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Established in December 2007, the museum is located on almost 4 acres of the Cortez Preserve within the boundaries of the historic commercial fishing village of Cortez. The Florida Maritime Museum is a result of the efforts of residents of the village and Manatee County government. Consisting of three buildings, three fountains, two native gardens and a lake, the 1912 brick schoolhouse is the primary building that is open to the public. The schoolhouse is home to permanent exhibits, a rotating temporary exhibit and a gift shop. As a function of the Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court, the museum is free to the public for field trips, self-guided tours and lectures. Additional features of the museum include a folk school, special events and a native walking tour of the grounds.

  • 1912 Cortez Schoolhouse present day as the Florida Maritime Museum
  • This is an image of the Cortez Rural Graded Schoolhouse, presently the Florida Maritime Museum. Take a minute and notice the pine trees located around the schoolhouse in the 1920s. You can still see pine trees like these ones around the museum’s grounds today.
  • Aerial view of the Florida Maritime Museum including the 1912 Schoolhouse, Pillsbury Boat shop and the historic Burton Store.
  • Historic Burton Store and Cistern at the Florida Maritime Museum
  • Three fountains are located on the museum property, all of which can be seen from this photo. The featured fountain is known as the horse fountain commissioned by Robert Sailors. There is also a mosaic fountain and a pond fountain all installed on the property when Robert Sailors, a famous weaver, lived on the property.
  • Entry to the Florida Maritime Museum featuring Southern Yellow Pine Floors
  • The Secret Garden, one of two native plant gardens at the Florida Maritime Museum.

Commercial fisherman from Carteret County, North Carolina, founded this community in the late 1800s.Originally known as Hunter’s Point, Cortez received its name in 1888 when the post office was established. It has been a working waterfront community since its inception and is one of the few remaining fishing villages in the state of Florida.

The Florida Maritime Museum tells the stories of the fishermen who have lived and worked in Cortez throughout its history.

Today, the museum consists of the 1912 schoolhouse, 1907 Pillsbury Boat shop, 1890’s Burton Store, a cistern, 3 fountains and 2 native gardens. The schoolhouse is open to the public and hosts the museum’s permanent exhibits, a rotating temporary exhibit, and a gift shop. The Burton Store is only open to the public during classes at the Folk School at Florida Maritime Museum. This second story of this building also serves as collection storage.

The mission of the Florida Maritime Museum is to protect, preserve and share artifacts, stories, and traditional knowledge related to Florida’s fishing and maritime heritage. Exhibits include historic photographs, boat models, tools, instruments, and other historically significant material relevant to Florida’s maritime culture and history with a special emphasis on working waterfronts. The museum is also home to a research library that includes a variety of books, plans, logs, diaries, periodicals, letters, records and related archival material concerning maritime subjects.

As a function of the Historical Resources Department of the Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller's Office of Ms. Angelina Colonneso and with support from the Manatee County Board of County Commission the Florida Maritime Museum is free to the public. The facilities are available for self-guided tours, group tours, and school field trips. The museum also offers free lectures, affordable traditional skills classes at the Folk School at Florida Maritime Museum, as well as special events throughout the year.  

Florida Maritime Museum. Accessed May 13th 2020.

Green, Ben. Finest Kind - A Celebration of a Florida Fishing Village. Edition 2nd. Cocoa, Florida. The Florida Historical Society Press, 2007.

MacColl, Betty. Once Upon A Time In A Schoolhouse.

Background music featured in audio: Shaw, Jason. "Hoedown".

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Florida Maritime Museum, Photographer Mark O'Dell

Photo Courtesy of Manatee County Public Libraries

Florida Maritime Museum, Photographer Mark O'Dell

Florida Maritime Museum, Photographer Mark O'Dell

Florida Maritime Museum, Photographer Mark O'Dell

Florida Maritime Museum, Photographer Mark O'Dell

Florida Maritime Museum, Photographer Mark O'Dell