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Date of Issue: March 30, 2006

Cortez maritime museum is statewide now

The maritime museum organized over the past few months in the village of Cortez has suddenly become a statewide entity - the Florida State Maritime Museum.

Formerly called the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum, the upgrading name change was engineered by Richard "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of the circuit court and pretty much the father of the museum.

Shore told the meeting last week of the sponsoring Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage that the name is only logical, since this is the only maritime museum in the state. Besides, it will give him added leverage with state officials from whom he is seeking funding help for the museum - a statewide outfit will draw broader support than its regional predecessor.

He seeks funding to buy a home for the museum, which now is in the overcrowded Cortez Community Center and has been envisioned as the chief tenant of the Seafood Shack restaurant. The county had expressed some interest in buying the big property for the museum, but that interest died when proposed boat ramps there aroused strong opposition.

Shore is keeping the prospect alive through discussions with owner Ham Jones, who has expressed a preference for selling it for the museum, although the property is not being actively marketed. It remains open and lively, serving customers daily.

 Among possible contributors to such a public purchase are various foundations, private interests, independent government agencies, and a number of state agencies, and Shore is hitting them all.

"We are going to make this happen," he told FISH.

As clerk of court, Shore and his large department are responsible for all things historic in Manatee County, and Cortez is an officially designated historic village.