Florida Main Street
Program of the Month
January 2009 Program of the Month
Main Street Punta Gorda
Secretary of State Announces Florida Main Street Program of the Month
Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning announced today that Main Street Punta Gorda has been designated as the Florida Main Street Program of the Month for January 2009. Punta Gorda is a fairly new Main Street program that was designated in 2007 and has seen substantial success in a very short time. Communities are selected for this award based on active participation in the Florida Main Street Program.
"Punta Gorda's commercial district has benefited from the Main Street Program's hard work and dedication to historic preservation. This program is a fine example of how a community's dedication to revitalization can provide a promising future for Florida," Secretary Browning stated.
In 1882, on the southern Gulf Coast shore of Charlotte Harbor, Colonel Isaac Trabue established the Town of Trabue on 30 acres of land. The population grew when the Florida Southern Railroad was extended in 1886, and began providing the first regular passenger train service. The following year, the town's name was changed to Punta Gorda, which in Spanish means "Fat Point." In the 1890's, Punta Gorda became a popular port for cattle shipping to Cuba. With the founding of the Consolidated Ice Manufacturing Refrigeration and Fish Company, gill net fishing for mullet, Spanish mackerel and channel bass became increasingly profitable.
Punta Gorda was incorporated in 1900 and remains the only incorporated city in Charlotte County. After most of the downtown was destroyed by fire in 1905, the city council adopted regulations requiring that new business buildings be constructed of brick or concrete. During Florida's first real estate bubble in the early 1920's, many of Punta Gorda's key historic structures were built. These buildings include: City Hall, the Old County Courthouse, the Punta Gorda Woman's Club, Smith Arcade, Charlotte High School and the Punta Gorda Atlantic Coast Line Depot.
In 2004, during one of the most traumatic hurricane seasons in Florida history, Hurricane Charley brought devastating damage to Punta Gorda and the Charlotte Harbor region. Homes, restaurants, and stores were destroyed. Despite the tragic events and circumstances of this disaster, the community saw an opportunity to build a better city. Resources were collected and restoration began.
Through efforts to revitalize and promote the downtown area, the Main Street Punta Gorda program area has seen a reinvestment of more than $30 million in construction and rehabilitation projects. In addition, the commercial district has gained 7 new businesses and 12 new jobs.
Main Street Punta Gorda has brought events and festivities into the community. Every spring, the program hosts their International Coconut Racing event at Laishley Park's waterfront. This popular event is a major part of the annual Coconut Craze Days. In addition to food and live entertainment, attendees can participate in coconut painting, pie eating contests, and a coconut cook-off. A coconut cookbook now serves as a promotional piece for Main Street Punta Gorda.
In October of 2008, Main Street Punta Gorda's traveling coconut, named "Phelps," was sent on a national tour of Main Street communities. The coconut's hosts submit itinerary plans and photos to the program director to highlight the good work they are doing. "More than 30 locations immediately asked for a visit from "Phelps," and he has been invited to a polar bear swim, an artists' luncheon, a Winter Carnival and to serve as parade Grand Marshal in Wisconsin. It's amazing!" says Linda Dobson, Main Street Punta Gorda's Executive Director.
Other signature Main Street Punta Gorda events and activities include the annual Harbor Run/Walk, Wreaths around Main Street and July 4th Fest at Laishley Park. Main Street Punta Gorda is dedicated to the growth and revitalization of downtown. Through active involvement and community support, Punta Gorda citizens have reaped a return that their city can be proud of.
Florida Main Street is a technical assistance program of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State. The Bureau conducts statewide programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, and preserving Florida's historical resources. Main Street, with its emphasis on preservation, is an effective strategy for achieving these goals in Florida's historic retail districts. Since 1985, the Bureau has offered manager training, consultant team visits, design and other technical assistance, as well as the benefit of experience gained by other Florida Main Street programs.
To learn more about Punta Gorda Main Street, visit www.mainstreetpuntagorda.org or contact Linda Dobson at 941.575.9099 or by e-mail at email@example.com