In 1916 construction of the first US 41 bridge (from Port Charlotte to Punta Gorda) began. Completion was delayed during the war effort.
During the same time in 1917, Theodore Roosevelt visited Punta Gorda. He came to this area because he had heard that a record Manta Ray (also known as a Devil Fish) had been caught in Charlotte Harbor. As an avid sportsman, Roosevelt wanted to try his luck at catching such a specimen.
After a reception at the Punta Gorda Hotel which included an open car ride down Marion Avenue, the entourage walked to the municipal dock at the foot of King Street (which is now Tamiami Trail). With his guide, he boarded the E. C. Knight for a fishing trip. A local resident, Isabella McBean, gave Roosevelt her own Kodak camera. The photos that were taken on this trip have been reproduced in Lindsey William’s book, “Our Fascinating Past”.
Roosevelt and his guide did catch a Manta Ray but the Manta Ray dragged their boat around the harbor attracting sharks along the way. They headed for Punta Rassa which was the nearest beach. They pulled the ray ashore and measured it at 16’8”, not a record catch. They returned to Punta Gorda and left by train “without fanfare”.
The left side of this mural shows the harbor with the early 1900’s bridge. Roosevelt and his guide are shown in the foreground with the beached Manta Ray catch.
The middle of the mural has a map of Charlotte Harbor with familiar locations identified.
The right side of the mural depicts our “modern” view with the new lighted bridge that connects Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte.
The mural was dedicated on August 21, 2008.