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Longboat Key Thursday, Sep. 2, 2021 10 months ago

Historical Society targets October opening for museum

Longboat Key Historical Society's cottage will serve as a museum at the Town Center site.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

One of the town's most-traveled buildings is in the final stages of preparation as the Longboat Key Historical Society’s museum at the Town Center Green.

An original Whitney Resort cottage, which for years sat at the site of the now-defunct Longboat Key Center for the Arts before moving to land on Broadway Street, made its move to the Town Center Green in January. President Michael Drake said the plan now is to open the cottage as a museum -- his plan all along -- by Oct. 1.

 “I’m now starting to get excited because I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I know it’s not a locomotive coming at me,” Drake said.

It’s a process Drake started four summers ago.

“It took three and a half years longer than I thought it was going to take, and knowing what I know today, I would still have done exactly what I did back in August of 2017,” Drake said.

Bradenton-based Diaz Landscaping has leveled the ground around the cottage on the northeast corner of the town's open space, which will soon include walkways, lighting and provisions for a stage.

Diaz crews removed a paved slab next to the cottage and created planting beds all around.

Longboat Key Historical Society President Michael Drake attended Town Commission meetings in November. At the time, commissioners decided where specifically to put the Historical Society's cottage at the Town Center site.

“They just did an unbelievable job for us,” Drake said of Diaz’s efforts. “It was one full day’s work, and when I went there at the end of the day, I mean, they exceeded every expectation that I had in what they did for us.”

Drake said he needs to coordinate with the town’s Public Works Department to get electricity hooked up. There are also plans to build an 8-foot-by-10-foot porch on the front of the cottage. It will have stairs and an ADA-compliant ramp, too.

Drake thanked Town Commissioners for paving the way for the project, and former Mayor George Spoll in particular for helping establish the cottage on the town property. 

“George Spoll was very instrumental in setting, basically, the tone for the commission that where it is sitting is where it should be sitting, because it looks like the cottage has been there for decades,” he said.

Drake said he and the Historical Society’s Board of Directors envision a maritime museum showcasing Longboat Key’s archives, artifacts and history.

“The goal for me, as well as the board, was to have a place where residents, visitors, vacationers could pop their head into a museum and really see from the time the Indians occupied Longboat Key right up to within the last few years,” Drake said.

The Historical Society is hoping people can donate additional artifacts.

Since Longboat Observer founders Ralph and Claire Hunter started the Historical Society in 1980, it is the first time the organization will have a presence on the Sarasota County side of Longboat Key.


Chiles Group's historic cottage

Last year, the Chiles Group bought the second of two historic Whitney Beach cottages that used to sit at 521 Broadway St.

The Chiles Group’s cottage moved in January, and has sat on cribs at 6920 Gulf of Mexico Drive via a temporary-use permit. However, Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons said the project has moved into the building permitting phase.

Parsons said the town has issued a building permit for the foundation, and  permit for site work is under review. The permit under review is for utilities, reroofing and the installation of ADA-compliant ramps.


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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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