Milestones in Naples History; History Buffs Offer Top 10 Lists

by Jeff Lytle

Timely question for the New Year: What are the Top 10 milestones in Collier County history?

I’ll take a shot at that, having lived in the area since coming to the Naples Daily News as a junior editor in 1979 and retiring in 2014 after 25 years as editorial page editor and TV host.

To make this even more interesting, I have invited four authorities on local history to weigh in.

My list:

  1. The completion of the Tamiami Trail in 1928.
  2. The arrival of air conditioning and mosquito control.
  3. The concept of developing land in big chunks or planned unit developments (PUDs), such as Pelican Bay and The Vineyards, for a unified look and to keep some traffic within the neighborhood. Ave Maria made us realize the potential of that on the eastern frontier.
  4. The arrival of full-service senior living, now a full-fledged industry, with Moorings Park taking it to a new level.
  5. The arrival of the Ritz-Carlton brand, building on the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club legacy and uplifting the whole tourism trade.
  6. The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts raising the curtain on how to run the arts like a business – and succeed royally.
  7. Arthrex growing into a national medical industry giant.
  8. The Community Foundation of Collier County showing us how to get serious about philanthropy and reap the vastrewards.
  9. The creation of The Conservancy to educate us about the need for development restraint.
  10. Naples Community Hospital.

Honorable mentions go to Coastland Center, Naples Botanical Garden, downtown Naples’ renaissance, recessions and the Stadium Naples political scandal.

Ray Carroll, a Florida native and president of the Carroll & Carroll real estate appraisal firm, offers his Top 10:

1889 – The Naples Company builds the pier and the Old Naples Hotel. Thank the developers for a public beach and public access at every avenue.

1923 – The formation of Collier County. Barron Collier promised the legislature he would do some things, and they carved him out a county.

1923 – City of Naples is chartered.

1926-1927 – The railroads arrive.

1928 – Completion of the Tamiami Trail (one of the things Mr. Collier promised to do).

1941 – The federal government builds an airport at Naples. Some of the thousands of military personnel trained in Southwest Florida remembered and came back.

1983 – Southwest Florida Regional Airport opens. Airport = world travelers = hotels.

1985 – The first Naples Ritz-Carlton Hotel opens. Told you.

1986 – Interstate 75 is completed through Naples. Now there were good interstate road connections to the Midwest and the Northeast.

1989 – The Philharmonic Center for the Arts opens. We become civilized.

Amanda Townsend, Collier County Museums director, chooses a cultural framework for her list, with a bonus No. 11.

1896 – Frank Hamilton Cushing begins excavation at the Pepper-Hearst Expedition Calusa artifact dig on Key Marco. The artifacts have captured the imagination of students of pre-Colombian people ever since.

1910 – Edgar J. Watson is shot at Smallwood Store on Chokoloskee Island. The townspeople gathered at the boat landing to confront the presumed-murderous Watson and multiple shooters pulled the trigger simultaneously.

1938 – County residents vote 815 to 89 to fence in livestock, abolishing open range grazing of cattle.

1947 – President Truman dedicates Everglades National Park in Everglades City one month after the publication of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s The Everglades: River of Grass. The park paved the way for conservation and balanced development efforts in Southwest Florida.

1949 – The first Swamp Buggy Races are held in Naples. If the Tamiami Trail was built despite the Everglades, then the swamp buggy was built because of them.

1951 – The State Farmer’s Market opens in Immokalee. The rise of Immokalee as a vegetable-growing capital has been made possible by the waves of immigrant groups in the remarkably multicultural town.

1957 – Tribal members approve the Seminole constitution, leading to the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s recognition by the federal government. The Seminoles have grown large and sophisticated businesses while continuing to uphold centuries-old traditions.

1965 – The Deltona Corporation, headed by the Mackle Brothers, unveils its $4.5 million planned community on Marco Island.

1981 – George Washington Carver housing complex opens on Tenth Street in Naples. Demolition by fire and bulldozer of the infamous McDonald’s Quarters slum with open sewers began within a month.

1983 – Some 200 law enforcement officers descend on Everglades City, arresting more than two dozen people – and many more later – in the drug sting known as Operation Everglades.

1989 – The Philharmonic Center for the Arts opens, sparking the transformation of Naples from quiet debutante to glittering sophisticate.

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