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Date of Issue: September 21, 2006

Cortez store move progresses backward

cortez store

It's back to Square Three in the zigzag plans to move the historic Burton Store in Cortez. 

For years it has been up on blocks at the western part of the historic fishing village, just waiting for the mover to take it to the grounds of the restored 1912-built school building at the other end of the village.

The mover is ready, the village is ready, the money is not.

The plans were practically solid for a midnight move Oct. 18 when the bomb fell: Verizon and Cingular found the move would entail more complications than they had figured, more lines in the way that would have to be cleared temporarily to make way for the building's progress. That would cost about $16,000, more than triple the original estimates on which the move's costs were calculated and funding provided.

So Roger Allen, manager of Cortez historic sites, and the mover, Brett Johnson, worked out a new route avoiding the interior streets of Cortez and using Cortez Road instead. That would eliminate the need for complicated Verizon/Cingular line clearing.

Then last week Florida Power & Light delivered companion bad news: It would cost around $16,000 to clear temporarily the FPL lines that are in the way of the move. The company told Allen that the main power transmission lines to the area, including Anna Maria Island, are in the way.

So it's back to Plan A, and that will no doubt delay things beyond the Oct. 18 date. The money has to be in the companies' hands before the work can be ordered, Allen said. Now he has to scrounge up the money from somewhere, or, in the best scenario, convince the companies to donate it as part of their contribution to historic preservation in the area.

Burton Store is one of the earliest buildings in Cortez, built by William Bratton in 1896 and leased to Jesse Burton. He put in a small general store and post office, and it became the center of life in the community. In 1900, he added a couple of rooms to rent, then expanded to hotel size to become the Albion Inn on the waterfront in the west end of Cortez. The 1921 hurricane destroyed virtually all of Cortez except the inn and its attached store and the brick schoolhouse at the other end of the village.

That school is almost completely restored now, and a museum is being developed there. Burton Store will be part of the museum. Its old partner, Albion Inn, was razed some years ago to make way for Coast Guard Station Cortez. The foundation at the new site has been completed, and the restoration of the store will follow.