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Florida Heritage Travel, October 2017 - Boca Grande
September 28, 2017

October 2017 News And Events


FLORIDA HERITAGE TRAVEL
is the companion monthly e-zine of
FLORIDA-BACKROADS-TRAVEL.COM


BOCA GRANDE, FLORIDA: GILDED AGE OF PRIVATE RAILROAD CARS


Boca Grande is a small village of about 1,500 people that most Floridians have never visited. It is at the end of the road, just like Key West, but far less known, and has some of the same quirkiness and Bohemian nature that is typical of Key West and other Florida end of the road towns. Boca Grande is at the southern end of State Road 771.


You need to find your way to Placida, Florida by taking State Road 776 from Port Charlotte or State Road 775 from Englewood. The roads intersect at Placida. A toll bridge takes you from Placida to Gasparilla Island and Boca Grande on SR-771. Pay the $6 toll and go into an interesting and charming part of Old Florida.



Boca Grande is on Gasparilla Island. Gasparilla was the nickname of Jose Gaspar, the “last of the buccaneers”, a famous pirate. Jose may have been fictitious. Nobody knows for sure. There are many versions of who he was and what he did. Real or not, he is the inspiration for Tampa's annual Gasparilla Festival.


The first residents in the area were Calusa Indians, who lived on nearby Useppa Island as long ago as 5,000 B.C. and on Gasparilla Island by 800 or 900 A.D. By the mid 1700s the Calusa had all but disappeared, the victims of European diseases, slavery and warfare.



Just like the Indians, the earliest settlers came to Gasparilla Island to fish. By the late 1870s several fish ranches were operating in the Charlotte Harbor area. One of them was at the north end of Gasparilla Island in the small village called Gasparilla.


The fishermen, many of them Spanish or Cuban, caught huge numbers of mullet and other fish and salted them down for shipment to Havana and other markets. In the 1940s the Gasparilla Fishery was moved to Placida across the bay, where it still stands today, and the fishing village died out. Many of the early fishing families of Boca Grande Florida are represented in third, fourth and even fifth generation descendants who still live in the area.



In 1885 phosphate rock was discovered on the banks of the Peace River just north of Punta Gorda on the east side of Charlotte Harbor. Phosphate was a valuable mineral for fertilizers and many other products, and was in great demand worldwide. This discovery transformed the south end of Gasparilla Island into a major deep water port because Boca Grande Pass is one of the deepest natural inlets in Florida.


Barges loaded with phosphate came down the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor to Port Boca Grande. There the rock was loaded onto ocean going freighters. Wealthy sportsmen also discovered the Charlotte Harbor area for its fantastic fishing and hunting. It became famous as a great place to catch tarpon, a fighting game fish.


In 1905 the phosphate producers decided to build a railroad to Port Boca Grande. Phosphate would come by rail rather than barge. The only buildings on south Gasparilla Island at this time were the lighthouse and house at the southern tip of the island. By 1907 the railroad was completed along with a 1,000 foot long pier at the railroad terminus. For the next 50 years The Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad carried phosphate to Port Boca Grande. The trains were off-loaded directly onto ocean going freighters for delivery to ports all over the world. By 1969 Port Boca Grande was the fourth busiest port in Florida.


The railroad connected Boca Grande to the world. The Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad not only brought phosphate and supplies to Gasparilla Island; it also brought wealthy people from the north, many in their private railroad cars. By 1910 Boca Grande Pass was already famous for its unequaled tarpon fishing among fishermen, who stayed on nearby Useppa Island. The Agrico Company, having begun to see the potential of the idea of developing Gasparilla Island beyond the port, began to develop the village of Boca Grande.



The railroad station in what would become downtown Boca Grande was built. The company also built streets, sidewalks, streetlights, shops, a post office, and water and telephone service. The town was landscaped, including the famous section of Second Street called Banyan Street. The railroad company built several cottages downtown and a few wealthy northern families purchased land and built winter residences.


The railroad continued to bring the grand visitors from all along the eastern seaboard until the Boca Grande Causeway opened in 1958. In the 1970s phosphate companies increasingly switched their interest to ports in Tampa and Manatee County, and traffic into Port Boca Grande began to dwindle. The railroad continued to run work trains to the south end until the phosphate port closed in 1979. The depot in the village was restored and a number of shops, offices and a restaurant now occupy the old building. The Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association transformed the old bed of the railroad into Boca Grande's popular Bike Path.


Boca Grande has become a unique community, with a large number of wealthy winter residents rubbing elbows with the fishermen and other locals. Tarpon tournaments are held in Boca Grande, and there are many charter fishing boats with knowledgeable captains. Former President George H. W. Bush is one of many famous people who have spent many winters at the historic Gasparilla Inn. Locals remember President Bush's wife Barbara and dog Millie, and their spirited grand-daughters Jenna and Barbara. A current celebrity is Britt Hume of FOX News, who vacations in Boca Grande.



RESTAURANT OF THE MONTH


Loose Caboose Restaurant
433 4th Street West
Boca Grande, Florida 33921
Tel: 941-964-0440
www.loosecaboose.biz




The Loose Caboose is located in the historic train station shown on the postcard in this ezine. It specializes in fresh local seafood and vegetables in a relaxing family friendly atmosphere.


Among the items they serve are several great appetizers such as southern fried green tomato and crab cake combo; home made soup; grouper fingers; conch fritters; zucchini fries; grilled Caribbean mango shrimp skewers; fried oysters; and Thai shrimp.


Seafood entrees on the menu include shrimp and grits, seafood pot pie, and fresh grouper. The landlubber is also made happy with filet mignon, crispy duck, Mediterranean chicken, chicken pot pie, and a chicken tender platter. The also have children's menus for both lunch and dinner with such favorites as grilled cheese sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hamburgers, hot dogs, and much more.



The inside dining room is decorated with railroad memorabilia and is air conditioned. There is also a large outside dining patio which gives you a great view of the light motor and pedestrian traffic passing by. The restaurant is owned and operated by Jacques and Blanche. Jacques used to manage the restaurant before purchasing it in 2006.


The Loose Caboose is open for lunch and dinner every day of the week except Wednesday, which is their day off. Lunch is served from 11:00am to 4:30pm, and dinner is from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. These hours vary during the off season when Boca Grande is very quiet and the snowbirds have gone back up north. Dinner is served seasonally and you should call them to make sure they are open. They quite often don't serve lunch between early September and early Octorber.


FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL UPDATES


Thanks for continuing to subscribe to Florida Heritage monthly e-zine. Our website, Florida-Backroads-Travel.com continues to grow, and we hope you enjoy these updates.


You can also subscribe to our Florida Blog by going to our home page and selecting an RSS feed. This way you will have daily updates. I recently added a new page to the website: Florida Tales. This feature allows website visitors to share their favorite Florida stories with us. We also revised our Florida Getaways page to provide links to getaways in all 8 geographical regions of Florida.


October is a favorite month in Florida. It's mostly cool and air conditioners are only needed now and then. Most of the snowbirds are still up north so the lines are shorter at our local restaurants.


HERE ARE SOME INTERESTING FLORIDA EVENTS FOR OCTOBER:


ALL REGIONS


FLORIDA WINERIES. Check the Florida winery nearest you. Many of them have wonderful weekend events that include music and wine tastings. Our site has information on 29 wineries scattered across the state. We plan to add even more when we have time to visit them.


FLORIDA TOURIST ATTRACTIONS. We have an extensive list of Florida Tourist Attractions. Some of them are well known; other are a wonderful step back into Old Florida.


FLORIDA FESTIVALS. There are several outside events this time of year. Among these are outdoor art festivals and folk and bluegrass music festivals.


FLORIDA BEACHES. Almost anything you decide to do in Florida can be enhanced by spending some quality time at a great beach, and best beaches in Florida will guide you in the right direction.


FLORIDA MUSEUMS. Many Florida art and historical museums have scheduled events. Click on the links to find out what is going on.


FLORIDA THEATER. This is an active time for plays and musical events in our many Florida theaters.. Check the links to find out what might be interesting to you.


FLORIDA AUTHORS. Any time is a good time to read a book by a Florida author. Our most visited author pages are those of Randy Wayne White, the creator of adventurous marine biologist Doc Ford, Tim Dorsey and his unlikely protagonist, serial killer Serge Storms, and Robert N. Macomber, and his historical novels featuring Captain Peter Wake of the U.S. Navy.


Here is a useful link that will tell you what is going on this month virtually everywhere in Florida.


FLORIDA FESTIVALS AND OTHER EVENTS FOR OCTOBER 2017


Information on the towns and places hosting these events, or near them, including lodging, can be found at Florida Towns.


A few events are cancelled on very short notice. I do my best to ensure that our information is correct and current, but I recommend you call before leaving for the event to make sure it's still on.


Thanks for subscribing to Florida Heritage Travel. We will see you next month with more updates and event information.

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER TO FLORIDA HERITAGE TRAVELAND WOULD LIKE TO BECOME ONE, GO TO OUR HOME PAGE AND SUBSCRIBE!




FLORIDA BACKROADS TRAVEL UPDATES


Thanks for continuing to subscribe to Florida Heritage monthly e-zine. Our website, Florida-Backroads-Travel.com continues to grow, and we hope you enjoy these updates.


You can also subscribe to our Florida Blog by going to our home page and selecting an RSS feed. This way you will have daily updates. I recently added a new page to the website: Florida Tales. This feature allows website visitors to share their favorite Florida stories with us. We also revised our Florida Getaways page to provide links to getaways in all 8 geographical regions of Florida.


September is still to hot in Florida, but every now and then we get a cool day with the temperatures in the low 80s. Most of the snowbirds are still up north so the lines are shorter at our local restaurants. Air conditioners are cranking most of the time, but now and then take of few minutes off rather than continually running like they do in July and August.


HERE ARE SOME INTERESTING FLORIDA EVENTS FOR SEPTEMBER:


ALL REGIONS


FLORIDA WINERIES. Check the Florida winery nearest you. Many of them have wonderful weekend events that include music and wine tastings. Our site has information on 27 wineries scattered across the state. We plan to add even more when we have time to visit them.


FLORIDA TOURIST ATTRACTIONS. We have an extensive list of Florida Tourist Attractions. Some of them are well known; other are a wonderful step back into Old Florida.


FLORIDA FESTIVALS. There are several outside events this time of year. Among these are outdoor art festivals and folk and bluegrass music festivals.


FLORIDA BEACHES. Almost anything you decide to do in Florida can be enhanced by spending some quality time at a great beach, and best beaches in Florida will guide you in the right direction.


FLORIDA MUSEUMS. Many Florida art and historical museums have scheduled events. Click on the links to find out what is going on.


FLORIDA THEATER. This is an active time for plays and musical events in our many Florida theaters.. Check the links to find out what might be interesting to you.


FLORIDA AUTHORS. Any time is a good time to read a book by a Florida author. Our most visited author pages are those of Randy Wayne White, the creator of adventurous marine biologist Doc Ford, Tim Dorsey and his unlikely protagonist, serial killer Serge Storms, and Robert N. Macomber, and his historical novels featuring Captain Peter Wake of the U.S. Navy.


Here is a useful link that will tell you what is going on this month virtually everywhere in Florida.


FLORIDA FESTIVALS AND OTHER EVENTS FOR SEPTEMBER 2017


Information on the towns and places hosting these events, or near them, including lodging, can be found at Florida Towns.


A few events are cancelled on very short notice. I do my best to ensure that our information is correct and current, but I recommend you call before leaving for the event to make sure it's still on.


Thanks for subscribing to Florida Heritage Travel. We will see you next month with more updates and event information.

IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER TO FLORIDA HERITAGE TRAVELAND WOULD LIKE TO BECOME ONE, GO TO OUR HOME PAGE AND SUBSCRIBE!

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