A Brief History of Naples, Florida


Modern-day Naples, Florida is known for its sugar-white sandy beaches, world-class hotels and resorts, high-end shopping, first-class dining, and top-notch tennis and golf. It has become the number one U.S. beach town and place to retire. Naples didn’t always top number-one lists or have bustling shopping and dining districts, though. Here is a glimpse into the rich history of Southwest Florida that has made Naples the popular destination that so many have come to treasure:

Calusa Indians

The first people to call Naples their home were the Calusa Indians, who occupied most of Southwest Florida. Historians place Calusa Indians in the area from the early 1500s - 1700s. The Calusa Indians survived off the water, fishing from the region’s coast, bays, and waterways. They handcrafted palm tree nets for fishing, and constructed fishbone arrowheads for hunting. The Calusa also sought shellfish and utilized their shells for ornaments, jewelry, and tools. Signs of the Calusa disappeard in the 1700s, when they entered the slave trade, were raided by rival tribes, wiped out by smallbox and measles, or relocated.

Seminole Tribe

By 1821, the Seminole tribe and runaway slaves had inhabited Naples. The Seminole Wars, which span from 1817-1858, were waged to remove the Seminoles from Florida. A lot of these wars took place in Southwest Florida, eventually ending with the Seminoles surrendering and relocating to Oklahoma. Some Seminole Indians did remain in hiding in the Everglades.


Gordon and Wiggins

Roger Gordon and Joe Wiggins were the first settlers to arrive in Naples in the late 1860s. The area was promoted in magazines and newspapers, which compared the local bay to the bay in Naples, Italy, eventually earning the Southwest Florida town the name Naples. Stories of plentiful fish and game, and a pleasant climate eventually lured a wealthy group from Kentucky to purchase Naples. Walter N. Haldeman, who owned the Louisville Courier-Journal, headed the group. Haldeman is credited with building the Naples Pier, which was originally utilized for docking ships in the Gulf of Mexico. Naples quickly became a popular destination, and was known as a winter paradise.


Barron Collier

Barron Gift Collier, a wealthy streetcar advertiser, became so infatuated with Southwest Florida that in 1911 he purchased over one million acres of unspoiled land, which included most of Naples. Barron’s first plan to create a thriving community was to construct roads and railroads. As a result, Collier County was created in 1923, and the construction of Tamiami Trail began, opening in 1928 and linking Tampa and Miami. This was the beginning of what was to come - a prosperous and thriving Southwest Florida paradise.

If you are planning to visit Naples and want to learn more about the area’s rich history, consider visiting some historic local treasures: Naples Pier, Historic Palm Cottage, Olde Naples Building, The Atlantic Coastline Depot, Naples Zoo. Should you decide to extend your stay, please contact Gulf Coast International Properties. It would be a pleasure to participate in your real estate journey.