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Date of Issue: January 19, 2006

Old Cortez school nearly new again

You name it and it's just about done at the old Cortez school, now being rehabilitated as a museum/exhibit hall/community center.

The new roof is almost done, the electrical system replaced, plumbing ready, drywall up, floors ready for sanding, exposed wood being primed, the whole building reinforced and strapped down.

Even better news: It all may very well be finished six weeks from now. Whether a certificate of occupancy will be in hand by then is another question.

TriTech Construction & Design of Bradenton has the contract for $527,484 for the reconstruction job.

The Cortez historic sites manager, Roger Allen, who is in charge of the school project among others, said one of the biggest and most important jobs was assuring a strong foundation. The old one was replaced in places and the whole underpinning was brought up beyond standard.

Another was the strapping-down of the whole building, from roof to foundation. Everything was tied together and down, he said, to meet the most stringent building codes.

The windows are next, and they should be ready for installation this week. They are custom made one by one to replace the odd-sized old ones. All of the window frames have already been replaced.

Outside the school, the site plan has been submitted for the preserve to be developed on the 4½ acres of school grounds, including a parking lot south of the building.

The Burton Store can then be moved onto the property from where it has rested for decades across from the Coast Guard's Station Cortez. It is envisioned as the gateway to the FISH Preserve next door, the 95-acre property bought over the past few years by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.

Also coming is the Pillsbury Boat Works building. It was donated by the Pillsbury family and Jim Alderman, owner of Snead Island Boat Works - he restored the historic building and will move it to Cortez when the time comes. 

There is even a picnic pavilion in the works for the south side of the school grounds, to be financed by a grant from the Parker Foundation.

The school was built in 1912 but in its later years was used by late artist Robert Sailors as a home and studio. Manatee County bought it for public use.