The Sun-Sentinel newspaper called Punta Gorda a magnificent location that “has retained more of its connection to its past.”
Punta Gorda prides itself on remembering its roots and honoring its history. The city has a thriving historic district with several distinct neighborhoods that each tell their own story. Collectively, these stories weave together to form an important tapestry that is the backdrop for the city today. With so much of Florida covered by cookiecutter, developer-driven gated communities, Punta Gorda proudly wears its deeply-routed history on its sleeve.
Just west of downtown, you will find approximately 22 city blocks highlighted by 125 contributing, mostly residential, structures. The period of historic significance for is area is 1884 to 1930 with most contributing structures being frame vernacular and Queen Anne style wood frame structures, dating from the mid 1880’s to the late 1910’s. There are several structures reflecting the 1920’s Florida Land Boom including the Neo-Classical Revival Punta Gorda City Hall. The AC Freeman House built in the early 20th century provides an excellent example of Victorian Architecture. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks and was moved to its present site and restored in 2006.
To the east of downtown, you can explore another 23 blocks steeped in Punta Gorda history. This was home to many of the earliest African American settlers, the historic Bethel A.M.E. Church (1888) and historic St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church (1893). This neighborhood contained the Old Cochran Street Business district ( now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.), a once thriving commercial district. In this area you will find the Blanchard House Museum of African American History and Culture of Charlotte County. Across from the museum is the Bailey Brothers Park which recognizes the seven brothers who served their country with honor in World War II and Korea, as well as other African Americans who settled and helped shape Punta Gorda’s past and present.
In this same area, farther east on Olympia, was once home to the famous Walled Gardens, houses surrounded by a botanical garden, fountains and statues, and the home of Sallie Jones, first school superintendent.
Punta Gorda was an exceptional southern community. It proudly stands among a small number of American cities that were ahead of their time regarding race relations, school integration, and inclusion.