Punta Gorda, Florida
|Punta Gorda, Florida|
Punta Gorda City Hall
Location in Charlotte County and the state of Florida
|• Mayor||Rachel Keesling|
|• City Manager||Howard Kunik|
|• Total||21.0 sq mi (54.4 km2)|
|• Land||15.0 sq mi (38.9 km2)|
|• Water||6.0 sq mi (15.5 km2) 28.52%|
|Elevation||6 ft (2 m)|
|• Density||1,109/sq mi (428.1/km2)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||0289380|
Punta Gorda (/ /; English: Fat Point) is a city in Charlotte County, Florida, United States. As of the 2010 census the city had a population of 16,641. It is the county seat of Charlotte County and the only incorporated municipality in the county. Punta Gorda is the principal city of the Punta Gorda, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area and of the Sarasota-Bradenton-Punta Gorda Combined Statistical Area.
Punta Gorda was the scene of massive destruction after Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 hurricane, came through the city on August 13, 2004. Charley was the strongest tropical system to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and the first hurricane since Hurricane Donna in 1960 to make a direct hit on Florida's southwest coast. However, a revitalization of the City took place in the immediate years following the storm that resulted in buildings being restored or built to hurricane resistant building codes. The new buildings, restorations and amenities concurrently preserved the City's past while showcasing state-of-the art modern facilities. During this time, Laishley Park Municipal Marina was built and the Harborwalk, Linear Park and various trails were created throughout the City for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
The name "Punta Gorda" has been on maps at least since 1851, referring to a point of land that juts into Charlotte Harbor, an estuary off the Gulf of Mexico. It was in the late 1800s that early settlers began to arrive in what is the present-day Punta Gorda area.
Frederick and Jarvis Howard, Union Army veterans, homesteaded an area south of the Peace River near present-day Punta Gorda about a decade after the close of the Civil War. In 1876, James and Josephine Lockhart bought land and built a house on property which is now at the center of the city. Approximately two years later Lockhart sold his claim to James Madison Lanier, a hunter and trapper. Lanier with his wife lived there until 1883, when 30.8 acres (12.5 ha) were sold to Isaac Trabue, who purchased additional land along the harbor and directed the platting of a town (by Kelly B. Harvey) named "Trabue".
Less than ten years after the first settlements in the area, railroads rolled into the town of Trabue in June 1886, and with them came the first land developers and Southwest Florida's first batch of tourists. Punta Gorda became the southernmost stop on the Florida Southern Railroad, until an extension was built to Fort Myers in 1904, attracting the industries that propelled its initial growth.
In 1887, 12 years after the first settlers trekked to Charlotte Harbor, 34 met at Hector's Billiard Parlor to discuss incorporation. Once Punta Gorda was officially incorporated, mayoral elections took place and a council was formed. The first mayor, W.H. Simmons, was elected. The new city was renamed "Punta Gorda." 
Phosphate was discovered on the banks of the Peace River just above Punta Gorda in 1888. Phosphate mined in the Peace River Valley was barged down the Peace River to Punta Gorda and Port Boca Grande, where it was loaded onto vessels for worldwide shipment. In 1896, the Florida Times-Union reported that phosphate mining was Punta Gorda's chief industry and that Punta Gorda was the greatest phosphate shipping point in the world. But, by 1907, a railroad was built direct to Port Boca Grande ending the brief phosphate shipping boom from Punta Gorda.
In 1890, the first postmaster, Robert Meacham, an African American, was appointed by Isaac Trabue as a deliberate affront to Kelly B. Harvey and those who had voted to change the name of the town from Trabue to Punta Gorda .
Early Punta Gorda greatly resembled the modern social climate of various classes living together and working together. While the regal Punta Gorda Hotel, at one point partly owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt, reflected the upper class, Punta Gorda was a pretty rough town, as most frontier towns were. Punta Gorda's location at the end of the railway line spiked the crime rate, resulting in approximately 40 murders between 1890 and 1904. This included City Marshal John H. Bowman, who was shot and killed in his front parlor on January 29, 1903 in view of his family.
In 1925, a bungalow was built by Joseph Blanchard, an African-American sea captain and fisherman. The Blanchard House Museum still stands as a museum, providing education for the history of middle-class African-American life in the area.
Punta Gorda in the 20th century still maintained steady growth. Charlotte County was formed in 1921 after DeSoto County was split. Also in 1921, the first bridge was constructed connecting Punta Gorda and Charlotte Harbor along the brand-new Tamiami Trail. This small bridge was replaced by the original Barron Collier Bridge in 1931, and then by the current Barron Collier Bridge and Gilchrist Bridge crossing the Peace River.
During World War II an U.S. Army air field was built in Punta Gorda to train combat air pilots. After the war, the air field was turned over to Charlotte County. Today the old air field is the Punta Gorda Airport providing both commercial and general aviation.
Punta Gorda's next intense growth phase started in 1959 with the creation of a neighborhood of canal front home sites by a trio of entrepreneurs, Al Johns, Bud Cole and Sam Burchers. They laid out 55 miles of canals 100 feet wide and 17 feet deep using dredged sand to raise the level of the canal front land. This provided dry home sites with access to the Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. Johns went on to develop several other communities in Punta Gorda.
There are many historic places in Punta Gorda, including ten places on the National Register of Historic Places:
- A. C. Freeman House
- Charlotte High School
- Clarence L. Babcock House
- H. W. Smith Building
- Old First National Bank of Punta Gorda (also known as Old Merchants Bank of Punta Gorda)
- Punta Gorda Atlantic Coast Line Depot
- Punta Gorda Ice Plant
- Punta Gorda Residential District
- Punta Gorda Woman's Club
- Villa Bianca
Punta Gorda is located at  It lies on the south bank of the tidal Peace River and the eastern shore of Charlotte Harbor, an arm of the Gulf of Mexico. Unincorporated communities bordering Punta Gorda include Charlotte Park (nearly surrounded by the city), Solana to the east, and Charlotte Harbor to the north, across the Peace River. Port Charlotte is to the west of Punta Gorda's incorporated residential neighborhoods Deep Creek and Suncoast Lakes, north of the Peace River. Harbour Heights lies to the east of Punta Gorda's Deep Creek residential neighborhood.(26.915907, -82.047820).
U.S. Route 41, the Tamiami Trail, runs through the center of the city, leading south 23 miles (37 km) to Fort Myers and northwest 30 miles (48 km) to Venice. The southern terminus of U.S. Route 17 is in the center of Punta Gorda; the highway leads northeast 25 miles (40 km) to Arcadia and ultimately 1,206 miles (1,941 km) to its northern terminus in Winchester, Virginia. Interstate 75 bypasses Punta Gorda to the east, with access via U.S. 17 from Exit 164.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.0 square miles (54.4 km2). 15.0 square miles (38.9 km2) of it is land, and 6.0 square miles (15.5 km2) of it (28.52%) is water.
Punta Gorda is home to five public schools operated by Charlotte County Public Schools: Charlotte High School, Punta Gorda Middle School, Sallie Jones Elementary School, East Elementary School, and the Baker Pre-K Center. Good Shepherd Day School is the only private grade school in Punta Gorda. Florida SouthWestern Collegiate High School, located in Punta Gorda, is the county school district's only charter school.
Florida SouthWestern State College Charlotte Campus is Punta Gorda's institution of higher learning.
As of the census of 2000, there were 14,344 people, 7,165 households, and 5,187 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,012.8 per square mile (391.1/km²). There were 8,907 housing units at an average density of 628.9 per square mile (242.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.60% White, 3.17% African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.78% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.59% from other races, and 0.68% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.99% of the population.
There were 7,165 households out of which 8.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.8% were married couples living together, 4.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.6% were non-families. 24.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.97 and the average family size was 2.27.
In the city the population was spread out with 8.2% under the age of 18, 2.1% from 18 to 24, 9.9% from 25 to 44, 33.4% from 45 to 64, and 46.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 64 years. For every 100 females there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $48,916, and the median income for a family was $54,879. Males had a median income of $34,054 versus $26,125 for females. The per capita income for the city was $32,460. About 4.7% of families and 6.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 3.0% of those age 65 or over.
- Jeff Corsaletti, professional baseball player who currently plays for the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox
- Matt LaPorta, major league first baseman for the Cleveland Indians
- Burton Lawless, former football guard who played for the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League from 1975 through 1979 Listed as one of the "100 Greatest Players of the First 100 Years" for Florida High School Football.
- Tommy Murphy, outfielder for the Kansas City Royals
- "Florida by Place. Population, Housing, Area, and Density: 2000". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
- U.S. Geological Survey Punta Gorda 7.5-minute topographic map (2012)
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce: About Punta Gorda". 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Punta Gorda city, Florida". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "Update of Statistical Area Definitions and Guidance on Their Uses" (PDF). Office of Management and Budget. Archived from the original on 2007-09-25. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
- Richard J. Pasch; Daniel P. Brown; Eric S. Blake (2004-10-18). "Tropical Cyclone Report". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
- "City of Punta Gorda History".
- Peeples, Vernon (2012). Punta Gorda in the Beginning 1865-1900. Port Charlotte: Book-broker Publishers of Florida. ISBN 978-0-9832670-9-6., p. 1-17
- Turner, Gregg M., A Journey Into Florida Railroad History, University Press of Florida, Library of Congress card number 2007050375, ISBN 978-0-8130-3233-7, pages 123–124.
- Turner, Gregg M., A Journey Into Florida Railroad History, University Press of Florida, Library of Congress card number 2007050375, ISBN 978-0-8130-3233-7, page 156.
- Peeples 2012, pp. 89–92
- Peeples 2012, pp. 162–166
- Peeples 2012, p. 70
- Shively, Scott (2009). Punta Gorda. Arcadia Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 073856799X.
- "Officer Down Memorial Page: Marshal John H. Bowman". Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- "Blanchard House Museum". Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- "Charlotte County Airport Authority". Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "Deep Creek Section 20 Property Owner's Association". Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- "Charlotte County Schools: Early Childhood Program". Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- "Good Sherpherd Day School". Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- "Florida SouthWestern Collegiate High School". Retrieved 2014-09-11.
- Maffezzoli, Dennis (2007-05-25). "Corsaletti gets taste of majors with Rocket". Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
- Maffezzoli, Dennis (2007-06-08). [Fred Ferris - Colorful Local Editor and publisher of the Charlotte county Sun Coast Times 1960's - http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20070608/SPORTS/706080324 "Milwaukee Brewers selects LaPorta"]. News-Press. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
- Scott, Anna (2006-01-10). "James Lawless, former schools superintendent, dies at 86". Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- "5 SFWL players named to State All-Time Prep Football Top 100". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- Fineran, John. "Baseball's return tops 2006 stories". Sun-Herald. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- David Lee McMullen, Strike! The Radical Insurrections of Ellen Dawson. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010; pg. 182
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