While local town history is often buried somewhere in dusty library books, Punta Gorda’s history is out in the open, getting sun with the rest of the vibrant town. A series of over 30 murals spread across town showcase pivotal, poetic, and unexpected moments from bygone eras that have come to shape Punta Gorda in the modern day. Ironically, it all started with one mural titled End of the Line.
This two-paneled mural depicts the fraught partnership that would, in no small way, put Punta Gorda on the map. Isaac Trabue was a wealthy former Confederate colonel whose purchase and subdivision of 30 acres along Charlotte Harbor in 1884 would begin the development of the town. (A generally disliked man, Trabue briefly named the town after himself before a group of surveyors returned it to “Punta Gorda.”)
In order to connect the (then) far-flung town to the greater economic opportunity, he pitched Henry Plant, founder of the Plant system of railroads, on extending Florida’s rail lines to Punta Gorda. While the men are rumored to have loathed one another, the collaboration created southbound transportation for tourists and the northbound sale of produce, seafood, and beef. Artist Richard Currier honored the tense-yet-consequential partnership by depicting the two men, in profile, glowering at one another over a cornucopia of pineapples, citrus, cattle, and fish on ice. Of course, End of the Line is just the beginning.
Other murals celebrating town history include Cattle Drive Down Marion Avenue, in which five famous Cow Hunters (then-glorified herders pivotal to the booming cattle industry) usher a bustling herd of cattle through the center of town, and Harbor Bridges, which depicts a 1917 visit by Theodore Roosevelt during which he tried to catch a record-breaking manta ray. (His largest catch was, unfortunately, only sixteen feet across, shy of a record). There’s also The Life & Times of George Brown, which shows scenes from the life of a prominent Black entrepreneur and cabinet maker who is said to have owned the first automobile, player piano, and radio in town; and Early Days of Women’s Professional Golf, showing three pioneering women in pro golf from the 1920s.
Know Before You Go
Walking tours of Punta Gorda’s curiously specific murals are spread over two miles which takes about two hours total to visit. While dedicated maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce and online, guided tours operate seasonally for a more local-led experience.