Over the past year or so, the Punta Gorda skyline has undergone quite a change for the enjoyment and comfort of visitors and residents, and the change has brought many jobs to the community.
The year 2009 has seen a luxury hotel on each side of U.S. 41 North, both bordering Charlotte Harbor. The Four Points Hotel by Sheraton is on the west side at 33 Tamiami Trail, and the Wyvern is on the east side at 101 E. Retta Esplanade.
Also new is the Sun Loft Center at 201 W. Marion Ave. The ground floor houses a restaurant and retail shops. Offices are on the second and third floors, and residential condo units are on the fourth floor. A multi-story garage on Taylor Street is adjacent to the building.
Not the least of all new constructions is the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center at 201 W. Marion Avenue. The 43,000-square-foot building replaces the Charlotte County Memorial and Civic Center taken away by Hurricane Charley, Aug. 13, 2004. For more than four years, public events took place under a tent called the "Tentorium." The new building has opened a new world of beauty, comfortable meetings, large exhibits and top entertainment.
Built on the southern edge of Charlotte Harbor at the mouth of the Peace River, Punta Gorda is a thriving community with a rich history dating back almost 500 years. Punta Gorda is the only incorporated city in Charlotte County. Ravaged by Hurricane Charley in 2004, Punta Gorda has risen from the rubble and is now stronger than ever – the “Phoenix” of Southwest Florida.
Visitors will enjoy the active fishing and boating community that borders the downtown historic district, and the views and sunsets from the edge of town looking across the harbor towards the Gulf of Mexico are nothing short of spectacular.
Punta Gorda can trace its roots back to the landings by Ponce de Leon and Hernando DeSoto in the early 1500s. Its name, Spanish for "fat point," describes its shape and position jutting out into Charlotte Harbor. Early Spanish attempts to colonize areas of Charlotte County were thwarted by Calusa Indians, but the area was slowly settled as the English first began to migrate to the Charlotte Harbor environs during the 1700s.
Punta Gorda remained a sleepy fishing village and port town until the late 1800s, when Isaac Trabue, a unionist Kentucky lawyer, purchased hundreds of acres of land in anticipation of the expansion of the Florida Southern Railway. The arrival of the railway and the determination of Trabue caused Punta Gorda to grow to much of what it is today, and despite the weather and the passage of time, many of the Victorian structures that were built during this period still remain.
Visitors can enjoy a relaxing afternoon by taking a walking tour of historic downtown Punta Gorda. Dozens of 19th Century houses are scattered throughout downtown, including the original Isaac Trabue cottage (1886), the James Sandlin House (1893), the George McLane House (1887) and many more. In addition, the town’s original library, donated by a Chicago judge (1927) is now the home of the Punta Gorda Women’s Club. The Mercantile Bank Building (1912) and the original and still functioning City Hall are available for inspection. The location and history of these remarkable examples of Victorian architecture can be found at www.floridahistory.org.
Punta Gorda hosts a vibrant and busy arts community.
From the colorful murals that grace the walls of the buildings around town, overseen by the Punta Gorda Historic Mural Society, to the sculptures displayed on the sidewalks of downtown, art is abundant and everywhere in our town!
Local galleries such as Presseller Gallery, Sunart Gallery, Red Hat Studio, Sea Grape Gallery, Dragonfly Gallery, Gallery Joe Mathis and The Gallery Berdnick & Glynn showcase local artists in all mediums from oil paintings, jewelry design, watercolors and mixed media.
The Visual Arts Center located in Punta Gorda Isles on Maude Street houses the Charlotte County Art Guild which provides instructional art classes, programs, workshops, lectures, open studio drawing classes and more in an environment designed to display the talents of our local artists in the numerous exhibits held each year.
The Center for Performing Arts & Education on the east side of town has three resident companies – The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, The Charlotte Jazz Society and the Charlotte Chorale along with other performances during the year.
Whatever your desire – music, painting, sculpture, design – we have it all here in Punta Gorda, and we always welcome new and returning artists to join us.
To celebrate all of this, Every Third Thursday of the month the City of Punta Gorda celebrates GALLERY WALK – a marvelous time to stroll around the merchants of downtown Punta Gorda and enjoy the great artistic ambiance of our City. Call the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce office for additional details – 941-639-3720.
But don’t wait a single week. “Think Thursday” all the time. Visit www.thinkthursday.com
for more information.