Newsletter | October 2018
(and a little history)
This month’s HISTORY CLASSES
“HISTORY OF PUNTA GORDA IN ITS MURALS”
Join us as we present the history of the area as told through the murals throughout our beautiful City. Visit all 30 murals from the comfort of your Air Conditioned classroom seat while we present 450 years of history using the murals as a guide. Hear about the Mural Society and get a sneak peek of upcoming projects.
Presented in 2 parts:
Monday, October 22nd 10 am – Noon $18
“Part 1 – The Early Years” – from pre-Spanish Exploration to pre-WWI.
Wednesday, October 24th 10 am – Noon $18
“Part 2 – Post World War I” – picks up where the Part 1 leaves off continuing the story of our local history from WWI through modern day.
FGCU Renaissance Academy
Herald Center Ct, Punta Gorda
To Register: Call (941) 505-0130 or CLICK HERE to register online
Ice Cream Anyone?
If you’ve been in or near Gilchrist Park in Punta Gorda on Halloween you might have seen trick-or-treaters walking around eating ice cream. Maybe you thought that was a little unusual.
Well here’s the cool history story behind it.
It started with a guy named Albert Waller Gilchrist, a civil engineer, who came to the town of Trabue back in 1885 as a surveyor and engineer for the Charlotte Harbor Division of the Florida Southern Railroad.
Under his direction, the tracks to Trabue were completed in 1886. He was also in charge of the construction of the railroad’s terminal facilities that included a 4,200 foot Long Dock into Charlotte Harbor. This established the town as a deepwater port and regular steamship service began to Havana, Key West, and New Orleans. He (and most of his crew) decided to make Trabue their home. (Trabue was renamed Punta Gorda in 1887, but that’s a story for another newsletter).
Gilchrist retired from the railroad and became a real estate broker, surveyor and land developer with an office on Marion Avenue. With the area growing in leaps and bounds, he quickly made enough money to give up surveying, focusing on his land interests.
He became involved in politics winning a position in the state legislature in 1892. Taking a brief break to serve in the military during the Spanish-American War, he returned to the legislature and was elected Florida’s 20th governor in 1909, a goal he had set for himself as a boy. By this time he was a wealthy landowner and one of the most successful businessmen in the state.
Over the years he continued to consider Punta Gorda his home, visiting often. He was known for his charitable contributions including donations of land to many organizations. He never married but was very fond of children. When he walked down Marion Avenue he would frequently give kids Indian head nickels he kept in his pocket to buy ice cream and candy from the local store. He had a tradition of treating them to ice cream on Halloween.
He died on May 15, 1926, and was buried in Indian Springs Cemetery. He was an active brother of the Mason Fraternity since 1890 and left the following provision in his will:
“It has been my custom, when in Punta Gorda on Hallowe’en night, to set up to all the boys and girls at one of the drug stores generally ice cream cones; I want the Lodge (Masons) to continue this custom, using a part of the interest (of the $5000 principal left the Lodge). It costs little and affords much happiness.”
The Masons have continued this tradition since his death, providing ice cream to the children of Punta Gorda in the park named after him.
(References: “Punta Gorda: In the Beginning, 1865-1900” by V. Peeples, “Masonic History of Albert Gilchrist” by R. E. Lynn, and The Punta Gorda History Center).
In Our Community
Sharing a little of what’s happening with other organizations devoted to history in our area
This month we’re sharing a fundraiser by the Vietnam Wall of Southwest Florida.
This organization is raising funds for the next phase of renovation of Veterans Park in Punta Gorda.
Click here to see the plans that include parking and streetscape, honor walk, mural wall plaza, Purple Heart memorial, donors plaza, and gazebo ceremonial plaza.
You can help by purchasing one or more custom-engraved bricks to help raise the funds to complete this project. Each brick is a $250 tax-deductible contribution.
Click here for the brick order form.