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History of the Area   

 

Boca Grande Boca Grande Useppa Cabbage Key Useppa

 

 

 

 

Boca Grande

 Florida emerged from the sea about 40 million years ago. During the last 3 million years, sea levels rose and fell over thirty times. Gasparilla Island in its present location is not more than 3500 years old. Archeological sites on the island  show the first settlers, "The Calusa" arrived around 300 AD. A lot has changed since then.... The 1600's brought Spanish Fishermen to Charlotte harbour for the abundant fishing  to market back to Cuba. The Red Gill Fish House was built in 1909 and in 1926 became part of Whidden’s Seafood Market and now the location of “The Gasparilla Island Maritime Museum. Phosphate was discovered in the lower Peace River in 1881 and was mined out of the river bed, initially with picks and shovels and, later, with suction dredges, then dried and barged down the river to Charlotte Harbor to be loaded onto ships anchored in the deep water just inside Boca Grande Pass off the south end of Gasparilla Island. The Gasparilla Island Lighthouse was constructed at its present location in 1890 and proved to be a valuable aid for the ships entering Charlotte Harbor. Mr. Bradley and his company, the AACCo, simultaneously built a railroad, a grand hotel (the Gasparilla Inn) and town, constructed a power plant and erected one of the most modern loading elevators in the country on Gasparilla Island. All of these activities occurred in a period of only six years, 1905-1911. Boca Grande was a boom town between 1912-1930 and became the place to escape the northern winters. Hey Day: 1930-1958. This period of history could be called Boca Grande’s hey-day. All of the industries and activities put into place in the prior years were running smoothly. The town continued to grow and prosper. In 1958 a bridge to connect Gasparilla Island to the mainland was built. For the first time, residents were able to drive off island to buy groceries and other necessities. In 2001 Florida Power & Light closed its deep water berthing facility at the port due to the change from oil to natural gas at the power plant in Fort Myers. After 111 years, Boca Grande is no longer an active deep-water port, but now a thriving travel destination! Visit the Boca Grande Historical Society for more in depth history information.

 

Useppa Island

A rich Island history includes early fishing camps, a brief occupation by the Union during the Civil War, the implementation of water access for irrigation and a subsequent exclusive private resort development by Barron Collier.  In the early 1900s, Useppa Island emerged as the world’s premier accommodation for those seeking a luxury retreat while angling for the famous “Silver King.” Politicians and celebrities are said to be among the notables that took refuge on Useppa. Established circa. 1908, the Izaak Walton Club was one of the most prestigious fishing clubs in America and one of the first conservation groups in the United States. In 1911, Barron Collier bought the island and a created a popular seasonal destination for the wealthy. Barron Collier made the island his residence until his death in 1939. While the island was closed during World War II (1941-1945), it re-opened as a seasonal resort in 1946, and continued to be operated by the Collier family until 1960. From 1960, Useppa would change hands many times, and serve briefly as a secret training location for the CIA. It would be many years before Useppa had electrical power from the mainland (1981), along with full-service amenities, a beautifully restored Inn, restaurant and museum. You can visit the Useppa Island Historical Society for more in depth history information.


Cabbage Key

Cabbage Key, a little island south of Boca Grande reachable only by boat, is famous for a lot of things — its historic Dollar Bill Bar, papered with more than $70,000 in signed dollar bills from patrons; its association with Jimmy Buffett. Today the 100-acre island has many features that bear the stamp of authentic Old Florida.There is no traffic on Cabbage Key because there are no cars. All goods and services arrive by boat, with the exception of the occasional seaplane. Jimmy Buffett would often visit Cabbage Key and many believe the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” originated from there. A nature trail of about three-quarters of a mile winds through the woods and over another large shell mound. Excellent signage explains flora and fauna. More in depth history information can be found at the Cabbage Key website.

Boca Grande

Useppa Island

Cabbage Key

Boca Grande Useppa Cabbage Key