Is there a Heaven in Paradise?
There are not too many spots left in Florida, where you can still imagine what that place looked like in the past. Often those “historic” sites are watered-down to a caricature of themselves. Too much “young commerce” is intermingled with “historic” artifacts from all over the world (mostly cheap stuff from China). I am always wondering what a plastic dinosaur has to do with a certain historical place.
But wait, there is actually a small fishing village which looks like one of those Key West Villages. One of those old villages which you can still admire on those worn postcard collections from the 40’s and 50’s.
Only a few Homes, but nicely restored
Colorful cracker barrel houses are hidden behind lush green tropical vegetation. “Fishery Circle” is the name of that oval roundabout in the center of that tiny village. The partly deteriorated building at the end of the oval is the relic of the old fish packing plant.
The now closed plant was once the heart of the village. This was the place where once thousands of pounds of fish were delivered, processed, packed and sent all over the country. The operation supported many families for more than half a century. However, nothing lasts forever. Eventually, it was closed down in the early 1980’s.
A ban on commercial net fishing, which was meant to protect the environment, devastated the local fishing industry, and the owner, the Albritton, decided to shut down the unprofitable operation. However, this didn’t come out of the blue, they knew that something was smelling “fishy.” Therefore, they had already investigated different avenues and came to a conclusion: this would be the perfect spot for a restaurant. They opened the “Fishery Restaurant” in 1988, a historic seafood eatery which serves fresh seafood in an ideal subtropical environment, and it is still there and serving food. People can reach the restaurant either by boat or by car, and it is a pet-friendly place. You don’t need to leave your hungry dog at home; you can share your Grouper meal and your beer with your furry fellow.
A little more History – The Year 1944
Of course, the history goes further back than 1944, but this was the real starting point of the village. From 10,000 BC until about 1800 AC, the Calusa Indians were living in the area, some conquistadors unsuccessfully tried to find El Dorado, and some fishermen and early farmers thought that it would be a brilliant idea to make a living in the Cape Haze area. They are all gone. It was actually not a bad idea to live there – at least not for the people, but not so much for the fish.
The “Gasparilla Fishery” started operating in Boca Grande, the village on Gasparilla Island, in 1914. The fish processing plant became a success story and supported many families on the island. In the 1920’s the company went through many hands, but finally, Mr. Albritton bought the plant in 1930.
When WWII was almost over the operation was moved to Placida, the place where the Albrittons wanted to settle. For many decades it was a lucrative business and the center of that little Cape Haze universe.
The Albritton family ran the “Fishery,” the fish packing and distribution plant, and later the “Fishery Restaurant” and the “Albritton Art Gallery.” Everything was “Albritton, ” and the Albritton name became basically the brand of the village.
The Albritton Art Gallery
Margaret Albritton’s love for sea creatures was somewhat different. While her father operated the “Fishery,” she was not too much in fish-killing and fish processing. She approached the fish in an artistic way and not so much with a sinker, hook, and bait (or net, at that time). Her activity as an artist also attracted more other artists, and today the little village is an interesting mixture of artists and fishermen. Charter fishing tours are now the big thing because the State of Florida never lifted the ban on net fishing.
The old building of the former fish packing plant needs repair; there is a sunken fishing boat in the harbor, but that boat has already become part of the “Old Florida” deal. The pier is torn and needs work, and all the boats are showing tear and wear.
So, don’t expect it sleek and streamlined at the old Placida Fishery. But you need to go soon because the days are numbered. Someday a wealthy investor will discover this little paradise, and you know how that goes. “Highest and best “ is a principle of real estate. They will get rid of everything, clean up the “mess,” and eventually, they will build one of those shiny hotels or shopping centers.