Historic Spanish Point was deeded to Gulf Coast Heritage Association, Inc. by the Palmer family in 1980. As part of its mission, GCHA identified key visions to which it is committed, foremost of which, is the preservation of Historic Spanish Point, a 30-acre environmental, archaeological, and historic site. When acquired, the buildings were in serious need of restoration and the historic gardens were overgrown. The 1980 Master Plan, produced by a team of restoration architects, historians, archaeologists, and museum professionals, outlined a plan to rehabilitate the 30-acre parcel for a museum and since then over $4 million has been raised for restorations, reconstructions, and interpretations of buildings, gardens, and archaeological features. Today, Historic Spanish Point is operated by a professional staff and over 200 volunteers. The museum is open to the public seven days a week, with seasonal special hours for programs, and serves over 28,000 visitors annually.
In 1990, GCHA produced a second Master Plan, which outlined goals and objectives that guided the museum for the next decade. Accomplishments include the major archaeological exhibition, A Window to the Past and the renovation of the Osprey School, a 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival style building adjacent to Historic Spanish Point on U.S. 41. Today, this National Register building is utilized as a Visitors Center and features an orientation theater, lecture hall, meeting rooms, administrative offices, and a large and interesting museum store. The project was awarded the Silver Gavel Award from the Sarasota Herald Tribune in 1996.
Strategic planning shifted from ten to five years in 2000. Significant accomplishments for 2000-2005 included the development of a new mission statement and museum accreditation, awarded in the summer of 2002 by the American Association of Museums. Only the top 5% of museums in the country have achieved accreditation. GCHA also undertook the major renovation of the White Cottage, the original core of which was built in 1885, to house exhibit galleries and a research center.
The current Strategic Plan (2005-2010) identifies specific action steps for the evaluation, repair, and equipment acquisition required to properly maintain the historic buildings and grounds. This project addresses key equipment needs of museum staff so that they can care for the historic gardens, buildings, and exhibits of Historic Spanish Point. In 2010, the museum participated in a year-long celebration of the centennial of the arrival of Mrs. Potter Palmer to Sarasota County.