One of Cortez’s oldest structures is continuing its legacy as a community gathering place. The Burton Store (also known as the Bratton Store) is in the process of transforming into The Folk School at Florida Maritime Museum.
The Burton Store was the center around which Cortez grew. It is the oldest commercial building in the village of Cortez. It started as a small shed out on the Bratton Dock, and grew from there. Residents would check their mail there, as well as stock up on simple groceries for meals. It was a place where neighbors shared stories and the community connected daily. The first radio and telephone in Cortez was also at the Burton Store where people would go to gather and hear the daily news. During the time that the store was in operation, there was also a barber shop, machine shop and a storage room for fish that were on ice waiting to be transported to outside markets.
Later, the Albion Inn was built around the Burton Store. The Inn used gas lighting until electricity was brought to the village. There was a fireplace in the dining area and also a large wood burning cooking stove in the kitchen. The first artesian well was installed at the Inn, and during droughts residents were able to come down and fill their buckets. The Inn thrived as a popular destination for winter residents. One notable visitor to the Albion Inn was Al Capone in 1928.
In October of 1921 the community was rattled by a devastating hurricane. The Albion Inn was the only surviving structure on the Cortez waterfront and one of only a handful that survived throughout the entire village. Its survival is a testament to the architectural, economic, and social history of the village of Cortez. The Inn was purchased by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1974 and served as the station until 1991. Over the years the community has strove to preserve this precious landmark, and has succeeded in saving the original portion of the building, the 1890 Burton/Bratton Store. In 2006 the building moved to its current home, next to the Florida Maritime Museum.
To preserve the traditions, skills, and sense of community of everyday life in Cortez Commercial Fishing Village, the Florida Maritime Museum has brought to life The Folk School. Soon to be in the 1890 Burton/Bratton Store, the Folk School provides a space for people to gather as a community and bond over a shared experience. This is offered in the form of traditional skills classes such as net mending, canning, soap making, and learning how to preserve your own family history. By using the Burton/Bratton Store as a learning space it will continue its legacy as a community gathering place. Interior renovations of the store include classroom space for the Folk School as well as a maritime research library. Renovations hope to be completed by the end of August. Along with classes, the porch of the store will continue to host local musicians who gather monthly to play folk music. The quality of life in Cortez relies on the closeness of its people, whether through informal socializing or helping out a fellow neighbor.
The Florida Maritime Museum is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday, 9 am-4 pm. For more information go to FloridaMaritimeMuseum.org or call (941) 708-6120.