Homespun "Monroe Cottage" to become Cortez cultural center

skennedy@bradenton.comSeptember 15, 2013 

CORTEZ -- A tiny Florida Cracker-style beach cottage dating from 1946 is finally ready to be transformed into a local cultural center in Cortez.

The Manatee County Commission on Sept. 10 approved $5,000 to pay permit fees and other governmental charges related to relocation of the cottage, which has helped the project move forward after a temporary halt.

"We're grateful for it," said Mary Fulford Green, treasurer of the Cortez Village Historical Society, referring to the county's contribution. "It was our turn."

Four years ago, the homespun Monroe Cottage, which for decades graced Bradenton Beach, was moved to Cortez.

Its restoration, however, waited while the historical society raised money and planned a re-do, said Green.

The county's contribution will be used to pay permit fees and governmental costs the society must cover in order to place the cottage on a new site, and install electrical service, said Green.

About $15,000 collected during fundraisers will help pay for its restoration, she said.

She hoped a grand opening of the cultural center could take place in February, when Cortez holds its annual fishing festival.

Ohio native Basil Monroe, a plasterer, built the cottage from remnants of a military barracks at 304 Church St., according to information provided by his granddaughter, Alice Baker, in an essay dated 2006.

Monroe became a local celebrity after catching a 400-pound fish from a pier with a rope and hook,Baker wrote.

"He lived the good life in the cottage in Bradenton Beach," she added.

Monroe died in 1954, leaving the cottage to his three sons and his widow, and it remained in the family through the 1990s, Baker wrote.

Finally, it was acquired by Bradenton Beach officials in order to preserve it, and because it was near public buildings that needed more space, said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, a former mayor of Bradenton Beach.

Bradenton Beach officials later gave the cottage to the historical society, and in 2009 it was moved from Bradenton Beach to Cortez.

Since then, officials from the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage have provided land under a leasing

arrangement for a permanent site off Cortez Road at 117th Street West, Green said.

Exhibits planned for the cultural center will focus on family life and the contributions of local veterans, she said. The cottage's age and architecture give it historical value, said Cathy Slusser, director of historical resources for R.B. "Chips" Shore, Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller, Manatee County Historical Records Library.

"It was the typical Florida Cracker-style construction," she said. "It's typical of a kind of fish camp."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.

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