Native American sculpture by Peter Wolf Toth

Good Day to all! Did you know that the Native American sculpture by Peter Wolf Toth next to the Freeman House was carved from a tree planted by Marian McAdow over 100 years ago?

Perry McAdow visited during the 1896 winter season, staying at the Hotel Punta Gorda. The story goes that upon taking in the view from the veranda that first morning, overlooking manicured grounds and the bay dotted with the white sails of fishing skiffs, like so many others, he decided this is where he would live out his days, arriving for good in late 1897 with his new bride Marian. Perry, a successful farmer and mine owner, the Spotted Horse Gold Mine in central Montana, was confined to a wheelchair, many speculated due to a mining accident.

After deciding to make Punta Gorda his home, Perry met with the city council offering to fill and expand a bay front park at the end of Harvey Street for permission to build a large three-story home and plant a botanical garden there. Upon his death the expanded park and all improvements would revert to the city, but that’s another story!

With permission granted, Mr. McAdow invested in the frontier town, founding the Punta Gorda Bank and obtaining franchises to provide kerosene street lights and a telephone system. Upon his return with Marian, she went about pursuing her botanical interests. Apparently, she had contacts with the U. S. Department of Agriculture who sent her seeds from around the world in exchange for reports on their propagation. She also travelled widely searching out tropical plants and trees for her “little town”, which she shared with everyone so inclined.

One of the many exotic trees and shrubs she planted was a “monkey-pod”, or “ear” tree, named for its ear shaped seed pods. The tree died in the early 1970’s and was then located in what was the Holiday Inn parking lot, now the Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel and Suites, site of the McAdows’ bayfront home.

Toth, commissioned by Fred Babcock, owner of the Holiday Inn, completed the sculpture in the spring of 1974 and it was moved to its current location at the corner of Cross Street (U. S. 41 south) and West Retta Esplanade around early 2004. Marian McAdow and a neighbor also planted the now large banyan tree located on West Retta Esplanade next to Gilchrist Park, in 1903.

Visit Charlotte County’s website to view photographs of the McAdows and their home. Select “Community Services”, then “Libraries and History”. Click on “Physical Items”, then “Archive Search”. Enter the subject of your search on the “Search” line. McAdow related photograph’s can also be viewed at the Punta Gorda History Center’s website. Select “Online Collection”, then “Keyword Search” and enter the search criteria.

Check out History Services’ “Telling Your Stories: History in the Parks” project. It began in January 2021 with placement of the first interpretive sign “Charlotte Harbor Spa” at South County Regional Park. The last was dedicated December 15, 2021 at Centennial Park featuring Florida postcards. All dedicated signs can be viewed at online library resources. Select “Programs and Services”, then “History Services” and “Virtual Programs”. Visit the same site and select “History Exhibits”, or phone 941-629-7278, to find out what history related programs and videos are available.

“Did You Know” appears, typically, every other Wednesday, courtesy of this newspaper and the Charlotte County Historical Society. The Society’s mission is to help promote and preserve Charlotte County’s rich history. We are also always looking for volunteers and interested individuals to serve as board members. If you believe our area’s history is as important as we do, please visit Charlotte County Historical Center Society on-line, or call (941) 613-3228 for more information.