Monday, April 27, 2020

Charlotte Harbor named By the British

In 1763, France, Britain, and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris to end the French and Indian War. As part of the treaty, France gave up almost all of its land in North America and Spain gave up Florida. During the French and Indian War, Britain had captured Havana, Spain's busiest port. In exchange for Havana, the Spanish traded Florida to Britain.

The section of the Jeffreys map of Florida from 1775 right before the American Revolution shows the Charlotte Harbor area at the time the British owned Florida. It was right before the Revolution that the British ( Bernard Romans, the map maker) who gave our harbor its name "Charlotte Harbor" renamed from Carlos Bay. Charlotte was the name of the Queen at the time, George the Third's wife.

The British did not rule Florida for long. The colonies north of Florida began a war known as the American Revolution. Most of the war took place far north of Florida, and Florida sided with the British suffering occasional raids. In 1779, Spain took advantage of Britain's preoccupation with the colonies and invaded West Florida. By 1781, Britain lost West Florida to Spain. And by the end of the Revolution, Spain had regained the rest of Florida.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

First Presbyterian Church of Punta Gorda -- 125 Years Young

The First Presbyterian Church of Punta Gorda now sits on Airport Road across from the current location of the Masonic Lodge of Punta Gorda.  Ironically, it was in the original masonic hall in downtown Punta Gorda that the church was organized on October 13, 1895.  This year  the congregation will celebrate its 125th anniversary.  

Construction of the first church building began in December of 1900 on Harvey Street across from where the City Hall now stands on land purchased from Isaac Trabue.  It was dedicated on April 14, 1901 with Clarence H. Ferran as the first minister.  

For sixty years, the old wood-frame church building served the community, surviving at least two major hurricanes in 1921 and 1926, when almost all buildings in Punta Gorda sustained damage. Then on September 10, 1960 Hurricane Donna hurled into the city and ripped the steeple from the church and damaged the building beyond repair. A year later a new modern church was built at the same location on Harvey.  

Then on Sunday, August 7, 2005 long time members of the church took their seats in folded chairs in the parking lot of the 2nd church sanctuary of the church for the last time before that building was also demolished.  A year before on August 13, 2004, Hurricane Charley left the building in such a state, it couldn't be repaired to satisfy code requirements.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Merchant's Bank of Punta Gorda

The Merchant's Bank of Punta Gorda opened on April 9, 1912. The following summary of the history of bank  located in the beautiful brick building on Marion Avenue, right across the street from the site of the old Hotel Charlotte Harbor, comes from the Historic Register application submitted in late 1990. The Serendipity Salon and Spa now occupies the building.
"The Old First National Bank Building, at 133 West Marion Avenue, is located in the downtown commercial area of Punta Gorda, Florida. Constructed circa 1912, it is a two story, masonry Neoclassical commercial building.
The bank was state chartered in 1912 under the name of Merchants Bank of Punta Gorda. It was the second bank to open in Punta Gorda, preceded only by the Punta Gorda Bank. In 1914, it switched to a federal charter and became the First National Bank of Punta Gorda, By 1927, it was the most prosperous of the three banks located In the city.
The collapse of the Florida Land Boom in 1926 deflated land values and set off a state-wide financial crisis. In 1929, all three banks located in Punta Gorda failed. Throughout the state that year, a total of 9 federally chartered banks and 43 state char-tared banks closed- The Old First National Bank of Punta Gorda did not reopen.
The bank building is significant for its role in the development of commercial business in Punta Gorda, During the 1920s, Punta Gorda, like other areas of Florida, underwent a period of rapid growth. Tourism, fishing, and agriculture were major sources of income for the local population. The Old First National Bank was a leader in meeting the financial needs of the local business community.
Today, the Old First National Bank Building is the oldest existing bank building in Charlotte County. In addition, it is one of the few commercial buildings in Punta Gorda which retains its historic integrity.
Compiled by Jim Dodez (For  "This Day in Punta Gorda History" Series)