The following is an article from WINK News
Jack Lowenstein | June 2021
A historic building damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 is getting new life.
The old train depot in Punta Gorda is almost 100 years old, and money has been granted to repair the damage.
The train depot might look like an old building, but its roof, walls and windows are part of nearly a century of Punta Gorda’s history.
“This building actually symbolizes Punta Gorda’s train past, and literally, Punta Gorda exists because of our trains,” said Councilman Jaha Cummings.
For Cummings, a fifth-generation citizen of Punta Gorda, the train depot is a significant part of his family’s past.
“One of my ancestors, Dan Smith, was head of the survey team that actually brought the railroad here,” Cummings explained.
“My grandmother is Bernice Russell, actually was one of the women who negotiated to actually get this building donated, so that it actually would be a historical structure to be protected.”
Hurricane Irma damaged the building, and Punta Gorda Historical Society asked for and received nearly $350,000 in grant money to make needed improvements.
“A completely new roof, window restoration, facia soffits,” said Bob Morgan, the project superintendent of Chris-Tel Construction. “Basically, the entire outside envelope of the building to protect it.”
Morgan said his crew follows strict guidelines, so the improvements are historically accurate.
The historical society tracked down the building’s original hardware to maintain its character.
“They’re a treasure, a landmark,” Morgan said. “So it’s near and dear to our hearts to preserve these buildings.”
Crews are expected to finish the first phase of the construction by the end of the summer. An architect is working on plans for phase two.
“This actually reminds us of our connection to our old Florida past,” Cummings said.