I was fascinated by the murals depicting early life in Punta Gorda found on the sides of every day buildings and store fronts, all throughout the area.
The murals are the artwork of the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society, and they are greatly responsible for adding interest, beauty and delight to walls around town, as well as documenting important aspects of Punta Gorda history in a way that all can see.
My camera was busy, and I was catching photos every chance I got!
After returning to my room, a quick search on google pointed me to a website with written descriptions on every mural I had captured!
The photos here are mine, the descriptions come from http://puntagordamurals.org/murals.html Click to view more photos for more info!
Our first photo above is called “Cattle Drive Down Marion Avenue.”
This mural pays tribute to the cattle breed which is still being raised on today’s modern Florida cattle ranches. Known as Cracker Cattle, these cattle were brought to Florida almost 500 years ago by the Spanish.
This mural also brings attention to the Cow Hunters and the breed of horses and dogs they used in finding, rounding up and managing the cattle. These rugged men were not called Cowboys and were as at home in the saddle as anywhere else. They were known to be independent, poorly educated, cunning, and of unkempt appearance.
They were experts at using a whip. They never hit the cattle with the whip but used it to keep the herd together by cracking the whip next to the ear of a cow which would allow them to maintain control of the herd. And thus the native Floridian name “Cracker” was born.
The mural depicts Cow Hunters moving cattle out West Marion Avenue in about 1903. Two oval cameo scenes show the cattle being held in pens and finally being moved through a single chute to be loaded on schooners (later steamboats) where they later were shipped to Cuba.
Last but not least, the mural pays respect to five well known Florida Cow Hunters. Their head shapes have been fittingly placed in the clouds. From left to right their names are: Belford Goff, Corrie Guess, Rob Walker, Pat Johnson, and Charlie Slaughter.
The mural was dedicated on June 21, 2007.
“End of the Line”
Town founder Isaac Trabue and Henry Plant, the man who built railroads on the west coast of Florida, specifically the end of the line in Punta Gorda, are depicted in this mural. Punta Gorda prospered when the railroad came to town.
There are two separate murals on this building. One mural, taken from historic photos, is of steam locomotive Number 11 pulling into town. The second mural emphasizes items shipped from this area. They included citrus, pineapple, cattle, and seafood.
Artist Richard Currier says many people are not aware that Trabue and Plant, although they needed to do business together, did not like each other. That is why he purposely painted a scowl on their faces as they look at each other.
This mural was originally painted in 1997 and was repainted in January 2009 restoring it back to its original state and re-dedicated on May 28, 2009. This restoration was partially funded by Dr. Idewu, the new owner of the building.
Postcards in Time
The seven “post cards” panels depict scenes of Punta Gorda from the early 1900’s to the 1930’s. The first card shows the fountain that was located in the center of Marion Avenue. The spring source was moved to the corner of Marion and Taylor where it is still in use.
The next panel shows “Teddy” Roosevelt in town fishing and hunting. Along with other notables, he was a frequent guest at the Princess Hotel.
Next in line is the former fishing pier where boats unloaded their catches, a popular family owned bakery, a view of early “downtown,” the party held for the opening of the Barron Collier bridge, and the “tin can” trailer park that was once located in what is now Laishley Park.
The trailer park residents were moved by the City to Buttonwood Park on Aqui Esta Drive where many still reside today.
This mural was originally completed in 2001 and was located on the east side of the building at the corner of E. Marion Ave, and Nesbitt St. It was sponsored by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Andrews. Some observers have stated that the couple shown in the fountain panel looks like the Andrews. If so, perhaps this was the fabled “Fountain of Youth” sought by Ponce de Leon upon his visit to these shores.
The original mural was destroyed by Hurricane “Charley” on August 13, 2004. The recreation of this mural was dedicated on April 19, 2007. It was recreated in its original location.
Lest We Forget
This mural illustrates a history of wars fought in the name of freedom. Liberty, draped in an American Flag, is portrayed as Pandora opening the box that contains the conflicts of our nation. Vignettes of those conflicts swirl about, including the wars of the Middle East, Vietnam, Korea, World Wars I and II, America's Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. The vignettes remind us that “Freedom is not free”.
Witness to this history is a young man holding a baby whose outstretched hand reaches for the yellow ribbon of peace being delivered by a white dove.
The early version of this mural adorned the inside wall of the old Punta Gorda Post Office for many years. It was lost when the old Post Office had to be torn down to make way for the new one.
The mural was appropriately dedicated in a Commemorative Veterans Ceremony on Veterans Day (November 11) 2005 at the KIWANIS Veterans Garden in Laishley Park.
Hotel Charlotte Harbor
The Hotel Punta Gorda was sold to Barron Collier and Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1924 and renamed the Hotel Charlotte Harbor. Three years and approximately $250,000 were spent on renovations.
A fourth floor was added for Collier’s private apartment as well as a glassed-in fifth floor ball room. The halls were narrowed to make space for private baths for each room and a sprinkler system was installed.
The outside walls were stuccoed and new amenities were added including a gigantic swimming pool measuring 80’x 120’and a pavilion. Specially-constructed tennis courts were built in 1930 for “Big Bill Tilden” who began his professional career in Punta Gorda.
The grand re-opening was celebrated on January 2, 1927. But success only lasted about 5 years with the Great Depression plunging the hotel once more into decline. The Collier heirs sold the hotel to G. Floyd Alford in 1944 who brought in an more elderly clientele.
Martin Flieschman took over the mortgage of the hotel from Alford in 1956 and spent a great deal of money converting it into a health retreat and it was renamed the Charlotte Harbor Spa. The spa never turned a profit.
The hotel met a fiery death on August 14, 1959. By 2:30am the entire central part of the hotel was on fire with flames shooting out of the tower. The fire could be seen for more 25 miles.
Hotel Punta Gorda
This mural is a recreation of the first mural painted in Punta Gorda in 1995 which was destroyed by Hurricane Charley on August 13, 2004. The mural was recreated featuring the hotel as it originally looked and its original name, the Hotel Punta Gorda and its successor, the Hotel Charlotte Harbor.The mural was completed in 2011.
When the Florida Southern Railway decided to extend its line to Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda’s Founder, Isaac Trabue, persuaded them to build their southernmost terminal in Punta Gorda. He gave Florida Southern half of his land for a waterfront resort hotel. Construction started in 1886 and the Hotel Punta Gorda opened its doors to guests in January 1888.
The hotel was a vast sprawling wooden structure complete with a tower for viewing the busy river traffic. It contained 150 rooms with only 4 bathrooms on each floor and was the largest hotel in south Florida. The hotel tower was always well lighted at night and boats on the bay used it as a beacon.
The hotel brought new business and prosperity to the town. Rich and famous people from all over the world came to the hotel to relax, sail, hunt, and fish. Names such as Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill appeared on the guest registry. The hotel was open to the public only in the winter. It did not open at all in 1896 due to the national financial depression and remained closed until 1902.
The hotel closed for good in 1914 and was sold in 1925.
This mural is a recreation of the first mural painted in Punta Gorda in 1995 which was destroyed by Hurricane Charley on August 13, 2004. The mural was recreated featuring the hotel as it originally looked and its original name, the Hotel Punta Gorda and its successor, the Hotel Charlotte Harbor.
The 7 famous guests featured on this mural are – from left to right: Clarence Darrow (Attorney and Labor Leader), Henry Ford (Automobile Manufacturer), Daniel Beard (Founder of the Boy Scouts of America), Thomas Edison (Inventor), Patty Berg (Lady Pro Golfer), Harvey Firestone (Tire Manufacturer), and Andrew Mellon (Steel Manufacturer).
The mural was completed in 2011.
As a consumate history buff, I really enjoyed seeing the murals in person and appreciating the skilled hands that painted these works of art!