reef habitat in the shallow waters along Punta Gorda’s Trabue Harborwalk was installed. This pilot project, the first in the northern portion of the Charlotte Harbor estuary, included the creation of nine oyster reefs.  The Trabue Harborwalk project was a first step in reestablishing oyster reefs in the Charlotte Harbor Estuary. Reports indicate that the replenishment program is working.  

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Story of the Punta Gorda Airport - History of the Air Field and the Air Shows

It was in 1942 that a decision to build an airfield in Punta Gorda changed the landscape of the town forever.  The United States was fully engaged in World War II, and large numbers of fighter pilots were urgently needed. Florida's flatness and blue skies made for perfect training of the nation's airmen and women.  In those days, there was not yet a separate air force.

 Each branch of the military had its own air arm.  In October of 1942, County Attorney Earl D. Farr told the Punta Gorda Herald that an airfield was to be built on 1,720 acres east of the county stockade (prison) then at the corner of Carmelita and Florida streets. Preliminary work began on the airfield that October with major construction starting in 1943.  A road was built to the new field and Punta Gorda extended its water main.  Florida Power brought in electricity and the phone company installed service.

The Punta Gorda Army Airfield was officially activated on September 4, 1943, as a sub-base of the Sarasota base (It was reassigned as a sub-base of the Venice Army Air Field in March of 1944).  At activation, there was a 20-foot tower and one building on site.  At the end of construction in December of that year, there were sixty-one buildings with over 150,000 square feet of floor space.  Housing including 268 hutments.  Units stationed at the base from the Third Air Force included the 502nd Fighter Bomber Squadron, the 490th Fighter Squadron, and the 27th Service Group Detachment.  The base had forty Curtis Warhawk aircraft initially and later transitioned to the North American P-51 Mustang.

By December of 1943 there were 95 commissioned and 765 enlisted service men and women on the base which grew to 244, and 1097 retrospectively.  The base was designated as the 344th AAF Base Unit on April 24, 1944.  The base was inactivated in September of 1945.

After the war, the airfield complex was turned over to Charlotte County by the War Assets Administration.  The first air show at the airfield (still called that into the 50s) was on New Year's Day in 1950.   It featured Betty Skelton who was the US Female Aerobatic Champion from 1948 through 1950.    The Punta Gorda Airport has been home to The Florida International Air Show since 1981.

The airport saw no large airline service after the early 1980s.   Airline flights resumed in 2007 when both SkyBus and DayJet began flights at the airport. Unfortunately, Skybus ceased operations on April 5, 2008 and DayJet on September 19, 2008.

Airline service resumed on November 22, 2008, when low-cost carrier Direct Air began twice-weekly service to 10 cities in the eastern U.S. Then on December 2, 2008, low-cost airline Allegiant Air began offering flights to smaller cities. Vision Airlines also commenced flights out of PGA in 2009. Both Vision and Direct Air ceased flights out of PGA in 2012.  However, Allegiant now has flights to over 40 cities through the Punta Gorda Airport.


Punta Gorda Herald, October 1, 1942
Documents on the Air Field's  Commissioning from Records of the U.S. Army Corps.
Program of the First Air Show held New Year's Day, 1950
Punta Gorda Airport Website

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hurricane Irma Now Part of Punta Gorda History

History evolves every day.  And now another powerful storm has impacted our area and inscribed itself on our historic records.  Although Punta Gorda was spared the damage other local communities have experienced, we did deal with the trauma of threatening winds, potential life-threatening surge and evacuations.   We witnessed our harbor roll out to sea and our downtown flood with deep water.

It's important to keep records on what has happened here -- the bad and the good.  Therefore the History Center is requesting that you help us document and preserve a record of this hurricane.  If you took pictures during the storm or of our main streets during the storm, we request that you share them with us.  We will put them on our History cloud and preserve them as part of our community memory.

See above the photo of a Hurricane that impacted Punta Gorda years ago.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Long Dock Enabled Transit to Havana, New Orleans and Key West

After Isaac Trabue convinced the Florida Southern Railroad directors to locate its railroad down the east side of the Peace River, track was extended along what is now the linear park in Punta Gorda to beyond the original town of Trabue.  The railroad company envisioned the town which became Punta Gorda in 1887 growing further west and actually had plans for extending the track towards yet another dock.

The Long Dock which was located near where the Isles Yacht Club is today had a telegraph office, a post office, several fish companies, stores and facilities.  The dock  extended out into the harbor where the water depth was 12 feet.  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.

The Charlotte Harbor Beacon described a steamer at the end of the Long Dock in December of 1887 with passengers in their "quaint travelling suits promenading up and down the great dock" as they waited eagerly to board the boat for New Orleans.

The Long Dock made Punta Gorda a seaport and for eleven years it was the heart of the new City's commerce.  Then in 1897, Henry Plant, who had purchased the railroad, wanting to eliminate any competition for Tampa, removed the rails from the long dock 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.

Sources: Vernon Peeples, Punta Gorda and the Charlotte Harbor Area.
                Lindsey Williams, Out Fascinating Past. 
                Broadside of the Florida Southern Railroad

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Municipal Trailer Camp for Tin Can Tourists Where Laishley Park is Today

The mobile homes like ones that were blown up during Hurricane Charley were the descendants of the old, jerry-built encampments of the "Tin Can Tourists" of the 1920s and 1930s, a peculiar phenomenon that helped populate Florida.   The first mobile homes were just tents attached to wooden trailers that were dragged by autos of the time. The tourists  got their "tin can"  name, not from their trailers, but from the canned goods they lived on all winter: potted meats like corned beef, Vienna sausages, baked beans -- the same sort of victuals hurricane victims live on today, during the inevitable blackouts.

The northerns frequently camped out  the winter with their children who were sent to the local schools for as little as fifty cents a week.  Because these tourists were not the kind that spent money to help the local economy, they weren't always appreciated.  Old-timers have many stories of the early snowbirds freeloading on local merchants' generosity. 

But apparently Punta Gorda government did appreciate and see the value of the annual migration. The City built an assemply  hall where recreation activities could be held, built docks for boats and most impressively situated the camp for the tourists on perhaps one of the most beautiful spots in town -- right on Charlotte Harbor Bay.   Today that spot is where Laishley Park juts into the harbor and Laishely Crab House looms over the Marina.  

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)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Story of the McGraws of the Bloody Bucket of Acline Road

These days after moving south of Burnt Store Road, I frequently cross the railroad tracks from Tamiami Trail onto Acline Road to get to the History Center.  As I drive along this peaceful country back road as it winds its way along Alligator Creek, it would never have occurred to me that one day long ago there was a moonshine tavern here referred to by various names over the course of its existence, with one name that sticks out as a reference to its violent past, "the Bloody Bucket."

The Bloody Bucket in the early 1900s was a notorious oasis in the midst of  the "dry", alcohol verboten counties of south Florida.  Even before prohibition set in nationwide, Florida counties including DeSoto (Charlotte after 1921) were given an ok by the state to prohibit alcohol sales.   By regulars of the place, the Bucket was referred to as "McGraw's Place," after it owners and moonshine makers, Geroge "Mac" and Virginia McGraw.

The McGraws provided the only escape for workers at the village known as Acline (AC-Line from the Atlantic Coast Railroad stop) where there was a turpentine camp and lumbering operation. Essentially Acline was a loading dock where turpentine and lumber could be loaded onto boxcars. The McGraws made a strawberry wine concoction that they mixed from strawberry flavoring bought from the Seminole Pharmacy in downtown Punta Gorda and moonshine.   Mrs. McGraw would pour the flavoring and moonshine together in big wash tubs.  This was sold to mostly younger boys, while the turpentiners, lumber jacks and railroad section gang that frequented the place would buy straight moonshine for two-bits (a quarter) a pint.

Saturday nights, after the Acline area workers were paid and the place became rowdy according to a quote from Harry Goulding, who was the bookkeeper for the McGraws, "a pint of moonshine was enough to dull a thirsty man's assessment of another's size and fighting ability."  Knives and guns became the great equalizers.

Mac was a mean man according to Goulding.  And one day, the sheriff got a call that there was a shooting at the Bucket.  When he arrived, the sheriff found Mac McGraw and another black man dead from shot-gun blasts.  Mrs. McGraw claimed that the black man had come to the door brandishing a gun asking for money and whiskey.  McGraw, she said, cursed him and the man shot him and ran.  She claimed that McGraw, mortally wounded, crawled after the man and shot him dead and then also died.

The Sheriff wasn't the only one to doubt the preposterous story.  More likely, as was suspected, either Virginia McGraw, or her boyfriend Dick Windham (suspect in the Marshall Bowman murder) killed Mac and then the black man to pin the killing on him.

After the Tamiami Trail was built (around 1921), the Bucket lost its front entrance and Mrs. McGraw moved her door to the side and continued to serve customers who came as far away as Tampa or Miami for whiskey.  During prohibition, Ma McGraw (as she referred to) had bootlegging connections from the Bahamas to procure whiskey.  After prohibition was repealed in 1932, she hired waitresses and turned the place into a legitimate bar and restaurant and renamed the place, "the Alligator Bar."  A.C. Frizzell, Charlotte County's richest cattleman hungout there, and ended up marrying one of the waitresses after his first wife passed away.

Mrs. McGraw sold the place years later to one of the County Commissioners (researching as to who this was -- see below perhaps the County Commissioner was Dick Windham).  Another name it took on before finally disappearing was the Acline Wine Place.

Addendum from Lynn Harrell (Charlotte County Historical Center)

Dick Windham was appointed by Governor Hardee to the first board of county commissioners when Charlotte County was formed in 1921. He and Virginia McGraw were married in 1946 in Lee County. She died in 1948, he died in 1953. George "Mac" McGraw, Virginia McGraw Windham and Richard "Dick" Windham are buried side-by-side in Indian Spring Cemetery -- Virginia is in the middle. The McGraw and Windham graves are among those featured during the Charlotte County Historical Center's walking tours of Indian Spring, btw. Next cemetery tour will be during Founders' Week in December.


John J. Panio, Sr. of Cape Coral, who passed away on March 7, 2014 was employed by the City of New York Department of Transportation and relocated to Florida in 1972 to purchase the Alligator Bar in Punta Gorda. . 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

4th of July Punta Gorda 1931

With the opening of the Barron Collier Bridge in 1931, the town threw one of the biggest 4th of July celebrations it had ever celebrated.  Decorated cars paraded downtown and the day was capped by a fish fry at Gilchrist Park with Punta Gordans ushered into a huge tent where fried mullet was served. Below are some photos from July 4, 1931.

Punta Gordans gather outside Hotel Charlotte Harbor 

Marion and Taylor - Note Hotel Charlotte Harbor where only a sign indicating where it was there today.

Ceremonial Archway was constructed for the opening of the Bridge at the south end of the bridge.

Punta Gordas entering the tent constructed for the fish fry.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Bridges to Punta Gorda - a Brief History

As best as we can determine, here is the history of the bridges over Punta Gorda's harbor.

The  postcard above shows the oldest bridge over the Peace River. The bridge was built across the Peace River in 1921 to accommodate the Tamiami Trail being constructed and was known as the Charlotte Harbor Bridge. It ran from Live Oak Point in Charlotte Harbor on the north bank of the river to Nesbit Street in Punta Gorda (near where the Laishley Marina is today). After the Tamiami Trail opened in 1928, it was determined that this bridge would not meet the needs of the road because of its poor construction and narrow lanes.

Barron Collier Bridge  circa 1930s

Barron Collier Bridge 1961

Barron G. Collier, who owned the Hotel Charlotte Harbor (formerly the Hotel Punta Gorda), was one of the main proponents of building a new bridge. Work began on the original Barron Collier Bridge in December 1929s, built a block east of the Charlotte Harbor Bridge at King Street (now 41 North) (right next to Collier's hotel). The construction of the bridge necessitated the demolition of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad’s dock at King Street, as well as its original passenger depot. That is when the railroad built the Punta Gorda Depot on Taylor Road, which still stands as a museum and antique market.

The original Barron Collier Bridge opened on July 4, 1931 with great fanfare including a community fish fry. The old Charlotte Harbor Bridge was then closed to traffic and converted into fishing piers, which were demolished in the 1970s.

In 1976, the westernmost Gilchrist Bridge (left in picture above) was opened to traffic, and southbound traffic was rerouted there, while both lanes on the old Barron Collier Bridge began carrying only northbound traffic.  Then on January 12, 1983, a new and the now current Barron Collier Bridge was opened to traffic (right). The old Barron Collier Bridge was then demolished, and its remains sunk into Charlotte Harbor for an artificial reef.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Isaac Trabue - Founder of Punta Gorda - Biographical Sketch

Biographical Sketch prepared by Theresa Murtha (Managing Director, Punta Gorda History Center)

Isaac H. Trabue, the founder of the town of Trabue which became Punta Gorda, was born in March 25, 1829 (some reports say 1831) in Russell County, Kentucky. Of French Huguenot descent, he was the grandson of an American Revolutionary hero, James Trabue. He served in the Civil War on the side of the Union under Generals Sherman and Anderson. After the war, he became a prominent lawyer and politician.

In late middle-age, Trabue began investing in land on Charlotte Harbor, in the early 1880s, using seed money from legal fees. Trabue purchased his land, sight unseen, through John Cross, a real estate agent living at Liverpool, Florida at an average price of $1.25 an acre. In 1884, through Cross, Isaac hired Kelly B. Harvey to survey and plat his land into a town to be named after himself, Trabue. Harvey's sketch was sent to Kentucky for Isaac's approval, and the latter, accepted the layout. He also urged Cross to begin selling lots. On February 24, 1885, Harvey recorded the plat at Pine Level, the county seat of Manatee County. To bring more value to his holdings, in 1885, Trabue negotiated a deal to have the railroad come to his town. He agreed to give the Florida Southern one-half of his land holdings at Trabue for the railroad to locate its terminus there rather than Hickory Bluff across the harbor.

In the fall of 1886, Isaac and his wife Virginia Trabue moved to Trabue, construction of the railroad to Punta Gorda was completed, and work on the new hotel on the harbor which was to become the Hotel Punta Gorda began.

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, Elizabeth, his mother and Marion (also spelled Marian), a sister, and many other family names still adorn Punta Gorda's street signs). Yet Trabue, was not willing 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 for the town. In the end this cost him the very name of the town which was so important to him. In 1887, frustrated with the lack of responsiveness to their needs, Harvey and other settlers began discussing incorporation. Then in December of 1887, thirty-four men, including Harvey, journeyed to Pine Level to sign the notice of intent to incorporate Trabue into the City of Punta Gorda.

Isaac Trabue lived in Punta Gorda another twenty years and then in 1907, old and ill, he was returning to Kentucky when he passed away.   Punta Gorda’s birth and development can be attributed to Trabue’s early insight which led to his purchasing and developing the land on Charlotte Harbor and stimulating early settlement and enterprise. Unfortunately, he is not well known today by the citizens of the community, and the only fixtures bearing the name Trabue is a street sign on a small street in the historic district of the City and his cottage and land-office now at the history park.


Obituary, Isaac Trabue

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

Vernon Peeples, Trabue, Alias Punta Gorda, Florida Historical Quarterly

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Vernon Peeples: Living History featured talk at Punta Gorda Literary Fair

As part of the 2017 Punta Gorda Literary Fair, on March 7 at 6 p.m. at Herald Court Center, Theresa Murtha and James Abraham will speak about Vernon Peeples: Living History. The ticket price of $35 includes a copy of the book (which retails for $39.99).

Vernon Peeples was a pre-eminent Floridian who represented Punta Gorda and Southwest Florida. He was both a history maker and a historian. His two books on Punta Gorda rank as the standard works on the city in which he grew up.

Theresa Murtha, curator of The Punta Gorda History Center; and James Abraham, editor and publisher of Vernon Peeples’ second book, will share perspectives about the public servant and the historian.

Admission includes a copy of Vernon Peeples, Punta Gorda: In The Beginning, a full-color extravaganza of maps, charts, and rare photographs of Southwest Florida.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The House that Abe Built

It was 1887 and Epfraem Goldstein had moved to the new town of Trabue to start a new life for his family.  He had a store built at the corner of Marion and Cross, where Cubby's is now.  Soon though he wanted his family to join him.   So, he hired carpenters to quickly build a house, the first one built in the actual town.    Two hundred men built it in one day.

Labelled the Pioneer House, the building served both as a restaurant, boarding house and home to Abe, his wife, Friederike, and son, Harry.   A story told says as Abe and Issac Trabue got on in years the animosity between the town's founder and Abe grew.  To the point that Abe would curse Trabue every time he passed the house.   One day, Trabue tiring of this, the legend goes, threatened that he would kill Abe if he cursed him again.  Abe ran in the house, fearing Trabue's threats, Trabue fearing Abe was going for a gun ran in the other direction.  From then on, Abe never cursed the founder again.

The house fell into disrepair and was condemned after standing 81 years.  The house built in one day, was torn down in three.