In Cortez, no mail delivery is no problem

Mary Fulford Green, 88, a Cortez native, has been mailing and getting her mail all of her life

at the fishing village’s post office. There is no home delivery of mail there.


A few times a week 88-year-old Mary Green hops in her 2005 Honda and drives three blocks to the post office. She has to. There is no mail delivery to her home.

In fact, no one in the historic fishing village of Cortez — population of roughly 4,000 — receives home mail delivery or has a mail box.

“We like it that way,” Green said.

United States Post Office, Cortez, Florida, 34215, is usually a busy place most mornings. Residents walk or take their cars or ride their golf carts to pick up their mail.

The mail is kept locked up in one of 1,318 small post office boxes residents can access with a key. Until the mid 1990s, the mailboxes had combination locks on them.

It is not unusual for small towns in Florida not to receive home mail delivery, but it is not commonplace either.

Residents say they like it this way for several reasons: it is a way to meet socially, get exercise, check the neighborhood message board on the side the building and retain part of the village’s rich history.

They also don’t want home mailboxes for safety reasons.

“I’ve heard lots of stories and seen people lose checks in mailboxes,” resident Richard Culbreath said. “When you raise that red flag, that’s a telltale sign and people will come in.

“We’ve never had any mailboxes. Whenever there is any talk about bringing them in we always say we don’t want them.”

Culbreath is 80 and walks about a mile most days to the post office on Cortez Road.

“It’s about all I can do,” he said. “Back’s been kind of bothering me lately.”

The post office is in a small strip mall next to a barbershop, restaurant and laundry. Some residents, like former Postmaster Wyman Coarsey, walk up for coffee at the restaurant and then check their mail.

“Sometimes I see people here I wouldn’t see otherwise, so it’s kind of a social thing,” resident Atlas Kight said.

She moved to Cortez in 1961 and believes the current post office has been at its present site since 1960. She worked at the Cortez post office for many years, retiring in 1989.

Keeping history alive

Green — who, at 88, is the oldest woman living in Cortez who was born there — is well-known for her historical knowledge of the village.

The original post office was built in 1895 and was part of what was called “Bratton Store.” That building has been preserved in the village.

Green said a man named Henry Foreman used to carry mail back and forth between Cortez and Bradenton on a one-seat horse buggy.

Green said the post office moved to a fishing dock, but was destroyed by a fierce hurricane in 1921.

It then was moved to a grocery store owned by her uncle, Thomas Fulford, until it was given to an 18-year-old woman named Elizabeth Guthrie, who became the postmaster.

“I think it was remarkable,” Green said. “She was probably the youngest postmaster in Florida, and she was a woman.”

Her parents, Bessie and Joe, ran the post office. They also owned the Albion Inn, which is where the post office was.

It also moved to a house across the street from the hotel for a time before it landed at its current location.

“The post office was very important to us especially during the war,” Green said. “My aunt and uncle had five sons and all of them were in the service.

“We would get a letter from one of them and say, ‘OK, he’s fine. Now which one do we worry about next?’ ”

She remembers attending Florida State College for Women in the 1940s and sometimes receiving several letters a day from back home. Her friends thought she had a lot of boys trying to date her.

“Everyone thought I was some hot chick,” she said.

The letters were really from a boy in Cortez who had a crush on her but she never dated. He kept writing her anyway.

On Friday she was planning on driving her Honda to the post office to drop off a birthday card for her 10-year-old great-grandson.

The Cortez post office has long been part of her history as well as the fishing village’s history.

“And we like to keep our history alive,” she said.

Published in: on May 13, 2014 at 7:44 am  Leave a Comment  

DOT hosts Cortez Bridge meeting to address project questions

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Bridges are hot-button topics for bridge-dependent folks on Anna Maria Island.

The Florida Department of Transportation plans a public information meeting on the upcoming $4 million repair project of the Cortez Bridge 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.

A DOT press release said the meeting is to provide area residents with information on how long the project would last and any possible closings of the bridge to vehicular traffic. DOT officials and engineers will be at the meeting to answer questions from the public.

Robin Stublen of the DOT emphasized that this is a repair project to extend the life of the bridge for 10 years while the DOT and the public determine the long-range future of the bridge. The bridge was built in 1954 and has exceeded its life expectancy, but the future of Cortez Bridge “is a separate issue,” Stublen said.

The repair project is scheduled to start April 28 with work preformed 9 p.m.-6 a.m. weekdays. There will be times when traffic is only one lane and a flagging operation will be in place, he added. Additionally, the bascule will be raised on occasion, but never for more than 15 minutes, he said. “We’re not going to divert traffic to Manatee Avenue,” Stublen said.

Any bascule raisings are expected to take place 2-3 a.m., he said. “And we’ve been working with emergency services so they can call the bridge tender to ensure the bascule is lowered if needed.” Stublen said a DOT study of the project determined working at night with occasional 15-minute bascule raisings “is the least amount of inconvenience for those who use the bridge daily.”

The DOT chose the end of the winter-spring visitor season for to start work with the prospect that vehicular traffic will be reduced on the bridge after April. The repairs are not expected to impact boat traffic. The work is expected to last about two months.

The planning, development and engineering study of the future of Cortez Bridge is still being prepared. That study should be ready for public dissemination by the end of 2014, a DOT website said.

For more information on the April 22 meeting, contact Brian Bollas at 727-946-1869 or Stublen at 800-292-3368.

Published in: on April 15, 2014 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Cortez Village will conquer your heart

Robin Draper, Authentic Florida; 11:17 p.m. EDT April 5, 2014

Florida has so many treasures offering the old and new, authentic and charming, well-known and yet-to-be discovered.

Finding them is one of the joys of living in the Sunshine State. Whether it’s a refreshing, bubbly spring, a quiet pine flatwood forest, a secret cache of sand dollars on a hidden beach or a tucked-away restaurant featuring the freshest seafood, you know when you have found the real thing.

For those who enjoy Florida discoveries, one of the most beloved secrets is an hour south of Tampa. Bradenton’s Cortez Village offers genuine and historic charm as one of the last remaining fishing villages in Florida.

Hugging the mainland shore of Sarasota Bay, just a bridge away from the sparkling Gulf of Mexico, is a small, timeless community that truly embraces its maritime heritage. No high-rises here, just cottages and homes and businesses lining narrow neighborhood streets. Locals proudly build and refurbish boats in their front yards, where towering rows of crab traps are stacked ready for the next fishing trip. Little has changed since last century. In fact, not much has changed since the village was first settled in the 1880s.

Cortez Village is firmly ensconced in the National Register of Historic Places, and the people here are dedicated to preserving its legacy.

A rarity for sure, Cortez continues to exist as an off-the-beaten-path outpost, anchored by a nearby 95-acre wildlife preserve, a historical museum dedicated to preserving its cultural heritage and some of Florida’s best, and freshest, “dock to table” seafood restaurants.

The Star Fish Company Dockside Restaurant and the Cortez Kitchen just down the street dish out fresh, local fare. The catch varies with the season, but the menu usually includes snapper, grouper, stone crab, shrimp and mullet. Although much of the seafood that lands at Cortez is shipped around the world, there is plenty left for both restaurants to be wildly popular, especially during the winter tourist season. You may even want to step into their seafood markets to get a better glimpse of the “catch of the day” before it hits your plate.

The Star Fish Restaurant offers waterside seating for admiring the view of Florida mangrove islands, fishing vessels and the iconic Cortez fish house off in the distance. It’s easy to relax while watching the view of the boats as egrets perch and pelicans swim by.

If you are a wildlife or photography buff, be sure to bring your camera for a prize photo of the large flock of white pelicans congregating during the winter and spring months on the sandbar in front of the Cortez Kitchen. The perfect photo spot is accessible by walking the docks. You can’t miss with such ideal scenery, wildlife and fishing vessels.

If you happen to visit in February, you’ll be able to attend the Cortez Seafood Festival, which draws thousands as it serves up local fare along with musical entertainment and a host of artists and artisans. Fishermen dish out the fresh-from-the-sea local catch for those who want to gorge on Florida’s finest.

At the end of the day, after a delicious meal and a stroll on the docks, you may want to find a comfortable spot to watch the setting sun as a pastel palette of clouds fills the sky and reflects on the bay. Or you can cross the bridge to Anna Maria Island, another community known for its charm and good food, where sparkling blue-green waters of the Gulf meet white, powdery crystalline sand. Either way, it’s a perfect ending to your day.

You just can’t miss with a visit to Cortez. Cortez is “real” Florida.

Cortez Village Star Fish Company Dockside Restaurant, 12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez, 941-794-1243,

Cortez Kitchen, 4528 119th St. W., Cortez, 941-798-9404,

Source: floridamaritime­

Published in: on April 6, 2014 at 7:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Memories of Cortez School House

By HALEE TURNER / Special to the Herald

April 1, 2014

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.

Young John McDonald
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 see his friends, but the principal was adamant that John shouldn’t be there during school hours until officially enrolled as a student. Time and time again, John was sent back home.

Eventually young John McDonald deemed the situation altogether unfair and decided to take matters into his own hands. Armed with a rake and a determined attitude, he stood his ground and refused to leave. He even chased the principal around a little.
John remembers starting school the next year “on pretty shaky ground,” but all was soon forgotten. He would attend school in Cortez through sixth grade, creating memories that have lasted a lifetime.

John, his classmates and their teachers all faced challenges unique to life at the small schoolhouse in the fishing village of Cortez. Because of limited space, each of the three classrooms held several grades, requiring teachers to tailor their lessons to a broad age range. Students, therefore, had to work together and learn from each other as peers.

In a community like Cortez, there was also the possibility of some unexpected interruptions. One morning, school was disrupted by a runaway pig belonging to John and his family. A classmate, “Big Bubba,” was the first to alert the class, and soon the boys had set out to capture the fugitive. The rest of the class watched from the windows, and order could not be restored until he was safely penned up.

Because of these challenges, classes in the Cortez Rural Graded Schoolhouse were at times a little informal, but they provided the children with the general education they needed. Though funny stories like these are perhaps the most memorable, John is careful to point out that his early education wasn’t always so chaotic.

When not in school, John could often be found out playing with friends. They played football and raced across the undeveloped land that surrounded Cortez. Like many in the village, John’s father fished, and when John wasn’t in school or at play, he could also be found climbing on net spreads or tagging along on his father’s boat. Out on the water, John learned about fishing and honest, hard work.

“There he jumped I hear him say.

There he jumped again; I think we will catch some mullet today.”

Published in: on April 1, 2014 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Henry “Jap” Adams

Henry “Jap” Adams, 92 of Bradenton entered into rest peacefully on March 23, 2014.

He served in the US Army with George Patton’s 3rd Army, through North Africa, Italy, Sicily, Germany, and France and was at the Battle of the Bulge. After his military career he came back to Cortez, Florida where he was born and raised and became a commercial fisherman.

He is survived by his wife, Pauline, two brothers, Clyde of Florida and Cleve of California, one sister, Mable of Sarasota, one son, Ernie of Bradenton, two granddaughters, Ronda (Chris) Bishop of Parrish and Shelby (David) Pittman of Ft. White, Fl, one grandson, Derrick (Jacquelyn) Adams of Myakka, seven great-grandchildren, Amanda McCain of Ellenton, Rayna & Christopher Bishop of Parrish, Sarah, Savannah, David and Clayton Pittman of Ft. White.

Visitation 9:30am and Services following at 10:00am on Friday, March 28, 2014 at West Bradenton Baptist Church, 1305 43rd Street W, Bradenton, FL 34209. Burial will follow at Fogartyville Cemetery.

Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory 43rd Street Chapel, 604 43rd Street W, Bradenton, FL 34209 in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, please make all memorial contributions to: Tidewell Hospice, 5955 Rand Boulevard, Sarasota, Fl 34238. Condolences to

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Lois Guthrie Fulford

Lois Guthrie Fulford died March 16, 2014. She was born on July 12, 1929 in Cortez, FL to Earl B. Guthrie and Hazel Williams Guthrie. She was a lifelong Manatee County resident and a 3rd generation Floridian.

Lois was a member of the Cortez Church of Christ and a Charter Member of the former Cortez Volunteer Fire Department Women’s Auxiliary. She was a faithful Christian, a devoted wife, a firm but loving mother, a passionate gardener and a fabulous cook.

Lois was predeceased by her husband of 64 years, Ralph M. Fulford and a grandson, Brian Bailey. Lois is survived by her sister, Addie Lou Coon (Eddie) of Sarasota; her son, Ralph ”Rusty” Fulford (Pat) of Scottsville, VA; her daughters, Hazel Petree (Steve) of Cortez, and Sylvia Bailey (Tony) of Bradenton; 6 grandchildren; 7 great grandchildren.

Visitation 2:00-4:00PM Sunday March 23, 2014 and Services 10:30AM Monday March 24, 2014 at Brown & Sons Funeral Homes & Crematory 43rd Street Chapel, 604 43rd Street West, Bradenton, FL 34209.

The family wants to especially acknowledge son-in-law, Tony Bailey, for his loving care, as well as Bradenton Health Care staff and Hospice. ”Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10. Condolences to

Published in: on March 18, 2014 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lois Guthrie Fulford

Lois Guthrie Fulford, age 84, a Cortez native, passed away yesterday in Bradenton. The funeral services will be announced as soon as they are available.

Published in: on March 17, 2014 at 7:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Gone Fishing for Old Florida

Published in: on February 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paul Roat, Islander editor-photographer dies

Paul M. Roat, 56, a longtime area newsman of Sarasota and formerly of Bradenton Beach, died Saturday, Feb. 15.

He was a lifelong resident of the area who served as a valued source of historical perspective during his tenure as frequent writer and editor for two newspapers on Anna Maria Island from the 1970s to the present day.

He earned a scholarship to the University of Florida from then-publisher of The Islander, Don Moore.

He was the son of a Bradenton Beach postmaster, his mother was familiar to islanders at the Bridge Street hardware store, and later worked at a law firm, and he grew up in Bradenton Beach in an idyllic fashion, while acquiring an early appreciation for news and photo journalism at Manatee High School.

Moore gave Mr. Roat his first job out of college.

And Mr. Roat soon figured in coverage of some of the area’s notable moments.

His work spanned coverage of news for the former Islander newspaper in the 1970s-80s, including photos taken from the top of the remaining span of the Skyway Bridge within moments of the disaster at the bridge in 1980 that sent 35 people to their deaths.

He also took pride in his photos in August 1993 from a small craft shortly after a three-ship collision that resulted in fire aboard one ship and the release of 30,000 gallons of crude oil from another ship into the Tampa shipping channel.

In 1984-87, Mr. Roat served as a legislative aide to state Rep. Jim Lombard. In 1989, he became the first staff member for the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, contributing to the fundraising effort that enabled the program to flourish.

He contributed to numerous SBEP publications and was co-editor of the 1992 SBEP “Framework for Action,” and co-writer and editor of the 1995 SBEP management plan, “Sarasota Bay, the Voyage to Paradise Reclaimed.”

Mr. Roat’s career included work for Clubhouse magazine, later Sarasota magazine, and the Siesta Key Pelican Press. He was a writer for at the time of his death.

He also authored two volumes of “The Insider’s Guide to Sarasota & Bradenton” guide book and various other guide publications over the years.

He was editor of The Islander newspaper for 17 years, starting at its launch date in November 1992, and wrote a column titled “Sandscript,” always seeking to improve environmental conditions for Anna Maria Island and beyond.

Most recently he rallied in a column to derail a developers’ plans for Long Bar Pointe.

He oversaw several Islander projects, stories and features recognized and honored by the Florida Press Association.

He acquired an extensive collection of work by Florida-based authors and was a founding member of Mystery Florida, a nonprofit group that sponsors an annual gathering of mystery writers and aficionados in Sarasota.

“He was a great friend who eagerly shared his love for news, John D. MacDonald’s series of books featuring Travis McGee, and his upbringing in Bradenton Beach. He will be dearly missed and remembered with each night’s flash of green at sunsets on Anna Maria Island,” said Islander publisher Bonner Joy.

“He was raised on the waters of Sarasota Bay and he liked to often write from his perspective as a ‘little Roat.’ One such story recalled harvesting sand dollars and selling them to tourist shops for 3 cents each.”

Mr. Roat was molded into a savior for the environment and a great reader and thinker.

The Islander is planning a memorial for the Tingley Library in Bradenton Beach, where Mr. Roat served many years as a board member, a journalism scholarship and a mystery book sale to benefit the library.

Memorial donations may be made at The Islander, 5604B Marina Drive, Holmes Beach FL 34217.

No services are planned.

Mr. Roat is survived by his aunt Margaret Roat of Ludington, Mich., several cousins in Michigan and Colorado, and his “almost children,” Kendra Presswood of Holmes Beach, and Damon Presswood of Bradenton.

Published in: on February 18, 2014 at 7:26 am  Leave a Comment  

PBS series focuses on Cortez Fishing Village

Thomas "Blue" Fulford, a longtime Cortez resident and president of the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.)

speaks to the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Florida Commercial Fishermen’s statue at the Cortez Fishing Village. ALEX DIAZ/Herald file photo

‘Diamonds Along the Highway’ series focuses on Cortez people, history



February 11, 2014

It’s called "Cortez time," which refers to the clock and the milieu.

The work days starts at 4:30 a.m. and ends at 11:30 p.m. The benign, modern-day equivalent of a company store gives the residents credit that the banks and mortgage companies won’t.

The people are holding on, happily and defiantly, to an anachronistic lifestyle.

The people who live their lives on Cortez time, the residents of Cortez Fishing Village, have names like Soupy, Red Dog and Blue.

They and their neighbors are featured in "Gone Fishing for Old Florida: Voices of Cortez." The half-hour documentary will air on WEDU at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. It’s part of a PBS series called "Diamonds Along the Highway" that features fascinating and often little-known aspects of Florida culture.

"It’s one of the last old fishing villages anywhere," said Gus Mollasis, show narrator and co-writer. "Once they banned (gill) net fishing it really had an impact on Cortez, but there are still people going out fishing every day.

"The net ban, which took effect in 1995, changed life forever in Cortez. One shot in the documentary shows a sign, sort of a makeshift headstone, that reads "Cortez 1890-1995."But still, Mollasis said, he and co-writer Mark Reese found the spirit of old Cortez lives on in the dwindling number of stalwart fishermen who revel in the area and its lifestyle.

"They’re really independent," said Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez, in the documentary. "Their personality lends itself to doing what they want, when they want. The only thing that’s really controlling them is the weather, and maybe their wife, if she’s lucky.

Mollasis and Reese filmed the documentary over a few months last fall. It’s affectionate and even sentimental, but it’s mostly a tribute to a community and the colorful people who have found a way to revel, if not thrive, in their anachronistic lifestyle.

"Every day’s a holiday and every meal’s a feast," said a 30-year Cortex resident named Red Dog who rides a Harley and wears a T-shirt that says "Fish or Die!""I was back home and sittin’ on a river bank and somebody told me I could make a livin’ fishin’," Red Dog tells Mollasis in the film. "I was here a week later and I’ve been fishin’ ever since."

Mollasis, who lives in Sarasota, and Reese, who lives part of the year in Venice, met a few years back at the Sarasota Film Festival. Reese was there with his award-winning documentary, "The Boys in Winter: The Toughest Season," which deals with the last year in the life of his father, baseball legend Pee Wee Reese, and with other baseball legends.

Mollasis loved the film and introduced himself to Reese, and they became instant friends. A few years later, Reese phoned Mollasis with the idea to produce a documentary series about Florida. Mollasis loved the concept and they got to work immediately. It’s now in its second season. It airs on the second Thursday of each month.

The film that provided the impetus and the inspiration for the series, Reese’s "The Boys in Winter," will air as a segment of "Diamonds Along the Highway" in April, during a WEDU pledge drive. It will be the television premiere of the film, which earned critical praise from the Washington Post and the New York Times. In May, "Diamonds Along the Highway" will feature "Embracing Our Differences," the annual Sarasota art exhibit that celebrates diversity.

This week’s show is a celebration of the golden age of Cortez, but it doesn’t glamorize it. It’s about people working hard to make a modest living.

Thomas "Blue" Fulford, a patriarch of the community who lost his leg in a fishing accident years ago, talks about what it takes to become a great mullet fisherman

"Being hungry," he says. "You want something to put in your belly to eat. You go out and get it, and that puts the mullet in jeopardy."

Published in: on February 11, 2014 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment