Joseph Blanchard was a sea captain and savvy business owner who played a significant role in establishing southwest Florida.
Blanchard was conceived during slavery and born shortly after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. A successful businessman, Blanchard owned several businesses in Punta Gorda including orange groves, a vegetable stand and fishing boats. Blanchard was one of a few African Americans who found success in the early years of Charlotte County Florida.
Blanchard built his home in Punta Gorda in 1925 before Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. After all of the Blanchard heirs were deceased Bernice Andrews Russell purchased the home in 1997. Russell was a humanitarian, social activist community leader and historian for the African-American community. When she died in 1999 her daughter donated the home to the Bernice A. Russell Community Development Corporation.
Joseph Blanchard’s home was moved from the original location in 2002 and it is now the site of the Blanchard House of African-American History and Culture. Bernice Russell served as inspiration for establishing the museum. Since 2004 visitors to the museum have been able learn about the contributions black people have made since the 1800s. The museum is dedicated to the procurement, preservation, study and display of artifacts and materials related to the contributions of African Americans in Charlotte County and Southwest Florida.
We salute Joseph Blanchard for finding a path to help establish a welcoming community for African Americans in Southwest Florida. Click here to find out more about the Blanchard House of African-American History and Culture.