While it’s easy to get swept away in the modern luxury that Southwest Florida is currently known for, there are dozens of historic places to visit in Naples, Florida going back to its early development in the 1880s.
The Naples Historic District, which includes 65 historic houses, and over 26 historic buildings, was actually listed as a U.S. historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, giving even more credence to the character that this area offers.
If you’re looking for things to do in Southwest Florida, take a tour of these historic sites which offer a poetic picture of a sleepy fishing town that quickly became one of the most sought after coastal destinations.
NAPLES DEPOT (1926)
The Naples Depot museum is set within the restored passenger station of the Seaboard Air Line Railway. A visit here will take you back to the railroad booming days of the “roaring twenties” and how Southwest Floridians used this technology to put themselves on the map.
TIN CITY MARINE MARKET PLACE (1920s)
In the 1920s, the tin-roofed buildings of Tin City became a mecca for the economic development and transport of Naples, which was made possible by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Subsequently, the Gordon River became the heart of Naples’ fishing industry, including clam shelling, oyster processing, boat construction, and maintenance operations. In the 1970s, Tin City was transformed into what it still is today – a marine market place with a mix of shops and eateries.
FIFTH AVENUE SHOPPING DISTRICT (1920)
Fifth Avenue has always been known as “Main Street” in Naples. What started as just a few businesses including the Chamber of Commerce, a telephone company, a gas station, and a liquor store has now become a well-known 10-block stretch of the most exclusive boutique shops and gourmet restaurants in Southwest Florida.
NAPLES MERCANTILE BUILDING (1919)
The first commercial building in Naples which housed a commissary offering food and general merchandise at The Seminole Market in addition to a Western Union office upstairs. The two-story wood frame building which is covered in stucco now operates as the well-known Campiello Ristorante & Bar.
OLDE NAPLES BUILDING (1921)
Since the building was completed in 1921 as the first town hall, City Council chambers and courthouse, it has also served as Naples’ first pharmacy, playhouse, library, movie theater, post office, real estate office, doctor’s office, and church.
EARL BAUM HOUSE (1910)
Originally built in 1910 by its first owner George E. Rason of Windsor, Ontario, followed by owners Eleanor and Phillip Rust in the 1930s, and finally its most famous owner in 1948, Dr. Earl Baum. Dr. Baum purchased the home for its higher elevation and safety from flooding and then added what became known as his “trophy room” which contained his personal collection of Collier County fauna. Residents and guests reportedly came from afar to view his specimens which were said to include one of everything native to Naples.
NAPLES PIER (1888)
First constructed in 1888, the Naples Pier was initially 600 feet in length and intended for loading and unloading of goods and baggage to facilitate local commerce and to better serve the nearby hotel. It quickly became a destination ideally suited for fishing, watching sunsets, and socializing. The pier has undergone several reconstruction efforts, the first of which was in 1906 following hurricane damage and again in 1910 from another hurricane. In 1922, most of the pier, included a post office that had been added to it, was burned in a fire. It was rebuilt yet again in 1924 with the same double-deck construction but was extended to 1,000 feet. In 1960, hurricane Donna assaulted the pier once more requiring additional repairs. More recently in 2015 renovations were completed on the pier including a new deck constructed of Brazilian walnut and larger restrooms to accommodate the 1 million+ tourists that visit each year. Hurricane damage struck again with Irma in 2017, requiring two phases of repair. The first half of the pier was reopened September 21 just after the storm passed, but the western end is still under repair with an anticipated reopen date sometime in 2018.
PALM COTTAGE (1895)
Recorded as the oldest house in Naples, the historic Palm Cottage is a two-story home constructed of tabby mortar, which is a hand-made concrete consisting of sand, shells, and water. The home was built by one of Naples founding residents, Walter N. Haldeman, and boasts 3,500 square feet of original and donated artwork, furnishings, and tools representing over 100 years of history that is accessible to the public.
These are just a few of the historic gems in our area. To get your fill of more Naples history, be sure to check out Naples Trolly Tours and Naples Walking Tours.
If current real estate is more your speed, contact one of our luxury real estate agents for a tour of contemporary Southwest Florida homes for sale.