Elements of Urbanism: Naples

December 10, 2012 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville heads to rapidly growing Southwest Florida to visit Naples' 5th Avenue.

About Naples

Naples is a city in Collier County, Florida. As of July 1, 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population at 21,653. Naples is a principal city of the Naples–Marco Island Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated total population of 315,839 on July 1, 2007.

Naples was founded during the late 1880s by former Confederate general and Kentucky U.S. Senator John Stuart Williams and his partner, Louisville businessman Walter N. Haldeman, the publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal. Throughout the 1870s and '80s, magazine and newspaper stories telling of the area's mild climate and abundant fish and game likened it to the sunny Italian peninsula. The name Naples caught on when promoters described the bay as "surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy". Major development was anticipated after the railroad reached Naples on January 7, 1927 and the Tamiami Trail linking Naples to Miami was completed in 1928; but did not begin until after the Great Depression and World War II. During the war the Army Air Force built a small air field and used it for training purposes; it is now the Naples Municipal Airport.

Tin City

Tin City, a 1920's clam shelling and oyster processing plant converted into 40 boutiques and restaurants, anchors the downtown waterfront.  Despite the conversion, the Gordon River is still a working waterfront with beehive of activity.

Area waterways were the birthplace of Naples, the catalyst for growth in this place we call paradise.

Thousands of years of oyster and clam shell deposits laid a foundation for our first known inhabitants – the Calusa Indians. In the 1500s they were the area’s first shellers and fishermen.

In the late 1860s a few hearty pioneers, Roger Gordon and Joe Wiggins, ventured in by boat before the Civil War and set aside their nomadic ways and built camps to serve the needs of travelers and settlers. Today, two key waterways still bear their names – Gordon Pass and Wiggins Pass.

By the 1880s, news of the waterfront’s beauty began to draw wealthy tourists and investors and in 1886 “Naples” was founded. In those days passengers had to disembark at Back Bay, now called Crayton Cove.

In 1887, a group of wealthy Kentuckians, led by Walter N. Haldeman, worked to make access more convenient. They built a pier 600 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. Soon after, Naples became a winter playground for industrialists and celebrities including Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper and Hedy Lamarr.

In the 1920s Tin City’s tin roofed buildings were the hub of economic development and transport which was made possible by the construction of the Seaboard Airline Railroad. As a result, this stretch of the Gordon River became the heart of Naples’ fishing industry, including clam shelling, oyster processing, boat construction and maintenance operations.

In the 1970s, seven of Tin City’s sturdy old buildings were transformed to become “The Old Marine Marketplace at Tin City” – a colorful maritime-mix of shops and eateries.

Today, Tin City still holds its historic, old Florida charm, and is home to over thirty unique boutiques, two waterfront restaurants and a variety of water and boating adventures that are fun for all ages!

Naples Depot Civic and Cultural Center

The Naples Depot Museum is housed in the city's former Seaboard Air Line Railway passenger station. The station opened in 1927, the year the railroad was extended from Arcadia and Fort Myers to Naples. The last train to leave Naples was in 1971 when the service was discontinued.

Long hidden on the fringe of Florida's Gulf coast and overlooked by developers until well into the 1880s, Naples' catalyst for settlement finally arrived forty years later when two rival railroads rolled into town within ten days of each other.

Set in Naples' restored Seaboard Air Line Railway passenger station, the Naples Depot Museum welcomes visitors back to the railroading boom days of the Roaring Twenties and explains how generations of Southwest Floridians used technology and transportation to conquer a vast and seemingly impenetrable frontier.

Seminole dugout canoes, a mule wagon, antique swamp buggy, restored rail cars and exciting interactive exhibits tell the story of how trade and travel transformed Naples from a napping village of 300 souls into today's glittering Gulf coast resort.

The Naples Depot Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is conveniently located in downtown Naples.

Cambier Park

Cambier Park is the largest green space in downtown Naples.  Amenities include the Von Liebig Art Center, tennis courts, a ballpark, and playground.

Fifth Avenue South

Fifth Avenue South is Naples' Main Street and is filled with businesses ranging from fashion boutique shops, gourmet restaurants, cafes coffee and ice cream shops, delicatessens, European and American antique stores, traditional and contemporary art galleries, gift stores, jewelers, home furnishing and design showrooms, beauty salons, hotels, financial houses, bookstores, apartments, realtors, travel agencies, banks, a famous family food market, neighborhood pharmacy and professional offices. It has become a popular place for visitors and residents alike to stroll along the freshly landscaped promenades and enjoy sidewalk dining.

Photo tour by Ennis Davis