History of Naples, FL

By  Published Sep 22nd, 2016

The historic significance of Naples, Florida begins with the first known residents, the Calusa Indians. The Calusa did not farm but lived on the abundant fish and sea animals found in the area. They used the shells for tools and weapons. The Calusa were strong warriors who were eventually defeated by the Seminoles in the 1700s.

The first European to visit was the Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon. He visited Florida sometime in the 1500s. The next significant exploration would be in the late 1860's when Roger Gordon and Joe Wiggins would go there. They are credited with being the first settlers. Because of this, a river and two inlets carry their names in their honor.

It was in 1887 that a group of wealthy businessmen from Kentucky purchased the land that would become the city. One of the first things they would build would be a T-shaped pier extending 600 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The unique shape allowed large ships to dock more easily. The pier has been destroyed and rebuilt several times but still retains the original shape.

Despite their efforts, the area grew at a slow pace. It wouldn't be until the late 1920s, after roads and railroads finally reached there, that the area would begin to grow. On January 7, 1927, the famous Orange Blossom Special pulled into the Seaboard Air Line Railway’s depot at Tenth Street and Fifth Avenue South on the newly completed railroad. The depot saw its last train in 1971. The building still stands and is used for community functions. A train whistle is still blown every day at noon as it was when the depot was operating.

The first home, Palm Cottage, was built in 1895 by Walter Haldeman, owner of the Louisville Courier Journal. The two-story home was built of tabby mortar which is a type of concrete made with sand, shells, and water. The house changed hands several times after Haldeman's death in 1902 until being purchased by the Naples Historical Society. Palm Cottage was restored in 1996 and now operates as a house museum where it holds historical artifacts and tells the story of Naples, Florida.