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Date of Issue: January 04, 2007

Cortez in final round for award

The achievements of the historic fishing village of Cortez may be recognized by first lady Laura Bush if the village makes the final step for the Presidential Preserve America Award.

Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann has been notified that the village she loves and lives in has made the final cut in the national competition, name change and all.

The ultimate decision awaits judgment by a jury drawn from around the country and will be announced in May. Until then, she and Manatee County have high hopes and their fingers crossed.

Judging will be based on projects already completed to preserve Cortez as a Gulf Coast fishing village, one of only two surviving in Florida. 

Invited by the county to enter the village, which has been her home for years, in competition with other entries from around the United States, she nominated the Florida Institute for Saltwater Preservation, the main motivator in most civic things in Cortez.

But the governing organization advised her its rules couldn't admit such an entity. So the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, impressed with Cortez and its works, voluntarily changed her entry to "Cortez Cultural Preservation Project," and as such it passed into the finals.

The achievements included:

  • The Cortez Village Historical Society getting the village officially designated as historic, which protected it from developers and made it eligible for many public and private aid programs.
  • The Waterfronts Florida program, which organized a number of events and projects.
  • Purchase of the 95-acre FISH Preserve to keep that bit of old Florida unspoiled.
  • Purchase of the 1912-built school at the eastern end of the village, abutting the Preserve.
  • Restoration of the building and its grounds, nearly completed now.
  • Creation of the Florida Maritime Museum, which will occupy the old school building.
  • Rebuilding the old Miller's dock.
  • Moving the old Burton Store to the schoolhouse site and beginning the refurbishing project.
  • The pending reconstruction of the historic Pillsbury Boat House on the grounds.
  • Establishing the Fishermen's Memorial on the waterfront.
  • Restoration of the old fishermen's offshore net shed.
  • And all the money raised through festivals, donations, grants, Manatee County, and other sources, as well as all the volunteer hours the villagers have put into their heritage and its preservation.
The Preserve America Award carries no direct financial reward, but it is a high honor in preservation circles and would be of great help in obtaining future grants from other organizations, von Hahmann noted.