Story Tools

Date of Issue: April 07, 2005

Groundbreaking at Cortez school draws village, applause
Islander Image
Historic schoolhouse groundbreaking signals new beginning
State and local dignitaries, as well as Cortez village residents, attended the groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the renovation of the historic 1912 school. Pictured, from left, are FISH President Allen Garner, architect Linda Stevenson, Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, project manager Brian Hennessy, Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes, Cortez Mary Fulford Green and Fla. Rep. Bill Galvano. Islander Photo: Paul Roat
Click image to enlarge
Islander Image
The whole gang
It appears that almost the entire village of Cortez showed up to commemorate the $527,000-plus renovation of the Cortez school. Islander Photo: Paul Roat
Click image to enlarge

"Perserverance, as Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann put it Monday, paid off big-time as officials and Cortezians gathered for the groundbreaking ceremonies to refurbish the 1912-built schoolhouse in the village.

The $527,000-project, scheduled to be completed no later than July 2006, will bring new luster to the old building and transform it into the Gulf Coast Maritime Museum. It took decades of work and a slew of grants to bring the project into public ownership and, eventually, its historic prominence in Cortez.

"It’s the citizens of this community that made this happen, von Hahmann said. "This village has so much to be proud of, and I’m so happy to finally see the start of this project.

She was joined by Fla. Rep. Bill Galvano in offering kudos to the spirit of Cortez. "A community like this is a beacon of times past, and times to come, he told a crowd of about 50 who watched the ceremonies. "It’s an honor to see this school be refurbished.

Funds for the restoration came from a host of sources: Florida Division of Historical Resources, Manatee County, Manatee County Clerk of Court, Cortez Village Historical Society and the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage.

Speaking on behalf of Clerk of Court "Chips Shore, who was absent due to illness, Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes said that her district "is in the eastern part of the county, where everything is new and we don’t have any historic preservation. You are on a mission, and congratulations on making it happen.

It has been a rocky road for the restoration of the property and the schoolhouse, which had generations of young Cortezians pass across its wooden floors during its time as a public building from 1912 to 1961. The property was bought by artist Robert Sailors in 1974, who used it as his home and studio until his death in 1995 at age 85.

Manatee County bought the structure and its 4 acres in 1999 with the intent of refurbishing the building. Also planned on the property is placement of the former Burton Store and Pillsbury Boatworks, both historic buildings slated to be moved there and also restored.

Work scheduled by contractor Tri-Tech Construction & Design involves everything from the roof to the floors, including plumbing, electrical wiring, windows, porch and other details.