The Places They Stayed - Hotels, Boarding Houses and Lodges
Where People Stayed:
Early Punta Gorda Hotels, Boarding
Houses and Lodges
by Punta Gorda History Center
Rugged pioneers, seasonal fishermen, cattlemen and adventures came
to the area we now know as Punta Gorda by water, in sailing vessels
or steamships, or overland by horseback, wagons, or walking.
Primitive housing was constructed to match the unconquered
Isaac Trabue comes to Florida in 1885, purchases 380 acres, and hires a
surveyor to lay out the Town of Trabue.
Spanish fish ranchos were established in Charlotte
Harbor as early as 1769.
No one knew for sure who built
it or when, but it was
considered the first house in
Occupied by both the Laniers
and Trabues, it was located on
Retta Esplanade in Harvey Park.
This photograph is from a
woodcut that appeared in the
Florida Times Union in 1896.
The Railroad Era:
1886 - 1921
The Florida Southern Railway was completed to its terminus in Punta
Gorda in July 1886.
Two hundred workmen and supplies immediately began to build the
large Hotel Punta Gorda for wealthy winter visitors – 100 miles
further south than any other first-class hotel in the United States.
Adventurers, sportsmen, merchants, tradesmen, salesmen, pioneers, of
all sorts, came to see what was at the end of the rail line. They
needed places to stay when then arrived.
Even before the rail line was
completed in 1886, the lumber to
construct the Peace River Lodge
was shipped by schooner from
Mobile, AL. to the new town of
Dr. A. T. Holleyman, the developer
of the new town, also built the
lodge to accommodate some 40
guests , 20 bedrooms, 10 baths,
on 2nd floor, plus the owner’s
Later, George Chahoon, a state
senator from NY, owned the resort
and it was known as the National
The building is shown here as it
looked in 1925.
Then the Railroad arrived in July 1886 with 200 laborers on board to
begin work on the Punta Gorda Hotel.
Hotel Construction Site
By October 1886 the Railroad Dock reached
2000 feet into the bay.
On June of 1886, men driving the
pilings for the wharf were in the habit
of going naked while working in the
water as there were no white women
in town. Epfriam “Abe” Goldstein
persuaded them to wear their
clothing thereafter as his wife was
arriving the next day.
He also persuaded carpenters working
on the Hotel Punta Gorda to devote
one day building this two-story home
for his wife and son who were
unexpectedly due to arrive the next
day or so .
Starting with available materials early
in the morning, by nightfall they had
completed construction of this two-
story, multi-room house!
The Pioneer House, built in one day in 1887.
Abe installed Fredericka and Harry in the house, then
he named it the “Pioneer House” and operated it as a
rooming house. When a group of Boston capitalists
arrived to see about the hotel, they went to
Goldstein’s, the only house in town at the time and
asked for a seafood dinner. Rough tables were
temporarily arranged the length of the room and the
entire bunch of visitors enjoyed what is believed to
have been the first seafood meal served to tourists in
By 1958, at 72 years old, the house was getting a little
tired and began leaning on the neighboring building.
Work to raze the building began in Sept. 1968. It took
skilled workmen three weeks to tear it down.
Construction continuing on the Hotel Punta Gorda – This side faced Marion Avenue
Construction materials can be seen in this bay front view of the Hotel Punta Gorda
The completion of the
Hotel Punta Gorda helped
make Punta Gorda a
destination resort. An ad in
the NY Tribune on 2/16
indicated it would open
February 20, 1887.
Elegantly furnished, it had
gas lights, electric bells,
steam heat and open fire
Three stories high, it had
large promenade verandas
and contained 135 rooms ,
every one a front room
facing the water.
During its first season, it
had 3,320 guests.
The Hotel Punta Gorda Lobby, ca 1903, boasted fishing
trophies and a collection of tarpon scales.
Florida resort hotels were not always financial
successes and the Hotel Punta Gorda was not an
exception. In 1910, the Punta Gorda Herald said, “The
big unsightly building …continues to be an eyesore and
…standing idle and ugly for nine years past is actually a
curse to the community.”
The Hotel Punta Gorda limped along and was purchased by Baron
Collier in 1925.
In 1891 the El Palmetto Cigar Manufacturing Company was organized in Punta Gorda. A wooden frame factory
building and a row of cottages for workers were built at the southeast corner of Virginia Avenue and Cochran St.
1901 the cigar industry in Punta Gorda moved to Tampa
(Ybor City) and the buildings were sold to D.H. Hucksky,
who moved several of the buildings to Brown and Wood
Two of these buildings were purchased for $50 each by
C. M. Mays on October 25, 1924.
The homes consist of one bedroom, living room and
kitchen. The duplex can be seen at the Punta Gorda
History Park on Shreve Street.
The Dade Hotel was built in
1887 at the corner of Taylor
This two-story, twenty-two
room hotel had a fine dining
room and was the commercial
hotel in Punta Gorda.
For many years Dade Hotel
was the residence of Albert
Gilchrist, who arrived with the
RR surveying party crew chief.
He continued with the railroad
to supervise the construction
of the Long Dock and the
1,200-foot pier at the Hotel
Punta Gorda. Gilchrist lost his
bid as first mayor of Punta
Gorda by two votes. Florida
voters elected Gilchrist
governor for a term starting in
Its name was changed to
the New Southland and
in January 1914 it
became the Seminole
A great ovation greeted Col.
Theodore Roosevelt when he
arrived in Punta Gorda on a
Sunday during the last week in
March 1917. He enjoyed a
week of fishing returning to
Punta Gorda on the following
In 1920 the structure was
placed on logs and rolled
one block to the corner of
Marion Avenue and
Sullivan Street. It suffered
damage in the Hurricane
1921 and was destroyed by
fire in 1923.
The Ingram Hotel was a boarding house for Negros. It was
located across King Street and the railroad tracks from the Hotel
In 1914 it was renamed the Travelers Hotel was a railroad hotel
in Punta Gorda out by the old Ice Plant. This small hotel was
used by travelers, particularly drummers (salesmen) when
they’d come to town.
One of the most exciting
things were the minstrel
shows that came to town for
one-night stands. They’d set
up their big tents on the
vacant lot by the Travelers’
Hotel. The African-American
Minstrels came in on the
noon train and always had a
parade. On the 1932 Sanborn
map this building was
identified as the Punta Gorda
This aerial photo of the
intersection of Marion
Avenue & King Street
was taken from the
tower roof of the Hotel
Zooming in we can just make out the Smith
Bakery, Café and Hotel on E. Marion
The original Smith Bakery was destroyed in
the fire of 1905 which took out the entire
south side of the block of W. Marion
Avenue between King & Taylor.
The Bayview Hotel was built after 1909
but prior to 1914.
By 1925 it was expanded and renamed the
A November 4, 1914
advertisement offered the 23-
room concrete hotel for sale.
Later, Henry Smith built the first
shopping arcade in Charlotte
County. It had a half-dozen
shops and the post office
fronting on the central corridor.
He lost everything during the
Great Depression. But the
Smith Arcade has been
beautifully restored and is
listed on the National Register
of Historic Places.
Historian Lindsey Williams’
book indicates this building
burned down in 1972.
Across E. Marion Ave from the Smith Hotel is the Olive
which, on the 1925 Sanborn map, occupied the second floor
of 218 & 220 E. Marion Avenue.
The Price House was actually
two independent buildings in
1914. Maxwell Charles Price,
the first City Engineer and later
City Manager, made this his
home and connected two
buildings with a porch at 115
The Surles purchased the home
and in the 1980s ran it as the
Gilchrist Bed and Breakfast Inn.
In 2010 the building was
moved to the Punta Gorda
1921 – 1980s
Wide-scale adoption of automobiles by general population signals the
end of passenger rail system.
The Charlotte Harbor bridge, first bridge to cross Peace River, opened
July 4, 1921; it is replaced in 1931.
Tamiami Trail and other interstate roadways connect Florida to
population centers in New England, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West and
Motels, tourist cabins, and municipal camp grounds welcome visitors
traveling to Florida in automobiles.
Barron Collier purchased the
Hotel Punta Gorda in 1925.
The old wooden siding was
covered with chicken wire and
stucco was applied to make
the building appear to be
Renovations enlarged it,
added modern plumbing and
A grand ballroom was added
as a fifth floor to the tower.
Dredged fill from new the
yacht basin enlarged the front
grounds where a swimming
pool and tennis courts were
It reopened in 1927 under the name the Hotel Charlotte
It reopened in 1927
under the name the
Hotel Charlotte Harbor.
Inside the lobby of the Hotel Charlotte Harbor
A guest room in the Hotel Charlotte Harbor
Fill from dredging adds
land for pool and tennis
Hotel Charlotte Harbor
Municipal Trailer Park
Charlotte Bay Hotel
By 1925, the Charlotte Bay
Hotel was built on the site of
the former Seminole Hotel.
This was the city’s main
commercial hotel and, of
course, welcomed winter
Catering to automobiles, a modest garage was built under the Charlotte Bay hotel at ground level much
like the parking spaces under the Sun Loft Building which now occupies this location.
Miss H. Rae Skull purchased the property in about 1940 and renamed it the Princess Hotel. This structure
eventually fell victim to fire in 1979.
Community Center building built in 1933 with
federal funding. The rustic, cypress-log building
was 80’ x 100’ and contained a dance floor and
stage. Later a concrete block building would
replace the log structure.
Punta Gora Municipal Tourist
Park Camp Sites, ca. 1930s
They were called “tin can tourists”. They not only
came in house trailers; some were tent campers.
Municipalities all over the country built facilities to
attract them and their contributions to the life and
economy of their host community was appreciated.
Municipal Trailer Park, ca. 1950s
This boat basin is now home to Punta
Gorda’s Laishley Marina.
This historic building at 215 Goldstein Street in 1896 was the site of Punta Gorda’s first high school. This is the new school
built on the site in 1909. After the Charlotte High School was built on Cooper Street, this building served as the city’s first
hospital. During the 1920s, the Chadwick Brothers remodeled it for a hotel called “The Inn.” In the 1930s, it became the
Moss Apartments” and has remained an apartment house through several more renovations.
The Allapatchee Lodge was
the inspiration of Louis
Calder, president of Union
Bag and Paper Company. It
was built on Alligator Creek
to entertain their customers
with the best of outdoor
recreation in the late 1920s.
For many years the lodge,
seen here ca. 1930, served
the executives and
customers of the famous
It was located at about the
8th hole of the Twin Isles
The Charlotte Harbor Spa…the last vestiges of the railroad-era hotel
Destroyed by fire August 14, 1959
Perry W. McAdow built this house in 1897. All that is left is the big
banyan tree at the entrance to Gilchrist Park across the corner of
Retta Esplanade and Harvey Street.
Subsequent owners ran the property as the
Bayshore Lodge and Motel.
All was destroyed by Hurricane Donna in
Person’s Tourist Cabins
Drive north on Route 17 or south on Route 41
and you will see vestiges of road side motels
from a by-gone era, many have been turned into
Here are photos of two examples.
Complaining of the smell, the
commercial fish trade was
relocated from the dock beside the
Hotel Charlotte Harbor to Maude
A fire on May 19, 1939 took three
lives , left one operating fish
company, and dealt a severe blow
to the area economy.
In 1980s Fisherman’s Village was
be built on the Maude Street Dock.
KOA Campground off
Rio Villa, now Harbor
Belle RV Resort?
The changing face of Punta Gorda
Howard Johnson’sHoliday Inn
This aerial view shows
two waterfront hotels
that were instrumental
during the development
of Punta Gorda Isles.
Vernon Peeples called
Punta Gorda Isles the
development in the
In the mid-twentieth
century , seasonal
vacationers coming to
Punta Gorda began
putting down roots by
purchasing home sites.
While they were
selecting their lots, they
stayed in these hotels.
2009 and beyond
Allegiant Airlines became the exclusive commercial carrier at Punta
Gorda Airport in 2009.
45 destination cities are served from Punta Gorda via Allegiant
To cater to the flying visitors, Allegiant is building Sunseeker Resort on
the bay front in Charlotte Harbor.
Add photo of construction and proposed