■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
While the ground that was once home to the Fishery Restaurant, Albritton’s Gallery and several other shops is now bare, the new owners of the property found homes for two of the old homes that were once there. They are also planning to refurbish a third cottage on the property, which has a lot of historical memories for many in this area.
Jay Feinberg has been managing the construction project for his wife, Cookie Potter, and admits it has been quite a trying time to get things settled. They finally got squatters out of the abandoned buildings and boats on the property. They pulled out loads of garbage that included large pieces of metal, truck toppers and trailer axles from the land and the water. They had an archaeological study completed as well.
It may still be well more than a year before they can begin building, but progress is being made.
Feinberg said they were able to save two wooden-framed homes on the property – one that was once up by the road and another that had been used by a local Realtor. He also had good news about Eunice Albritton’s old cottage.
“John Keen, a local Realtor, moved the two houses from the property,” Feinberg said. “Both of them were originally built in the very early 1900s. We were able to move them because they were wood-framed … the masonry buildings are not moveable. We will also save Eunice’s home, and we’re going to refurbish it as one of our bungalows.
“We saved what we could.”
Feinberg said the other buildings on the property were simply too far gone to even contemplate restoring or moving. Everything from septic issues to rotten floors and mold plagued them.
Another sticking point was the Cultural Resource Assessment Survey that had to be done and given to Charlotte County. These assessments provide information as to whether the property has any significant indigenous historical merit.
Feinberg hired an archaeologist and a historian to spend time on the property, and by the end of their research 51 holes had been dug.
What they found, he said, was basically nothing. The original native people who once may have lived there left little behind, and it certainly was not a burial area.
“We had pictures of the property that were given to us from Eunice Albritton’s estate, and they show that the land was filled in the 1940s,” he said. “The county still wanted us to check it, they wouldn’t let us do anything until we proved there was nothing of historical significance there. The study took two months to complete and write, it was 201 pages long.
“The only thing we found on our property was when they interviewed Eunice, and she told them her father had dug the land around their house out with a back hoe a very long time ago and they had found what appeared to be Indian middens.”
Midden mounds can be found all over the Cape Haze Peninsula. They were once called “refuse” mounds, but are now called “kitchen” mounds. This means Native Americans spent time there cooking and preparing food. Charred remains of fires are found in these mounds, as well as discarded food and utensils.
One recommendation that was made to Feinberg was that he might want to contest the fact that the entire area is considered historical.
“I’m not sure why it is designated as historical,” Feinberg said, “there is nothing historic here. But to revoke the designation seems unnecessary, as we have already been given permission to eventually begin construction.”
Feinberg hopes they will be able to get their final plans drawn up and the permitting process started in a year or just a bit more.