Boom Town: 1912-1930
Historical Overview of Boca Grande
In 1912 the exclusive winter resort, the Gasparilla Inn opened and a new and larger train station was in operation with rooms on the second floor for the officers of the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railroad, the AACCo’s railway. Land sales began; passengers started arriving on the train, and at the same time phosphate which was hauled from central Florida by trains on the new railroad was loaded onto ships at the phosphate terminal at Port Boca Grande.
A golf course for guests of the Inn and winter residents opened south of 1st Street on land leased for more than a decade from the military reserve. Churches and a school were built, and an automobile ferry service was established, adding to the passengers already arriving by the daily train service from Tampa and beyond.
Job opportunities flourished, both at the port and in town. Housing for fishermen and a fish house were built on the northern part of the island that became the village of Gasparilla (near the old Peacon’s fish ranch). Locally caught fish could be transported north by train.
The Boca Grande Land Company constructed housing for African American workers close to the central village as well as near the area where white middle class workers were purchasing land and building homes. On the south end of the island, housing was built for railroad and phosphate terminal workers in an area called South Dock.
Wealthy winter residents, called “Beachfronters” by the islanders, constructed houses along the beach near the Gasparilla Inn.
A second hotel which boasted a golf course, riding stable, landing strip, tennis courts, and a wide stretch of beach on the Gulf of Mexico opened in 1929. It was named the Boca Grande Hotel and was located just south of 1st Street, fronting the Gulf.
A new, beautiful Mediterranean style school was built with rooms to accommodate twelve grades, replacing the older school that only taught students to the ninth grade. This project was accomplished with the help of a winter resident, Louise du Pont Crowninshield, whose many philanthropic pursuits would include the establishment of a new medical facility, the Boca Grande Health Clinic that opened in 1949.
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