Spritsail Skiff

Spritsail Skiff

Most days on the Cortez waterfront you can hear the diesel engine of the fishing boats coming in with a fresh catch just before they make the turn into one of the fish houses.  That hasn’t always been the case.  A little over a hundred years ago sail and oar powered the fishing boats in […]

The First Commercial Building in Cortez

First Commercial Building image_BurtonStore_AlbionInn

When the residents of Cortez wanted to check their mail, they went to the small post office at the Burton Store. When they wanted buy butter or bread, they went to the Burton Store. When they wanted to greet people or get supplies brought from Tampa (and beyond) on “run boats”, they went to the […]

Blockade Runners in Florida

Ella and Annie - Blockade Runner

Of the eleven states that would create the Confederate States of America, Florida was the third state to secede from the Union, and the least populated. Instead of man-power, Florida’s contribution to the war effort centered on supplying the Confederate army with salt, cattle, citrus, and corn whiskey. However with the Union forces attempting to […]

Captain Blake Banks

Captain Blake Banks by Halee Turner PHOTO 140708.docx

Blake Banks was born in Palmetto, FL but lived and worked in Cortez as an independent commercial fisherman. With the help of his wife, Betty Banks, he owned and operated his own company, Deep Reef Fisheries Inc. He was the captain of their boat, the “Medusa”, which he stored on his property and maintained himself. […]

Bottarga in Cortez


When you start looking into local history, you always expect to find interesting connections. Sometimes those connections span greater time and distance than anyone could expect. In this case, the bridge through history is created by a special form of roe (or fish eggs). In modern Italy, it’s referred to as bottarga and has, throughout […]

The Cortez Grand Ole Opry

Cortez Grand Ole Opry cropped (2)

On Sundays, the small fishing village of Cortez was divided almost down the middle. Half would attend service at one of the two community churches, the other half would gather at the “Cortez Grand Ole Opry”. The Culbreath family home earned this moniker over time, as a result of the musical traditions that have been […]

The Destruction of the 1921 Hurricane

The Destruction of the 1921 Hurricane Photo 2

In Cortez, the 1921 Hurricane remains a reminder of the devastation a storm can cause to a community. The storm developed into a hurricane on October 21, 1921 in the Caribbean Sea. Over the following days, the Storm slipped between the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba before swinging east towards Florida. When it slammed into Florida’s […]

Cortez School House Memories

Cortez School House Memories Image

Florida Maritime Museum volunteer John McDonald grew up in Cortez, just across the street from the charming 1912 brick schoolhouse that now houses the Museum. Even before he was old enough to attend classes, John spent some time at the school. Living just across the street made it easy to run over during recess and […]

Calusa Dugout Canoe

Calusa Dugout Canoe  Image William Henry Holmes ScowlingMouth Mask from Key Marco site

The Calusa are a bit of an anomaly. This native tribe that lived in South West Florida at the time of European contact, and for several hundred years before did not practice extensive agriculture like most other Florida tribes.  Also unlike most tribes, they built houses on raised mounds and pilings near water.  They were […]