Plenty of Magic in Local History Tour

by Jeff Lytle

Up for a day trip to shake pandemic cabin fever or entertain company?

There is a brand new historic landmark guide sure to educate, fascinate and entertain, a product of Collier County government’s Historic and Archeological Preservation Board.

The attractions in the publication, designed by Rebecca Schwandt of the county library staff, are smartly categorized by geographic areas such as Naples and the Tamiami Trail; The Heartland, consisting of Immokalee, Corkscrew, Copeland, Sunniland and Jerome; and The 10,000 Islands, with Marco Island, Everglades City, Goodland, Chokoloskee and Fakahatchee.

The groupings help people connect the dots and make the most of their time. A master map is included. Copies are available at county museums, libraries, historical societies and county Visitor Centers in Naples, Marco Island and Immokalee.

Jack Wert, the county’s tourism director, is sold. “The rich history and culture of Collier County is of great interest to our visitors and residents alike,” he says.“ Research tells us that once people learn and experience the history of an area, they are much more likely to return in the future. That brings more economic activity to our community … beyond the fabulous beaches we are well known for.”

On Marco, you can even stay at one of the sites. Today’s modern Olde Marco Inn & Suites started life in 1896 as the Olde Marco Inn. The original inn boasted 20 rooms, a parlor, dining room and a two-story bathroom. That building hosts today’s lobby and a restaurant, Bistro Soliel. The county’s guide shows you how to reach a little-known pioneer cemetery and shell mound.

Nearby, the story of the public Mar-Good Park on Goodland starts as a 1920s resort.

In Everglades City you can visit the aptly named Old Station Restaurant, which opened in 1928 – the year the Tamiami Trail was finished — plus the original county courthouse, survivor of hurricanes including Donna, Wilma and Irma, now deployed as city hall; a laundry turned into a museum; the county’s first bank– used by rum runners, gator poachers and feather traders– later used as a bed and breakfast; and the Rod & Gun Club, visited by Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon.

And don’t miss Ted Smallwood’s Store in Chokoloskee, built in 1917 and propped up on pilings in 1924.

Closer to this magazine’s circulation center in the heart of Naples, there are references in the guide to Rosemary Cemetery, at Pine Ridge Road and U.S. 41 (look hard by the CVS drug store), resting place of pioneers; Nehrling Gardens, with up to 3,000 tropical species, that blossomed into today’s Naples Zoo; Naples Depot, built in 1927 and owned by two railroads before retirement in the 1970s, now a museum in the county network; and Historic Palm Cottage, Naples’ oldest house, circa 1895, run as a garden spot museum by the Naples Historical Society.

Meanwhile, head east to Collier-Seminole State Park to gaze at the Bay City Walking Dredge that helped build the road that gets you there. Stop at Joanie’s Blue Crab Café in Ochopee, circa 1930, and head to Immokalee’s Pepper Ranch, once owned by Henry Flagler; the county museum at Roberts Ranch; and see the original rig at Sunniland Oil Field, where oil was discovered in 1943.

Check it out – and you will be sure to pass your next quiz on Collier County history.

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