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Main Street Punta Gorda Designated Florida Main Street Program of the Month

seal of florida

Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State

For Immediate Release
January 21, 2011

Joan Jefferson

Main Street Punta Gorda Designated Florida Main Street Program of the Month

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning announced today that Main Street Punta Gorda has been designated the Florida Main Street Program of the Month for January 2011.  Selection for this award is based on a record of active participation in the Florida Main Street Program.

“Main Street Punta Gorda was designated in 2007,” remarked Secretary Browning, “and it has made an immense impact on Punta Gorda’s downtown.  This program has been a valuable complement to the city’s recovery efforts since Hurricane Charley in 2004.”

The Punta Gorda area was originally inhabited by Calusa Indians, whose noteworthy dominance of their geographic area was marked by a series of successful defenses against hostile Spanish explorers. Using primitive tools and technology, they were able to build canals and artificial islands over 500 years ago.  Spanish settlers eventually displaced the Calusa in the region, naming Punta Gorda (“Fat Point”) for its wide shape as it protrudes into Charlotte Harbor at the mouth of the Peace River.

The first permanent western European settlement in the area was the town of Trabue, settled on the current location of Punta Gorda in 1882.  The Florida Southern Railroad, which was extended to Trabue in 1886, would later bring tourists and land developers to the area.  The town’s founder, Colonel Isaac Trabue, made an early attempt at challenging the town’s distinctly Southern ideology of racial separatism by appointing an African-American as its first postmaster in 1890.  A group of early settlers eventually incorporated the town as Punta Gorda in 1900.  The economy of Punta Gorda at this time was founded almost exclusively on ice manufacturing, fishing, and shipping.  The town became an important port for cattle shipments to Cuba as early as the 1890s.
The predominant architectural material in Punta Gorda at the beginning of the 20th century was dictated by the City Council. After a fire destroyed much of the downtown in 1905, the Council mandated that new business structures be built from brick or concrete.  Florida’s land boom of the 1920s reached Punta Gorda by way of the Florida Southern Railroad and the construction of the first bridge over Charlotte Harbor in 1921.  Punta Gorda’s architecture was redefined again in 2004, after Hurricane Charley devastated the city, demolishing a large portion of its downtown buildings.  The recovery effort that ensued focused on retaining the city’s historical character while conforming to strict storm-resistant building codes.  Important components of this rebuilding effort included the construction of a municipal marina at Laishley Park and several parks and trails designed to promote bicycle and pedestrian transportation downtown.

Punta Gorda hosted the 2010 Florida Main Street Annual Conference and Secretary of State Awards Dinner. The event was well attended, with representatives from the Main Street network, architects, elected officials, state agencies, and others interested in historic preservation and downtown revitalization. At the Awards Dinner, the City of Punta Gorda Urban Design Division and Public Works Department received an Outstanding Public Improvement Honor Award for the Marion Avenue Streetscape. The City also received an Honor Award for Outstanding New Construction Project for the Herald Court Centre.

Since designation in 2007, Main Street Punta Gorda’s program area has seen 125 public and private revitalization projects worth a total value of over $49 million. During the same period, downtown has experienced a net increase of 178 new businesses in its district, creating 778 jobs. In addition, local residents have dedicated over 5,200 volunteer hours to Main Street Punta Gorda’s revitalization efforts.

To learn more about Main Street Punta Gorda, contact Jan Sidebottom by phone at 941.575.9099 or e-mail jansidebottom@mainstreetpuntagorda.org
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