Palm Cottage, the oldest house in Naples

Florida has always attracted dreamers and schemers who plan to create cities out of the wilderness, populated by wealthy sun worshipers. Some of the cities they created have survived and thrived, notable examples being Miami on the east coast and Cape Coral on the west. Traces of the unsuccessful are sometimes visible in the broken concrete of unfinished streets and entrance pillars sunk deep into the weeds that occasionally contract with the wobbly movements of the lizards.

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One of the survivors of these urban development projects is Naples, the southernmost metropolitan area in southwest Florida. This small town, occupying 12.3 square miles of land on Florida’s Gulf Coast about 35 miles south of Fort Myers, sits on the edge of the Big Cypress Swamp, just 20 miles northwest of the Ten Thousand Islands .

The library at the historic Palm Cottage in Naples, pictured on Thursday February 20, 2020.

A version, and apparently the most accurate, of the ancient history of Naples, states that before the arrival of the recognized founders of Naples, the Naples Town Development Company had been founded and the 3,712-acre urban site had been surveyed; in fact, months before said arrival, 252 lots of houses had already been sold. Nonetheless, in the fall of 1887, Kentuckians John Stuart Williams, a former Confederate general turned United States Senator, and his partner, Walter N. Haldeman, a former pro-successionist newspaper editor turned businessman and owner of the Louisville Courier-Journal , have acquired the property. , and founded the Naples Company as a winter resort town. In less than a year, they had built a 600-foot T-shaped pier in the Gulf of Mexico and a hotel two blocks from the foot of it, as well as a general store and post office. . At that time, in the summer of 1888, Naples was seasonally occupied by some 80 people.

The entrance to the historic Palm Cottage in Naples, pictured on Thursday February 20, 2020.

Today, Naples’ permanent resident population is around 22,206, but it is still essentially a winter home for the wealthy, where the average household income is around a quarter of a million dollars and the median home value is close to $ 1 million. .

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Naples values ​​its history. According to the Naples Historical Society, “history is a pervasive conversation in Naples,” and the NHS is the “central voice” in that conversation.

Portraits of Barron and Juliet Collier hang on the wall of the historic Palm Cottage in Naples on Thursday, February 20, 2020.

The historic society’s “educational headquarters” is Palm Cottage, the town’s oldest house, built in 1895 by none other than Haldeman.

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Haldeman built Palm Cottage for his friend and newspaper editor Henry Watterson, judiciously adding additional bedrooms upstairs to accommodate the occasional overflow of tourists from his hotel.

The house was sold in 1916 to the Parmer, who not only gave the house its name, but who in 1926 also sealed and wired it for electricity.

The kitchen of the Historic Palm Cottage in Naples, pictured on Thursday February 20, 2020.

The house’s last private owners, the Browns, made it famous. By the late 1940s their lavish entertainment, not to mention house guests such as Gary Cooper, Robert Montgomery, and Heddy Lamar, made Palm Cottage, aka Brown House, the hub of Naples’ social life.

Upon Alexandria Brown’s death in 1978, the Collier County Historical Society stepped in and purchased the Palm Cottage for $ 100,000, and in 1996 the Naples Historical Society restored it for $ 300,000, thus preserving the 3,500 square foot house as a museum.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this charming home at 137 12th Avenue South, just one block east of Naples Pier, is the location of all NHS educational programs and events.

Palm Cottage is located at 137 12th Avenue South in Naples, just one block east of the Naples Pier.

For those who are more interested in living things than in ghosts of the past, the Norris Gardens outside the Palm Cottage are a sheer delight. In this half acre, the most prevalent gardening trends of the past 100 years are represented in the Garden of the Senses, the Palm Collector’s Garden, the Edible Garden, the Pioneer Garden, the Water Garden and the Garden of the Senses. Everglades.

For a more detailed history of Palm Cottage, visit https://www.explorenaples.com/historic-palm-cottage-naples-historical-society.php, and for an account of the remarkable achievements of the NHS in the historic preservation of Naples properties, please visit https://napleshistoricalsociety.org/.

Cynthia A. Williams ([email protected])

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