Journey’s End: The history of an island home

journeys end

Submitted by the BOCA GRANDE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Journey’s End was a house and group of cottages accessed from 18th Street. One of the earliest homes built on the beach, it survives today but has been broken up into various properties with several owners. Fortunately, its history remains intact, thanks to Dr. James M. Ingram, whose family owned Journey’s End for more than 40 years.

Dr. Ingram first wrote the history of his Boca Grande home in 1962, the same year he purchased the house. He reprinted and added to it in 1963 and 1980. In the 1980 printing, he notes that when he bought the property, “not a soul lived on the three miles of beach to the north, and there were no neighbors closer than three blocks to the south and to the east.”

Journey’s End was built in 1914 for the Stackhouse family by B. S. Barnett. The 1910 census lists a Stackhouse family and a book, “The People of St. Andrew’s, 1908-1998.” The book includes an entry in the diary of Bishop William Crane Gray that he had dined with “my friends, the Stackhouse family” on May 7, 1912.

According to Dr. Ingram, Stackhouse had a penchant for privacy and chose a location on the beach but outside the existing town plat and unconnected by road with Boca Grande.

“Virgin heart-pine for the house was cut between Arcadia and Wauchula. This lumber, together with laborers, tools, bricks and several mules, was floated down the Peace River, across Charlotte Harbor, and then through the bayou, in one large flotilla of wooden barges. On arrival on the bayou side of the island, Mr. Barnett’s crew cut cabbage palm logs and laid a corduroy road from bayou to beach. All the material for the house was hauled by mules on this road across the island.”

Stackhouse lived in the house less than two years. When he left the Island under dubious circumstances, the title to the property reverted to the bank. The property became overgrown with dense underbrush, and a banana patch grew to fill the back yard.

The 1921 hurricane removed the windows and doors that had not already been taken by vandals. The floors were covered with a foot of sand. It became known as a haunted house, with its own ghost story of a headless woman who walked the beach at night.

In 1923, the property was acquired by Willam H. Johns of New York. Johns had been a visitor to Boca Grande since 1917. His fishing guide was George Knight, who told Johns that the haunted house “has a clouded title … I think I can buy it for about nothing.” Nothing turned out to be $500.

The Johns named the house Journey’s End. The Knights moved in and cared for the property until 1948. John Johns, William’s son, wrote of his father: “As his family enlarged, other cottages were built. When he needed more land, the Boca Grande Land Corporation just moved his stakes out farther. Land didn’t mean anything that far up the road in those days.”

The Circle Cottage and garage were added in 1927, and the Beachfront Cottage was built in 1937. They even built a nine-hole putting green in the front yard. George and Francis Knight raised six children at Journey’s End.

In 1944, the Johns sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Anthony B. Drexel of Philadelphia. The Drexels added the Redroof Cottage, built by George Knight in the same year. The Drexels owned the house until 1948, when it was sold to Judge and Mrs. John A. Bolles of Irvington-on-Hudson, New York.

The Bolles had a large family, all of whom loved fishing. Mrs. Bolles established a custom of giving a champagne party on New Year’s Day and, according to Dr. Ingram, “restored the happiness that Journey’s End had formerly known.”

Dr. Ingram befriended the Bolles in 1951, when he met them on the ferry boat that carried him to his winter practice in Boca Grande. The Ingram and Bolles families became friends, and in 1956 the Ingrams and several other Tampa families began yearly tarpon fishing trips, using Journey’s End as their headquarters. In May 1962, Dr. Ingram acquired the property.

The main house was immediately renovated, and original pencil plans for the house were found in its walls once the coverings were removed. They showed that the railroad had once run immediately behind the house before being moved to the location that is today the bike path.

The heart-pine lumber had “virtually no rot, and the house had remained impervious to termites, without chemical preservation, for 66 years.”

The house had been moved twice and had withstood three major hurricanes and four lesser storms. Hurricane Donna destroyed the seawall in 1960, but a new wall was built and the front yard extended.

In 1980, Dr. Ingram noted that “five generations of the Ingram family, beginning with my grandmother, have come to know and love Journey’s End.” In 1985, Journey’s End was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

To find out more about the history of Gasparilla Island and the town of Boca Grande, visit the Boca Grande Historical Society’s Museum and Gift Shop at 170 Park Avenue. Check out our website at bocagrandehistoricalsociety.com. Or like us on Facebook.

To find out more about the history of Gasparilla Island and the town of Boca Grande, visit the Boca Grande Historical Society’s Museum and Gift Shop at 170 Park Avenue. Check out our website at bocagrandehistoricalsociety.com. Or like us on Facebook.