by Sandra Lee Buxton –
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but for Robert and Carole Leher, their curiosity resulted in a book. Naples Beach Homes: Cottages, Castles, and the Families That Built Them. Their excitement in planning, implementing, and execution took about three years.
It began with a simple question, “Who lives in those homes and what is their story?” To understand how this happened you need to know a bit about this couple. Robert and Carole are happy people, not laughing out loud happy, but content with joy kind of happy. They both embrace meeting and conversing with others, as natural conversationalists, it was their genuine warmth that served as the conduit in gaining the trust of total strangers.
Trust not misplaced I must say. It’s hard to find a street or neighborhood in Naples that’s not beautiful but the homes that captured their interest was about a four-mile stretch which included Gulf Shore Boulevard North and along Gordon Drive. We know that every family and home has a story, so again they asked themselves; what is the story of this family? They felt strongly that a book about the homes history and owners would be of interest.
They started small, talking with friends who lived in their focus area, becoming more captivated by personal and home history. They took copious notes, gathered photos and moved forward with some trepidation as to how the project would evolve and even what the end result would be.As it turned out, their friends told their friends, and one by one they amassed a sizeable amount of people who wanted to talk. Excitement was prevalent with those who volunteered to speak about their own lives.
Robert and Carole never envisioned the reception they would receive for a project that began with a simple question.
The homes themselves are diverse in size, style, age and history. The commonality of course is that each home owner found nirvana and loves their home. From the street many homes are hidden by lush foliage appearing cool and distant, but once inside owners are warm and happy to share stories.
Some of the homes have belonged in the same family for generations. Their labor of love has resulted in a magnificent “coffee table” book, which contains the history of Naples, families, and photos of some original homes along with the current rendition. The book has an appealing presence with the use of pastels yet vibrant enough to pull you in. As a matter of fact as you look at the many pieces of artwork throughout the book you begin to feel that you are there in that space and time.
I would be remiss not to mention and give credit to artist Paul Arsenault who has used his talent to create original artwork throughout this book along with the eye catching cover. Donna Murphy was the editor and graphic designer who Robert and Carole credit with bringing the book to life.
Everyone who lives and loves Naples needs to own a copy of this treasure and consider giving the book as a gift for Christmas or Chanukah. The book is currently in its third printing and copies can be obtained locally at several locations including Arsenault Gallery, Naples Botanical Garden, and the Historical Society. It is important to note that all net proceeds are donated to Naples Historical Society. Check out the website at www.NaplesHistoricalSociety.org. For more information contact Elaine Reed, President & CEO of the Society at 239.261.8164.