On the edge of the swamp: Everglades City, Florida

Atlantic Coast Railroad depot: 1928-1956, now a restaurant

St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565, is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States.  Nonetheless, portions of Florida were still wilderness into the twentieth century.

In 1912, C. G. McKinney, a  Chokoloskee island store owner, wrote complaining that two letters sent to him went to Everglade [now Everglades City] despite the fact that Chocoloskee was bigger.  Chokoloskee had ten families and two businesses.  Ted Smallwood ran the other.

Chocoloskee was an island; Everglade wasn’t. So in 1923 when Collier County was carved from Lee County to the north, Everglade was made its county seat.

A gator greets diners in the old railroad depot.

Hunters, fishermen and wanderers came though the area in the early 1800s.  Seminoles were said to have planted potatoes along what is now the Allen River.  Conflicts between the groups led to the Seminole Wars throughout Florida.  In one of the last battles, an Army surveying crew destroyed a Seminole plantation west of Everglade in 1855.  Eventually, almost all Seminoles were forced to move to Oklahoma with just a few fleeing into the Everglades Swamp where their descendants live to this day.

I enjoyed a great home-made black bean gumbo.

Barron Collier, who made a fortune in advertising, began buying millions of acres of Southwest Florida land in 1922.  In return for the creation of a county in his name, he agreed to finance the completion of the Tamiami Trail begun in 1915 from Tampa to Miami.  Naturally, the road would run through his land.

Everglade [as it was known then] was a company town and the headquarters for the construction of the new highway through the swamp.  Canals were dynamited and dredged along the road, and the fill was used for the roadbed.

1928 courthouse

Barron Collier gave the money for construction of many of the buildings in town and promoted a highway and railroad to Immokalee to the north.

The railroad depot was used in the 1957 film Wind across the Everglades starring Burl Ives and The Sound of Music’s Christopher Plummer.

Everglade became Everglades City in 1953.  The county seat was moved to Naples in 1962.  Today, the population has fallen to about 400 people.  But it still retains an “old Florida” flavor.  People hunt, fish and boat.  But today’s boats are more likely to be kayaks than “gator boats,” and most of the fishermen are tourists.  Everglades City proclaims itself the “Stone Crab Capital of the World.”

Nearby is the Gulf Coast Visitor Center for Everglades National Park.  It is the entrance to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Reserve, an environment very different from the rest of the park.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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5 Responses to On the edge of the swamp: Everglades City, Florida

  1. Have you guys ever written, or thought of writing a literary travel book abut Florida? If not, I think you should. You have this almost Theroux-like gift for making even the most mundane details genuinely interesting and enriching. Before I began following your blog (and even despite my wife’s oft’ repeated happy recollections of her visits to the state as a young woman) Florida was way down the list of US states I’d planned on visiting. But thanks to this site, it’s moved way up to near the top. I’m sure you could interest an agent or a publisher if you were so inclined?

    Liked by 2 people

    • ralietravels says:

      Thank you. You are very kind. I probably am a better writer than I am a painter, but I am devoting my energy to painting at this time.
      If you do come this way, one possibility would be to go to my site and just search for all the articles on Florida. That is probably easier than using the alphabetical index which is not sorted by state.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dee Gilbert says:

    I had been to Saint Augustine twice. It’s a charming place that I would love to visit again. I am making a note to explore Everglades City for when hubby and I get the chance. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JohnRH says:

    Great pix and fascinating, informative recount. Our friend in Sarasota said it hit 100 there in the last day or so. We had up to 30+ inches of snow in Colorado yesterday, only 4+ in our own Denver suburb. Now about that house swap…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Keith & Loraine Beckman says:

    Beautiful scenery and good history. Sure loved the architecture of the time. I would hate to live in one of those places. It would be clean from Monday – Saturday and rest on sunday but it is beautiful anyway. Hugs Loraine

    Liked by 1 person

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