With no gas stations on Gasparilla Island, a barrier island in southwest Florida, residents in the Downtown Grande Historic District walk or use electronic golf carts for local travel and shopping errands, with only two streets designated for cars. No bridge linked Gasparilla Island to the mainland until 1958. The Downtown Boca Grande Historic District represents the historic commercial core of the town of Boca Grande, and contains distinctive examples of various architectural styles from roughly 1900-1953, including Wood Frame and Masonry Vernacular, Mediterranean Revival, Moderne, and Gothic Revival.
In 1881 phosphate, used in the production of commercial fertilizer, was discovered in the Perce River Valley northeast of Boca Grande (Spanish for “Big Mouth”). This discovery would bring the railroad to Gasparilla Island and would result in the construction and the town of Boca Grande. The American Agricultural Chemical Company, owned by Peter Bradley (1850-1933) was largely responsible for the transformation of the sleepy island, which prior to their arrival held only a lighthouse and the assistant keeper’s house. Wealthy Americans were attracted to the warm weather and fishing opportunities available, and the early list of property owners included J. Pierpont Morgan, Thomas Lamont, and the du Pont family. The Hotel Boca Grande, renamed the Gasparilla Inn, opened in the 1911-1912 season, became a great success with a large group of Boston society people, who became its first guests. By 1915, accommodation requests had been so great that the hotel was extended.
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