***Tradition credits John and Madison Weeks as Naples' first permanent residents. The brothers arrived in 1876 and settled along Gordon's Pass - named for an earlier nomad, Roger Gordon. The remote area began to attract interest during the Florida land boom of the 1880s when a group of well-heeled Tallahassee businessmen founded the Naples Town Improvement Company. The future town site was surveyed in 1886, platted the following year, and immediately offered to distant customers at the bargain price of $10 a lot.
In 1887, the Naples Town Improvement Company was reorganized under a group of prominent Kentuckians led by Mexican War hero and U.S. Senator, General John S. "Cerro Gordo" Williams. Together with newspaperman Walter N. Haldeman, the owner and publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal, they formed the Naples Company and launched an ambitious town-building program based on visions of winter tourism and future rail and sea commerce.
One of the Naples Company's first civic improvements was a 600-foot pier jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico. A wooden tramway ran along the length of the pier to deliver supplies and luggage to the newly built Naples Hotel.
By the summer of 1888, the new town of Naples consisted of a general store, post office, hotel, real estate sales office, and a seasonal population of about 80 souls. A half-dozen beach cottages had also been built, all clustered near the foot of the pier, for well-to-do northerners who had decided to treat themselves to the luxury of a winter home in Naples. Despite an optimistic start, sagging land sales and mounting construction debts collapsed the Naples Company just two years later. For the next thirty years, Naples remained a remote and private retreat for a handful of Kentucky and Ohio families who faithfully returned each season for the fabulous fishing, hunting and surf bathing.
Years of isolation began to draw to a close in the late 1920s as roads and railroads gradually penetrated the rugged Florida wilderness and finally reached as far south as Naples. The Seaboard Air Line Railway's downtown depot was still only half-built when the first passenger train - the Orange Blossom Special - steamed into Naples on January 7, 1927.
World War II introduced hundreds of servicemen to Naples when the U.S. Army Air Field was activated in December 1943 to train pilots for combat flying. City residents provided the bored airmen with movies and weekend dances at the Naples Depot and the Beach Club Hotel. The airport was returned to the city and county after the war and was dedicated as the Naples America Airport in 1953.
Much of the groundwork for Naples' impressive growth was laid after World War II. From a total of 390 people in 1930, the city's year-round population more than tripled by 1950. Aqualane Shores, Port Royal and other residential subdivisions were developed. Naples opened its first bank in 1950 and a hospital in 1956. Under the Naples Plan, citizens raised money to fund parks and civic improvements and beautified their city with palms and flowering trees.
Disaster struck on September 10, 1960, when Hurricane Donna scored a direct hit on Naples and caused over $25 million in property damage. The infusion of insurance money and low-interest loans helped Naples residents rebuild and actually reinvigorated the city's economy.
Since the 1960s, a steady increase in population and economic growth have made Naples the fastest developing community in Collier County and an even more appealing destination for seasonal visitors. Tourism and its economic benefits have surged ahead, while construction, real estate and banking have become major industries.
Isolated for decades on the fringe of Florida's last frontier, Naples today has grown into a modern and sophisticated city of over 21,000 citizens and a community of opportunity and glowing civic pride.
***Historical Information taken directly from www.colliermuseums.com. Click here to see more historical information on Naples and Collier County.