Local History Information and Real Estate For Sale
The history of Punta Gorda dates back to the arrival of the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon in the year 1521. He was not a stranger to Florida because he had been to the Bahamas and Florida’s east coast a few times within the years before. Searching for the mythical „fountain of youth.“ he was obsessed to find it; and was desperately trying to be the guy who found that “thing.” But, history books are teaching us, that he was not successful at all. Today, many people are still looking out for that fountain, bridging the time until they find it with scalpel and Botox.
Ponce de Leon was Persistent
Although he knew from a previous excursion to the area, that the Calusa Indians were not too thrilled about the newcomers from the old world, he decided to come back in 1521. What was he thinking? Did he really believe that the natives changed their mind, and they would welcome him this time with kisses on both cheeks? This time he even came with a big surprise. Ponce de Leon brought 200 settlers, horses, and seeds with him. The plan was to set up a farming colony in the Punta Gorda area. Oh well, the Calusa Indians were even more thrilled about that brilliant idea, and in the end, it didn’t work out too well for him and his fellow „conquistadors.“
The Indians also came back with a big surprise
The Indians came back with a surprise of their own; they ambushed and attacked the people from the old world while they were exploring Florida’s inland. It wasn’t a battle; it was more a skirmish, but as a result of that little hostility he brought a present back home. An arrow was sticking out of his leg. Due to the “unexpected” behavior of the Indians, they gave up their original plan, abandoned their colony and sailed back to Cuba. Although the wound, inflicted by the arrow, was not life threatening, at that time an infection was often the equivalent of the death penalty. Ponce de Leon was no exception to that rule. His wound turned red, blue and black – and he was dead. No medication like sulfa or penicillin was available to contain his sepsis. So, he died shortly after his arrival in Cuba, at age 61, and never made it back to Spain.
Isaak Trabue changed the World
The next 300 years nothing exciting happened in the Punta Gorda area. Around 1850 at least a little action was noticeable. A few settlers had arrived and took possession of some land around the harbor. 1884 a guy with the name Isaac Trabue began working on a new subdivision. He hired a land surveyor, and a year later Trabue platted the first land. The new town was named „Trabue.“ Oh, what a genius!
They arranged streets and blocks along the southern shores of the Peace River and also along the broad mouth of the river. They designed every waterfront block as a park, and nobody has ever changed that over time. Today there is still a string of public parks along the river, all connected by a 2.5-mile long promenade, the “Harbor-walk.”
The Railroad, a Push in the Right Direction
1887 Florida Southern Railroad rolled into town. The “Hotel Punta Gorda” was the first guest quarter in the city. Just in time, when the first trains arrived, they drove the last nails into the wood of the building. From now on wealthy land developers, winter seasonal visitors and settlers flocked to Trabue. 1887 was also the year when the city was incorporated and renamed to „Punta Gorda.“
Trabue changed to Punta Gorda
Mr. Trabue was not happy about that decision, but, like today, when two politicians are sitting at a table, they have already three different opinions and ideas. “Trabue” was out – “Punta Gorda” was in. By the way, the name “Punta Gorda” comes from the Spanish language, meaning „Fat Point.“ This little land mass is sticking pout like a “fat finger” into Charlotte Harbor, one of the US’s largest natural harbors.
Phosphate brought Prosperity
A few months later, some “geniuses” discovered phosphate at the banks of the Peace River, which changed the status of their bank accounts dramatically. The world was in high demand of phosphate, a natural fertilizer. Phosphate mining was a very lucrative business before chemical fertilizers, which then were a lot cheaper to produce, replaced it. At first, they barged the phosphate down the river to Boca Grande, which was the only deep sea harbor in the area. From there bigger ships transported it to places all over the world.
Time is Money
That process was a time-consuming and pretty inefficient one. Therefore, the mining company decided to end the frustration and build a railway from Punta Gorda to Boca Grande. Now it was efficient! And this decision changed the face of both cities, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande. The railway did not only transport phosphate to the island, but wealthy people from the US and England also used this train, and quite a few of them bought real estate on Gasparilla Island. Many decades later, with the introduction of chemical fertilizers, the boom of the phosphate market turned into a bust, and the railroad became obsolete. Fortunately, the County removed only the tracks; the railroad bed remained intact. Charlotte County transformed it into a biking/hiking trail, and it is more used than ever before.
Tamiami Trail, the Big Game Changer
Back in early 1900, the area thrived on tourism, agricultural trade, mining and commercial fishing. Like everybody else in the US and the world, Punta Gorda went through boom and bust cycles as well. Shortly before the Great Depression hit, the brand new „Tamiami Trail“ (US 41) was completed and from now on it connected Miami with Tampa/St. Petersburg. This road boosted the morale of the residents and the economy of the area significantly. However, the Great Depression left its marks on Punta Gorda as well. When the USA got sucked into the quagmire of the Second World War, training space for combat-airplane pilots was needed. That was when the Air Force constructed the airport to train those young men who got shot out of the skies over Europe and Asia. The training lessons in Florida’s beautiful blue sky were probably the fun part, but what followed later was not always a great flying experience for everyone.
Punta Gorda Airport
After the dust had settled and vast areas of the world lay in ruins, the airport was useless. Therefore, the Air Force decided to get rid of the airport. Fortunately, Punta Gorda took over and assumed the operation of the airport. For many decades it was a pretty lame undertaking. However, today, Punta Gorda Airport is very successful and a great backbone of the economy. The new management was able to attract some major airlines that are serving cities in some Northern States. Columbus, Cincinnati, Harrisburg, Knoxville, Raleigh, and Springfield are on the list of destinations, as well as Chicago and Philadelphia.
The 1950’s brought a Change
More robust growth came at the end of the 1950“s when the extensive canal system was dug out, and new communities popped up everywhere. In the year 1980, a new shopping center was needed to „entertain“ the consumers in the area. The boat dock at the end of Punta Gorda’s Historic District was a real eyesore for the city, and nobody needed and wanted it anymore. Therefore the wooden structure was decaying, the concrete cracking and metal structures were crumbling away. It was beyond the point of repair. So, do you have a vision, dear reader?
Well, three developers had a clear vision and thought about ways to get rid of this eyesore. They wanted to transform it into something „extraordinary,“ not into something boring. Something that attracts and pleases many people. The three guys imagined a place with restaurants, waterside shopping, apartments with a view, a marina, and entertainment for the whole family. That was a real project. They called it „Fishermen’s Village,“ and then they rolled up their sleeves. Even 37 years later, Fishermen’s Village, built like a New England Fishing Village, is still „The“ attraction in Punta Gorda. The second largest tourist attraction in Southwest Florida is constantly remodeling and improving and recently added a nice outside bar and restaurant area.
Not only Shops
This unique waterfront destination includes gift, clothing, and specialty stores. There are several restaurants with a wide variety of food items on their menus and a little military heritage museum, that tells a short story about the military background of the area. The marina offers 98 boat slips for the ones who hate wheels under their vehicle, and there is a gas station in case your tank is empty. Fully furnished luxury apartments on the second floor are waiting for new arrivals. People who are seeking a break from the hustle and bustle at home.
Shade, you need Shade in Florida
Everything is in the shade, and wide openings provide for a comfortable sea breeze on a sizzling summer day. Of course, there is an ice cream parlor as well, like everywhere in Florida. This ice cream shop is the place where you can happily add another 5,000 calories to your daily diet, but who cares? On certain days you can even listen to live music while enjoying your cold beer or your ice cream bombe.
Charter boats are departing from the harbor every day. You can go out on a short sunset tour, or you can choose from a variety of day trips. The skippers will take you on tours up the river, or to those little keys located in Charlotte Harbor. Some of the tiny islands, like Cabbage Key, have unique restaurants that are only reachable by boat.
An Event that Shaped the City forever
When „Charley,“ a category four hurricane“ hit Florida’s West Coast in 2005, Punta Gorda was in the center of the bullseye. The storm was so damaging that it left vast areas of the city in ruins. Notably, many buildings on the north and south banks of the river were bearing the brunt. Hurricane Charley ripped houses completely apart, blew out doors and windows, took off whole roofs and made many homes uninhabitable. Blue tarps were protecting the roofs of the lucky ones; yellow tapes marked the homes of the not so fortunate residents. Charley Video
The storm didn’t spare schools, churches, hotels, and public buildings. Whoever was in the path got ripped in pieces. The historical part of the city was also affected by the storm. Charley uprooted large trees, sent roof tiles flying like projectiles through the air, and blew up several buildings. With the destructive wind came pouring rain. The water came through the openings of the structure and soaked the dry walls and the furniture of the homeowners. It was terrible. When the sun came out a few hours later, the town looked very “different.” Leafless branches of trees were pointing into a blues sky, and everything was covered with debris, torn apart and soaked.
Punta Gorda Looks Great again
However, everybody did a great job afterward, and today, 12 years after the event, there are hardly any scars left. The city looks beautiful again – maybe more beautiful than before? The historical part of the city now has cobblestone streets and gas streetlights. Some residential area also features brick streets lined with huge royal palm trees. Old Florida-era tin-roofed homes with wide front porches are creating this unique “Old Florida Flair.” Several old buildings, like the A.C. Freeman House, were authentically restored. The Freeman House is a museum now, and if you want to learn a little about Punta Gorda’s history, this might be a starting point.
For some individuals, who lost their home and all their belongings during the storm, life was not so pleasant anymore. For them fighting with insurances and building department officials was on the agenda every day. And some personal belongings were even lost forever – irreplaceable.
Real Estate in Punta Gorda
Some people say that Punta Gorda is a big retirement community with roughly 17,000 retirees. Well, if you are a teenager it may pretty much feel like a 55+ community, but is that true? Let’s have a closer look at the age of the residents to find out if that is true. 8,2% of the residents are under 18, 2.1% are between 18 and 24 (wow, that is bad), 9.9% are between 25 and 45, 33.4% are between 45 and 64, and 46.4% are over 65. So, if you are 50+ and married, this is an excellent spot to live, but from the perspective of a teenager, Punta Gorda may look a little ….sad?
One can probably say that teenagers are not too happy there: Port Charlotte, Englewood or Sarasota would be a better place with more opportunities to live for younger folks. Although there is a High School in Punta Gorda, overall activity for younger people is still pretty limited.
A Heaven only for Retirees?
Now, for retired or semi-retired people, it is a different story. With its small town feel, waterfront parks, a vast system of pathways for walking and bicycling, and an extensive collection of independent shops and restaurants, Punta Gorda is catering directly to the 50+ clientele. Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River offer excellent recreational fishing and spectacular boating opportunities. The water is perfect for sailing boats, power boats, and small watercrafts, like kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes. If you want to leave the fish alone and play a round of golf instead, you can go to the semi-private Punta Gorda Country Club, which is an 18-hole, par 72 golf course. They have a driving range and a pro shop. If you need to rent clubs, you can do that at the pro shop as well. No excuse not to play golf! Click here for Punta Gorda Golf Clubs.
The Location is Perfect
The location is perfect because Punta Gorda is centrally located between Sarasota and Fort Meyers. However, it is also still a comfortable driving distance to Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Myers.
Due to the location and the extensive canal system, Punta Gorda has an abundance of waterfront properties. Especially the Punta Gorda Isles and Burnt Store Isles communities offer a lot of new and newer homes on the water and deep water/sailboat water canals.
Punta Gorda Air Show
The Punta Gorda Airshow is back. The airshow used to be a huge magnet in the past, attracting thousands of people from all over South Florida. Due to some financial obstacles, the show had to be canceled for quite a while. Fortunately, the organizer was able to solve the problem, and, with new sponsors on board, the airshow took place again at the Punta Gorda Airport in 2016. If you like old planes and the sound of their engines, and if you like a good show, come to the airport next time when the show is back. In October 2017 those Yaks, Mustangs, and Migs are soaring through Florida’s Blue Sky again. Stop by and see for yourself. Even birds are jealous!
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Punta Gorda FL Waterfront Properties
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Great Schools in Punta Gorda
There are many schools in Punta Gorda. Check them out here: www.greatschools.org
Dining and Shopping
The city offers waterside shopping along the Harbor Walk and the famous Fishermen’s Village. The unique waterfront destination includes gift shops, a variety of restaurants, a 98 slip Marina and a Military Heritage Museum. On top of the village is a time share. Maybe you want to stay there and soak up the sun? Beautiful Spot.
You have access via two exits on I-75. The city also has an airport with quite a selection of domestic destinations. The International Airport of Ft. Myers is also just a 30 Mile drive away. Punta Gorda has perfect streets in well-maintained condition. Therefore, getting around is very convenient. Don’t rely on public transportation because public transportation is, at this point, very rudimentary.
Parks and Recreation
There is much to do in Punta Gorda and the surrounding areas. Boating, kayaking, fishing, and sightseeing are only a few of an array of activities. Take a 90-minute swamp buggy tour through Babcock Ranch. Or maybe you would enjoy a Peace River Boat Tour? Fairs, events, and festivals are happening year round. You just need to go.