The Punta Gorda Historical Society, founded in 1983, is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the rich history of Punta Gorda, Florida. By saving historic buildings and other elements linked to the community's past, the Society not only provides connections to Punta Gorda's history, but suggests opportunities for its future.
2023 Officers and Board of Directors
President - Beth Magnin
Treasurer - Gary Butler
Board of Directors:
Judge William Fenmore Cooper of Cook County, Illinois donated the land to make it possible for the Punta Gorda Woman's Club to construct this building.
The Spanish mission style parapet, attenuated tiled loggia and triple arch entrance closely resemble the construction style of the Punta Gorda Train Depot. Both were built within several years of each other.
Forerunners to the formation of the Federated Woman's Club of Punta Gorda (1925) were the Fortnightly Literary Society (1896), the Married Ladies Social Club, and the Women's Civic Improvement Association (1911).
For more than 30 years the Punta Gorda Library was housed in this location. During World War II the building served as a USO and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2000, the Punta Gorda Woman's Club transferred the deed to the Punta Gorda Historical Society.
Traditions start here! Rent this building for your special event.
Call Sherra Simes at 941-639-1887 for rental information.
Historic Train Depot
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A new barrel tile roof has been completed in August 2023 after Hurricane Ian created substantial damage to the then one-year old roof which had been installed as part of a restoration project completed in October 2021. The roof was only one-year old when destroyed.
Built by the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) Railroad Company in 1928, the Punta Gorda Atlantic Coast Line Depot is located at 1009 Taylor Road. The Mediterranean Revival-style depot was built during the Florida land boom of the 1920s, becoming the town’s third passenger rail depot. The first depot was built within the railroad’s turning wye in 1886, and the second depot was built along King Street in 1897.
The first depot was located a couple of miles east of the ACL depot.
Initially called Trabue, after Colonel Issac Hogden Trabue (1831-1907), who was an attorney and war hero that gave the Florida Southern Railroad half of his land holdings at what would become Punta Gorda, the city changed its name in 1887. To return the favor to Trabue, the railroad agreed to build through the hamlet of "Trabue" and to construct a hotel. After the arrival of the railroad, a 4,200-foot dock was constructed below Trabue into Charlotte Harbor, allowing Florida Southern trains to meet Morgan Line steamboats. The dock had to reach past the shallow inland waters so that steamboats did not risk running ashore.
Freight shipped in and out of the depot included pineapples from Solana, ice from the local icehouse, turpentine, propane, and fish.] Because of the excellent fishing, tourists came from all over to test their luck with local tarpon. In 1920 alone, over seven million pounds of fish were shipped out of Punta Gorda. The fishing industry died off in the 1950s, when canals were built. Although the depot was useful for some time, late night bumper noise and the smell of fish caused attendance to decline in the Punta Gorda Hotel next door.
The depot hit its prime years before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. From 1930 to 1940, census data shows that the population decreased by over a thousand. Passenger service ended in 1971 and freight service ended several years later. The depot is currently owned and operated by the Punta Gorda Historical Society, after it was willed to them by Fred Babcock, who purchased it after it closed, hoping to revamp it into a restaurant. It was listed on the U.S. National Register for Historical Places on December 12, 1990. The depot is one of two surviving Mediterranean Revival-style depots out of the six that were constructed by the ACL.
The Punta Gorda Train Depot, built in 1928, is the sole survivor of the 6 depots built by the Atlantic Coast Line in Mediterranean Revival style.
The building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed mainly to handle freight. The passenger area occupies a small portion of the northern end of the building.
Separate ticket windows, waiting rooms and bathrooms reflect the segregation practiced at that time.
The building was obtained by the Punta Gorda Historical Society through the generosity of Fred Babcock.
Built in 1928 during segregation, the Punta Gorda Train Depot had both colored and white waiting rooms. Separate ticket windows, waiting rooms, and bathrooms reflect the segregation practiced at that time. These separate rooms remind us of our history and the Jim Crow laws.
The train depot is on the National Historic Registry and an exterior restoration was completed in October 2021 through a Federal Grant of $341,729.
History Park - 501 Shreve Street
History Park was created out of the need to preserve some of the historical buildings that were being “lost” due to age and progress. Below are some of the events that occurred, thus resulting in the establishment of History Park.
The Hector House, which was located across Taylor Road from the Courthouse in Punta Gorda, was of historical interest. It was in this building that the papers were signed changing the name of the town from Trabue to Punta Gorda. When the building was purchased by an out-of-town buyer with the intent of renovating the façade, the City wanted to know the planned use of the building in addition to updating the plumbing and electric to “code”. The purchase that was planned, fell through and the building was slated for demolition.
Due to the historical significance of the Hector House, there was an attempt to “save the building.” The problem was that there was no place to which the building could be moved and relocated. It was demolished in 1988 and the area is today referred to as Hector House Plaza.
The Dewey, Trabue and Denham buildings were located on what is now 41 South. The Denham House set on the site where the Indian Statue is now placed. It was one of the first buildings seen when coming over the Baron Collier Bridge into Punta Gorda.
The Denham and Dewey houses were large, well-built houses with interesting architecture. They were comparable to the Freeman House. The Trabue building set between them. It was much smaller and unpretentious.
The Trabue Land Sales Office was moved to the corner of Marion and Nesbitt in 1991 and therefore was not involved in the events leading up to the establishment of the History Park.
The Denham House was built in 1902. Charles Denham was an early developer of Charlotte Harbor. The Dewey house was built in 1903. Albert F. Dewey was a ship’s Captain who ran his tug boat and several stern-wheel steamers on the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor.
In 1993, the Denham and Dewey Houses were slated for demolition. The houses were offered to the Punta Gorda Historical Society, the problem however as with the Hector House, was there was no place to relocate the houses.
PGHS did find one lot, allowing the relocation of one of the homes. However, the owner of the houses refused to allow only one house to be saved. Although there was a great deal of interest in saving the houses, the City refused to extend the time for money to be raised, both houses were demolished in November 1993.
In September 1993, the City Council had endorsed the offering of City property on Shreve Street as a relocation site for historic buildings in danger of being destroyed. This was approved in 1994. A lease for the property between the City and PGHS was inked on May 17, 1995.
Work did not begin in the Park until 1997. The History Park opened in 1999 as an outdoor museum consisting of a collection of historical structures in a garden setting. The Park hosts the Trabue Land Sales Office, the Cigar Worker's Cottage, The Price House, the Quednau-Hindman House, and the original town jail.
Trabue Land Sales Office
In 1884, Colonel Isaac Trabue, an attorney from Kentucky, bough the waterfront 30-acre homestead of James and Sarah Lanier, had it surveyed and platted into lots for a town he named “Trabue”. Col. Trabue and his wife, Virginia, arrived in 1885, and took up residence in a cabin vacated by the Lanier’s and built this building for use as his office.
In December 1887, those who lived in the town of Trabue gathered around a billiards table in the Hector House, drew up and signed the articles incorporating the town. Trabue was not invited. Those signing the articles named the town after a point of navigation that had been on the earliest maps since the 1600s, Punta Gorda meaning “fat point” by Spanish speaking fishermen.
The construction is board-and-batten: boards set vertically side-by-side, with a smaller board, called the batten, covering where the two boards meet.
The floors are only one-board thick, the boards rest directly on the joints. You can still see the original “wavy” glass in some of the windows.
Although Col. Trabue and his wife Virginia never lived here, it was remodeled, a kitchen added and rented to winter visitors. Bob and Norma Henry donated the Trabue Office to the Historical Society. It was moved from its original site on Cross Street (41 South) to a site beside the Post Office at the corner of Marion Avenue and Nesbitt Street. In November 2000, it was moved to the Park and restoration work was completed.
The Cigar Cottage
The El Palmetto Cigar Company flourished briefly in the 1890s in Punta Gorda but was defunct by 1901.
This 1890s Cigar Workers Cottage was the first building moved to the park on October 12, 1999.
It is the last of a row of cottages for workers that was built at the Southeast corner of Virginia Ave. and Cochran St. (now Martin Luther King Blvd.) along with the large wood-frame factory.
The El Palmetto Cigar Manufacturing Co. Cottages were a set of rooms, or a duplex. One worker lived in each side. Bathroom and cooking facilities were located outside of the building.
Cigar rollers were skilled laborers and highly desired workers, so the housing was likely built for the workers to have an incentive to stay and work.
After the company holdings were liquidated, Del Huckeby of Cleveland bought several of the cottages and moved them to Brown and Wood Streets. Cleve Mays purchased two of these on Wood Street for his family. Mike Nickelson purchased the cottage, located here in the Park, and donated it to the Historical Society. On October 12, 1999, the first building moved to the Park. Volunteers then restored the building. This building was built to provide housing for two families. Meals were prepared in a separate building.
Hurricane Charlie destroyed the house in 2004, and it was restored by volunteers again.
The Price House
The Price House began as two small cottages on Gilchrist Street, built prior to 1914, when their side-by-side footprints were shown on the Sanborn insurance map of the city. The outer edges of those footprints match the footprint of the house as it is today, minus the side porch.
In 1915, the Nov. 25 Punta Gorda Herald noted the arrival of “Mr. and Mrs. Benj. D. Price, a very agreeable couple from Atlantic Highlands, N.J.” It was their sixth winter in Florida, but their first stay in Punta Gorda. Benjamin Detwiler Price, an architect, had designed the first steel-framed skyscraper in Philadelphia. But he was best known for his church designs, which he sold by mail order. From 1867 to 1910, over 7,000 sets of plans were sold. One set had been sent to Punta Gorda. The old Methodist Church (now New Life in Christ) on Marion Ave is based on Benjamin Price’s Perspective #220.
The couple came back the next two winter seasons with their niece, Mary Jackson Price. Mary J. was a skilled architectural draftsman and house designer, an unusual career for a woman back then. When they returned in October 1918, the Herald ran a lengthy article. Benjamin and his wife, Mary D., had sold their farm on the Jersey shore. They were here to stay. Niece Mary J. and their son, Max, also an architect, came too. Benjamin had retired; Max and Mary J. were running the family business.
The Price family bought the two cottages on Gilchrist St, along with an adjacent carriage house. They connected the small homes with a center parlor, added the porch and converted the carriage house into workspace. The exteriors were unified with cedar shake siding, giving them a classic look common to coastal homes along the Eastern Seaboard. The family lived there for several years.
Max Charles Price got involved in local politics. He was Mayor in 1921 when Charlotte County was formed and Punta Gorda became the county seat. He stepped down to become the first City Manager. Mary J., a staunch suffragette, kept the design firm going.
Benjamin Price died in 1922, Mary D. in 1946. Max and Mary J. passed in 1948. They all rest in the family plot at Indian Spring Cemetery. The stately red brick church on Marion Ave still stands and many other churches across the country that Benjamin designed are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Two local buildings designed by Max Price remain. One is Villa Bianca, a Mediterranean Revival-style riverfront manse in Solana. It’s also listed on the National Register. The other is the old County stockade on Florida Street, which the County now uses for storage.
Their property on Gilchrist St changed hands a few time over the years. The Searles family bought it in the 1990s and opened a Bed & Breakfast. They sold it in 2003 to Juergen Sieure, who was unaware of its history. In January 2004 he applied for a demolition permit; he planned to build four bungalows on the site. The resulting ruckus convinced him to delay his plans. He donated the buildings to the Punta Gorda Historical Society and allowed ample time to raise relocation funds. By August, the buildings were being prepped for relocation. On August 13, Hurricane Charley caused a major setback. The History Park had extensive damage, the Price House not so much, but the carriage house was beyond repair. The Society regrouped and prevailed. On February 16, 2005, the three sections of the Price House arrived at the History Park. The parts were reassembled and its restoration began.
Quednau Hindman House
Fritz Quednau moved to Punta Gorda from Germany in the late 1800s and opened a cigar factory on Marion Avenue – the town’s first. He and his wife had three sons, one of whom, Fred, was born in 1892 in a modest cottage at 220 Goldstein Street. When young Fred was four years old, his father died, and his mother had to go out and work to feed her family. Among those she worked for was Mrs. Isaac Trabue, the founder of Punta Gorda.
Young Fred and his brothers left school at an early age to work on the run boats, which carried goods as far south as the Smallwood Trading Post. At 17, Captain Fred Quednau was the youngest captain to sail the waters around Charlotte Harbor. After a long courtship, he married Belle McBean (he and Belle were the second couple to be married in the new Charlotte County). Belle often joined Fred on his sailing trips, along with their daughter Henrietta “Tosie”.
After Fred gave up his sailing, he ran a restaurant on Marion Avenue and later became Sheriff of Charlotte County. Tosie grew up here, and frequently played in the halls of the old Punta Gorda Hotel. She married Jack Hindman, with whom she had two children. Tosie Quednau Hindman was Supervisor of Elections for over twenty years and is well-known and respected in Punta Gorda. She died in 2009 in the house on Goldstein Street where her father, Fred, was born. The house is a true Cracker house with one huge middle room and smaller rooms off to the side.
The Quednau-Hindman house was moved from its original site on Goldstein Street to History Park on September 17, 2011. The moving contractors, Flint & Doyle, moved the house at a cost of $150,000. Funds for the move were raised by donors buying feet, yards, or inches along the move’s route: $100 per yard, $50 per foot and $25 per inch.
In 1886, Punta Gorda, or Trabue as it was known then, was a rough and lawless town. Wild and raucous cowboys and fisherman boozed it up Saturday nights and the city fathers decided that something must be done.
To this end the town bought a portable cage with steel bars. The calaboose was built by E. T. Barnum Wire and Iron Works in Detroit, Michigan. The company's Number 7, steel lattice cage cost the city nearly $200 and served as the city jail from 1889 to 1928. It was kept in a shed behind the city Marshal’s house on Taylor Street.
The iron bands of the calaboose were once covered by an iron roof. The cage once had two swing-down bunks, one at either end. The swinging front doors were locked by a padlock.
This primitive jail was used on Jim and Patsy Parker’s Washington Loop Ranch as a livestock pen. The Parker’s donated the calaboose in January 2000 to the Punta Gorda Historical Society in honor of Jim’s father, Edwin M. Parker, who was Mayor of Punta Gorda in 1941.
Our fountain formerly in Laishley Park was salvaged from the grounds of the Hotel Punta Gorda in 1925 by George Brown, owner of the Cleveland Marine Steam Ways. The fountain was relocated to the Punta Gorda History Park on Shreve Street.