Fish Huts in Trouble

In the 1980s, Florida’s Department of Natural Resources concluded that the old fish shacks, which lacked plumbing and sanitation, were navigation hazards and a threat to sea grasses. The state began burning the fish shacks in the mid-1980s until locals began to advocate for the preservation of the structures. In 1991, the preservationists succeeded in having a number of the structures designated as historic sites.

At least ten of the company’s surviving structures, seven fish cabins and three ice houses, have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The cabins and ice houses are “frame vernacular cabins set on wood pilings” and were all built on submerged land between approximately 1920 and 1941. Most of these locations were added to the National Register pursuant to a 1991 Multiple Property Submission titled the “Fish Cabins of Charlotte Harbor.” The Multiple Property Submission cited the cabins’ significance in the development of southwest Florida’s commercial fishing industry, and “their architecture, materials, and workmanship” as examples of distinctive and functional architecture.   In a 2008 feature story on the area’s historic fish shacks, The News-Press wrote:

“Commercial fishermen … lived months at a time in simple one-story wood-frame cabins on pilings in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor. They had no electricity, no plumbing, no telephone. Rain gutters collected water they rationed. … The fish cabins … are the legacy of a thriving industry that worked Charlotte Harbor waters before World War II. Fishermen netted fish by hand and stored their catch in the fish companies’ ice houses, where boats picked up the harvest and carried it to Punta Gorda.”  Credit Wkipedia

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