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History Hunter – Naples, FL (2) – Transportation

Flourishing Naples – Transportation

Well, welcome back avid reader and history buff. In this second part, we will look at the introduction of transportation to Naples. And, how this contributed to the growth of Naples in the early 20th Century, by making our town accessible to the rest of the East coast.


Naples airport

Naples, FL, Airport, 1950

Built originally to be a U.S. Airforce base in 1942 during the 2nd WW. The airport was predominantly used for training. But, was returned to the City of Naples in 1947, when it was no longer deemed necessary by the Airforce.

The airport was originally managed by John Zate, a pilot and Naples resident. However, in the 1950s Provincetown-Boston Airlines began a scheduled service to Miami International Airport. Therefore, taking over the airports management at this time. However in 1969 when the Municipal Airport Authority was established they assumed the role.

In the past, the airport has also had scheduled services flying to Orlando, Tampa and Key West.

Traffic through the airport hit a high around 1980, when more than 195,000 passengers utilized the airport. However, this dropped in the mid-1980s due to the opening of Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers.

Orange Blossom Express

Orange Blossom Express

As the years progressed the town continued to boom. Aided significantly by the introduction of the Orange Blossom Express. The noise of its whistle ringing out at noon, signifying its arrival into the Naples Train Depot (still standing today). Bringing with it a new delivery of tourists. Visitors were beginning to migrate down from the cold east to Florida’s sunny climate, trying to escape the cold.. The trains service started in 1927 and continued until 1971. With the service eventually, becoming redundant with the rise of the motorcar and the creation of the Tamiami trail.

Did you know

That in 1938, the Rouse Brothers wrote their hit tune “Orange Blossom Special”. Which is based on our famous Seaboard Air Line train that brought frozen northeasterners to the magically sunny wintertime Florida . The eastern, main route of the OBS began in New York and ended in Miami (Wynn’s market website)

Tamiami Trail

Tamiami Trail, FL

The infamous Tamiami trail has been vital to the prosperity of Naples Town. The crucial road link from Tampa to Miami, was initially proposed in 1915. Which is in essence a straight road through the swampy parkland we call the Everglades.

From the offset it was a troubled project!

1919 – Lee County ran out of money and unable to complete their portion of the project. This is when the Chevelier Corporation, stepped up and offered to build a link of the highway through its holdings in Monroe County. However, this meant the road being rerouting through Monroe County. The proposal was accepted, and in 1921 construction began on the new segment of road. Today it is known as the Loop Road, and is located in The Big Cypress National Preserve.

1922 – The State of Florida ran out of construction funds for the east–west portion. Barron Collier (Collier County’s namesake) came to the rescue. Barron had already acquired millions of acres of South West Florida Wilderness, so he stumped up the rest of the cash to save the failing project. Collier County was created as a gift of thanks.

1923 – Construction started on the east–west stretch. An east–west canal was created using explosives; the fill dirt was used to construct the roadway.

1928- April 26 – The Tamiami Trail officially opened.

It took 13 years to build. Cost $8 million. AND used 2.6 million sticks of dynamite in its construction. BOOM!!!


Tamiami Trail, Florida

Interesting Naples Transport Facts

  • 5th Avenue, was once the landing strip for aviator Charles Lindberg (He had a home on Sanibel Island)
  • Visitors at the turn of the 20th C originally arrived in Naples by steamboat and were dropped off at the Naples Pier.
  • A tram took them down the pier to the Naples Beach Hotel. The street was called Pier Street
  • The infamous swamp buggy was invented by Ed Frank – owner of Naples Frank Garage (on of Naples first businesses)

Swamp Buggy 1950 naples, FL

Next Up…..

This one was short and sweet. Our third and final installment will have us discovering all the businesses that have been in Naples from the start. How we got a zoo (which is a wonderful story)

Although Naples may seem like a new town, it is a town created by brave pioneers, who were willing to forge their own little seat in paradise, it truly has been a pleasure discovering all the wonderful history.

Until next time