Historical Society celebrates Railroad Week in Boca Grande

Historical Society celebrates Railroad Week in Boca Grande

■ BY SUE ERWIN

Members and volunteers of the Boca Grande Historical Society have been busy installing a new exhibit at the History Center.

The exhibit: “Railroads, Phosphate and Real Estate,” will be available to view beginning Friday, Nov. 16.

Multiple events will mark the opening.

At 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, come to the historic railroad depot for an opening event with guest speaker John Gibson, Boca Grande resident and retired CSX transportationexecutive.

Guests should gather at the east side of the railroad tracks at the train depot. Look for a platform and small stage where John Gibson will lead the discussion.

The presentation will be followed by a reception for Historical Society members, who will be able to preview the exhibit at the History Center. Golf cart transportation will be provided to the History Center from the railroad depot.

“The preview is our way of thanking our members as we celebrate the new exhibit,” said BGHS Board Member Jim Blaha.

At 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15 all are invited to the Boca Grande Community Center auditorium to hear phosphate industry historian Richard Fifer talk about the railroad/phosphate connection with “A Tale of Two Phosphate Towns – Pierce and Boca Grande.” Fifer has lectured in Boca Grande before and is regarded as an excellent speaker.

“Mr. Fifer will speak about the American Agricultural and Chemical Company – the company that mined the phosphate during the latter part of the 19th century,” said Karen Grace, president of the Boca Grande Historical Society. “That company bought property near the Peace River to start a mining operation.”

By 1905, the phosphate industry was big enough to invest in a railroad in Boca Grande.

“The presentation will tell the story of phosphate and the impact it made on the development of Boca Grande,” Grace said. “What developed after that was the progression of commercial and residential real estate. When you think about it, the railroad impacted the entire island. Instead of shipping the salted fish by boat, they could send it by rail. The island could also receive items more quickly.”

The interactive exhibit will officially be open to the public starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 16. It will remain open throughout the year during regular History Center hours (Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

The Boca Grande Historical Society History Center is located at 170 Park Avenue, adjacent to Boca Bargains and the Boca Grande Art Center. All events are free to attend.

Boca Grande Historical Society is hosting the Railroad Week events.

For more information, visit bocagrandehistoricalsociety.com.