Michael Kolb
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History of Naples, Florida

Until the late 19th century, the area was inhabited only by Indians. The first white colonists, Roger Gordon and Joe Wiggins came approx. in 1865 to this area.

In the time between 1870 and 1880 it was reported that  this area was becoming popular  because of its mild climate and  fish and wild wealth. The name "Naples" also came from this time, when a newspaper compared the place to Naples, Italy 

In 1887, a group from Kentucky, stated by newspaper publisher Walter Haldeman, bought practically the whole town. The pier was built and served as the most important connection with the outside world. The  Naples Hotel“ originated in this time also. Naples quickly turned into a winter vacation place and famous people like Greta Garbo and Gary Cooper descended here. At this time a building plot on the beach costs an incredible 125 dollars.

In 1911, the next investor came  to Naples named Barron Collier, who bought more than 1.000.000 acres of untouched marshland including the large part of the today's Naples. He supported the construction of Tamiami Trail, the first developed street between Miami and Tampa, with more than 1 million dollars. This was finished in 1928. At this time Collier County was established and for his help finishing the Tamiami Trail the County used his name.

The first daily operating bus line to Fort Myers was opened in 1922 on a single-track  way. The bus for 10 passengers was approx. 5 hours on the move in one direction. Nearly every time a tire had to be changed.

In 1927, the railroad was opened which was closed, however, in 1971 because of lack of funding and was dismantled later.

In 1930, the history of the Naples Beach Hotel began. Here the first 18-hole golf course was built in the area. In addition, the Beach Cub was opened. You find the hotel and the golf course even today to the west of US 41 between Coastland Mall and the City Center.

In 1943, the airport privately used today, was built for the Air Force and served as a base for exercises for aerial battles as a training for applications in Europe and Asia. Many of these soldiers came back after the war to Naples and settled down here.

5th Avenue was the home of the phone-service-station. In 1945, it served 17 phones in Naples.

The development of Naples progressed after the war inexorably: In 1949, the opening of the first bank, programs to the control of the mosquitoes, the protection and restoration of the beach, new streets, the first parks and more were constructed.

In 1960, Naples was stripped with the destructive Hurricane Donna which destroyed the Pier and flooded the area west of  US 41 to more than 4 feet high. The money which flowed by the insurances and state reconstruction support into the County accelerated the expansion considerably.

Only in 1966, the seat of the County capital was moved from  Everglades City to Naples.

The Palm Cottage by the Pier is still the oldest house still in tact. You are able to visit the renovated cottage and have gatherings in the house.

The photos on this page are from the collection of the Florida State archive.

Description of the photos

1. one of the oldest houses in Naples (1887)

2. 3rd Street in 1928

3. Naples Hotel 1934

4. Naples Pier after the hurricane 1944

5. Swamp Buggy Races 1949

6. 3rd Street South 1981 

7. 5th Avenue South 1981