Punta Gorda, FL 33982
Tour the historic Babcock Ranch and see the Telegraph Swamp, Alligators, live panthers, snakes, and tropical birds. Eat lunch at the Gator Shack.
Babcock is steeped in the McAdow family’s late 19th century visions of warmer climates and an easier way of living. The property, purchased in 1914 and held by the Babcock family for more than 90 years, was sold to Town Maker Kitson & Partners in 2006. Babcock Ranch has always held an allure all its own, a unique magnetism that has captivated forward thinking individuals who appreciate the uniqueness of the place.
After making their fortune in the Spotted Horse gold mines of Fergus County, Montana, the Perry McAdow family took to Southwest Florida’s warmer climes and purchased what is now Babcock Ranch in the late 1800’s. After settling at what they called the Crescent B Ranch, the family made their mark. By June, 1899, the Punta Gorda Bank was chartered by the state with capital of $15,000 and Perry Wadsworth McAdow as president. A one-story, brick façade corner storefront housed the bank with Earnest Dry Goods, the Punta Gorda Trading Company, Wade’s Drug Store, and McAdow Hall filling the remainder of the building. An avid horticulturalist, Mrs. McAdow proceeded to beautify downtown Punta Gorda.
In 1914, the 91,000-acre Crescent B Ranch was acquired by Edward Babcock, a Pittsburgh lumber magnate and politician. The renamed Babcock Ranch served as the base for the family’s timber business, the most prominent end-users being the diamond mines in South Africa that used the pine-based pitch to ward off termites.
By the 1930’s, Edward’s son Fred was managing the property and became the face of Babcock Ranch. After Fred’s death in 1997, the heirs attempted to sell the property to the state. In 2005, discussions with the state were terminated and the family began accepting offers from private buyers. Fortunately, one of the prospective buyers shared the family’s desire to preserve as much of the ranch as possible. Kitson & Partners purchased the 91,000 acre ranch on July 31, 2006 and on the same day, sold 80% of the ranch lands to the State of Florida and Lee County. The agreement that preserved more than 73,000 acres of the most environmentally valuable areas of the ranch still ranks as the largest single land preservation purchase in state history. The land management plan called for ranching and other business operations, such as the eco-tour, to continue operating. Kitson was under contract to manage the preserve for the state until July of 2015, when Tarpon Blue Land & Resource Management was selected as the new contract manager.