Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Charlotte of Charlotte Harbor - the Woman Who our Bay was Named For

Our large bay has had many names, Bay (Bahia) de Calos, Bay de Carlos,   Bay de Juan Ponce de Leon, but the one that stuck was given to it by a dutch navigator exploring for the British - Charlotte Harbor.  It was in 1775 right before the American Revolution that a British cartographer, Thomas Jeffreys, first put the name “Charlotte Harbour” on a map.  At the time King George III was on the throne and his wife, the Queen, was “Charlotte” Sophia. 

Charlotte was born on May 19, 1744. She was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles of Mecklenburg and his wife, Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Hildburghaussen.  Mecklenburg-Strelitz was small north-German duchy that was a part of the Holy Roman Empire.   When George III became King of England’s he was 22 years old and unmarried. Needing a wife, he sought someone who could bear children and not interfere with the running of the empire.  The 17-year-old Princess Charlotte checked all the boxes partly because she had been brought up in an insignificant north German duchy, and therefore would probably have had no experience or interest in power politics or party intrigues. 

When she married George, she spoke only German,  but quickly picked up the King’s language. She bore the first of their fifteen children less than a year after their wedding. She didn’t interfere much in the politics of  Britain, but she did have influence on the King.  

Interestingly, as it has been an important element on the shores of her namesake harbor, Charlotte loved music.  A young Mozart performed at her court and she sang an aria and played the flute with him.  He named an opus for her.  She was also an amateur botanist who helped insure that species of plants brought to Britain by explorers were expanded.  The official name of the Bird of Paradise was named for her.  

After the onset of his permanent madness in 1811, George III was placed under Charlotte’s guardianship.  She could not bring herself to visit him very often, due to his erratic behavior and occasional violent reactions. While she was popular in her  early years as Queen for her patronage of education for women and care of the sick, during regency to her son, Charles, she met with growing unpopularity.  

Many other places in the U.S were named for Charlotte, including Charlottesville, Virginia  and Charlotte, North Carolina.  Statues of Queen Charlotte stand in Bloomsbury, London, and at the airport and International Trade Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Sandlin House

Referred to by the name of the man who built it, the Sandlin house is one of Punta Gorda’s most treasured historic houses located in the downtown historic district.  

The Sandlin House was built  in 1893 by early merchant, shipper and developer, and town mayor James Sandlin.  With it’s gingerbread trim and wrap-around porch, the stately house is a stunning example of an old grand Floridian house.  Situated on Retta Esplanade, the house was built near the frontage of the harbor before land had been filled to extend the depth of the parks lining the bay.  The widow’s walk at the top of the home gave Mr. Sandlin a vantage point from which he could observe vessels bringing his merchandise to a nearby dock.

Sandlin came to the area before Isaac Trabue platted the town that became Punta Gorda. He originally lived on Alligator Creek.  He and his wife, Mary Lula Seward,  had six children.  Their first, who died in infancy, was the first child born in the new city of Punta Gorda.  Another boy, their second child, Felix, died at twelve.  

In 1909, Sandlin’s daughter, 14-year-old Mary, died in a fire at the house while pressing clothes using a gasoline-powered flat iron. The gasoline spilled onto Mary, catching fire.  According to local legend,  Mary’s ghost continues to haunt the house.  

James Sandlin died in 1903.