There are several churches on the island. The Methodist church was built in 1910. First Baptist Church originally held services in the school, but in 1915 a church was built. Saint Andrews Episcopal still holds services in a cottage that was converted in 1916. Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church is well known for its architecture. Built in 1949-50, it is in the style of an old Spanish Mission (Hoeckel 87-88).
Amory Chapel was built in 1959 for the African American citizens of Boca Grande. It was paid for by Mr. Roger Amory. It housed both the Baptist and Methodist congregations (Hoeckel 49). It was built to replace the African American church downtown. Mr. Amory had made arrangements to have the original church moved to the new African American community on the south end of the island, but the building was destroyed by fire prior to the move. All that remained were the original windows which were used in the new chapel.
The Gasparilla Inn was built by railroad executives and was first open for the 1911-12 season. Originally it was only for the railroad executives and their guests, but they quickly decided to turn the little inn into a resort. By 1916, the Inn had been expanded twice; doubling its size both times (Inn is Built).
In 1929 the Boca Grande Hotel was built south of 1st St. The three story, poured cement hotel was used as a hurricane shelter until it demolition in 1972 (Hoeckel 75). After three attempts at implosion, the hotel was set on fire and demolished with a wrecking ball. The demolition took about six months.
The island’s first school was built in 1911 near 1st St by Lee County. It taught the island children in four classrooms. A larger school was built on land owned by Louise DuPont Crowninshield in 1929. Before then, the students who went to high school had to travel by boat to go to class. It is now the Community Center (Hoeckel 76-77). In 2007 a new K-5 school, called the Island School, opened its doors to the children of the island.
Mrs. Crowninshield also built the Community House. It has been used for meetings, parties, dances, weddings, and receptions since the late 1930s. In 1998, it was renamed in honor of Mrs. Crowninshield (Hoeckel 77).
Roger Amory, who built the Amory Chapel, also built the Johann Fust Library. Mr. and Mrs. Amory ran the book boat, a traveling library that visited the isolated barrier islands in Charlotte Harbor including Bokeelia, Useppa, Cabbage Key, Mondongo, and Captiva (Patsy Cost 206). The book boat ran from to 1951 to 1968.
The San Marco Theater was built in 1928 by Louise DuPont Crowninshield. It showed first run movies until 1977. The building was severely damaged in the 1944 hurricane, but was purchased and repaired by Roger Amory (Hoeckel 84). The theater was donated to the Community Health Center to raise funds. The theater closed in 1977 and was abandoned, but was restored in the 1980s and now houses a restaurant and several shops (Hoeckel 84).
Whidden’s Marina opened in 1926. In addition to boat slips, Whidden’s provided the island with a dance hall. The Marina is open today and houses the Gasparilla Maritime Museum (Whidden’s).
The Boca Grande Marina opened in 1952. It was formerly known as Miller’s. As Miller’s, it hosted several tarpon tournaments through the fishing season (Hoeckel 86).
“The Gasparilla Inn is Built.” Birth of an Island Town. Port Boca Grande Light and Museum. 1998.
Hoeckel, Marilyn and Theodore B. VanItallie. Images of America: Boca Grande. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000.
“Patsy Cost Remembers.” Boca Grande: Lives of an Island. Boca Grande, FL: The Boca Grande Historical Society and Museum, 2006.
Smart, Wini. Whidden’s and Old Boca Grande. Queenstown, MD: Queen Anne’s Press, 2004.