Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Hector House -- The Birthplace of Punta Gorda

The Hector House:  Birthplace of Punta Gorda

Punta Gorda was incorporated in October 1887 in a modest two-story commercial building located at the corner of Taylor Road and Olympia Avenue, across from the old courthouse. The two-story “Hector House”, named after owner Tom Hector, was occupied at the time by a ground floor drug store and a billiard parlor on the second floor.

The 34 founders of the town, who included Mr. Hector and Albert W. Gilchrist (a future
Florida governor) were all registered voters. The group included four African American men.
However, the group did not include Isaac Trabue, who had bought the original acreage on which the town was located, and had named the town “Trabue” after his family. Due to personal and political disputes with a number of the men meeting to incorporate the town Trabue was not permitted to vote.  
The voting members changed the town's name to the original Spanish designation of Punta Gorda (“Fat Point”), drew up a town seal and minutes of the meeting, and recorded the results of the vote to incorporate. These documents were filed in the then-county seat of Pine Level, 30 miles from Punta Gorda, by 21 of the incorporating group who walked the whole distance that night.

Tom Hector was elected the first City Clerk of the new town and a member of the City
Council. He passed away two years later, in 1889 but the pool hall he owned served as the City Council's meeting chambers for many years. Over time the building's condition
deteriorated badly due to termites and rot. In 1988 the Punta Gorda Historical Society planned
to obtain Hector House from the developer who owned it. The developer was willing to donate
the building to anyone who would move it from the Taylor and Olympia site.

The Historical Society (at the time Old Punta Gorda, Inc.) planned to move the building to a new location on public land, renovate the structure and preserve it as a historical site. Although the developer remained willing and funds were raised for the renovation it proved impossible to find an architect or inspector willing to certify that the building would not collapse if it was moved. The structure was just too weak.

Ultimately, the Hector House was torn down. A city park at Olympia and Taylor with a plaque detailing the role of Hector House in the founding of Punta Gorda now marks the site of the building. 

.. Mark Surrusco

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