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A Short History Byte about Boca Grande

The Gasparilla Island Lighthouse was constructed at its current location in 1890 and proved to be a valuable aid for the ships entering the Charlotte Harbor.

Phosphate was loaded onto the ships at the south end of the island. Laborers would transfer the phosphate by hand from barges alongside the ships. The risk of the spread of contagious diseases such as Yellow Fever between crew members and laborers led to the building of a quarantine station close by the lighthouse. A state appointed doctor determined the presence of dangerous diseases and quarantined anyone infected. The Quarantine House still stands today at the south end of Boca Grande.

Between 1890 and 1895 a pilot station was built to house the harbor pilots. The pilots would travel about 5 miles into the Gulf, meet the ships, and bring them safely to anchorage. Only the lighthouse keeper and some commercial fishermen that lived at the north end of the island were living on Gasparilla Island at this time. When duty permitted, they would sail in small vessels up through Charlotte Harbor to visit their families in the town of Punta Gorda.

Port Boca Grande (Photo courtesy of the Boca Grande Historical Society)

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