Discover the history of this area, where you can live a tropical lifestyle when you own beachfront real estate in Naples Fl or Marco Island Florida real estate.
Wetlands and Clam Shells
The Southwest Florida Gulf coast area that would become Marco Island was once a convention of wetlands divided at its center by a current meandering toward the Gulf of Mexico. One side would become the southernmost third of our Marco Island paradise. The land on the other side of the current was slowly raised above the water by clamshells, fish bones and other discarded items into mounds by the Calusa Indians, fierce warriors who wore jewelry and clothing (although very little clothing in such a warm tropical climate!). The earliest Calusa artifacts found on Marco Island have been dated to as early as 4000 BC.
Mounds and mounds of shells
The Calusa, who may have descended from the Mayans, were accomplished fishermen and artisans. They made brightly painted clay masks to resemble animals, and carefully wove fishing nets. Crafty and intelligent woodworkers, they constructed canoes, beams and planks for their houses, docks, and piers. In order to raise their homes above water level in low-lying areas, the Calusa built giant mounds using millions of discarded fish and clamshells. The mounds provided protection from fierce winds that blew off the Gulf of Mexico, and were also used as religious temples and burial sites. Many of these ancient mounds can be seen in what is today the Indian Hills area of the island, still the highest area in Collier County.
Mystical, Magical, Miraculous Marco
Legend has it that the Calusa were drawn to the island for its tropical, sheltered, almost mystical environment; where storm clouds billowing toward land appeared to suddenly veer off in another direction. While it’s likely that conditions were just right for uninhabited barrier lands to deflect these high winds, Marco Island may have seemed a sacred place to these first residents of Marco Island.
Key Marco Cat
Calusa artifacts can be seen in various establishments around the world. One famous woodcarving of a half-man, half-panther is about six inches high and dates to 500-800 A.D. “Captain Bill” Collier discovered it on Marco Island in 1896 as he dug in the mucky soil seeking fertilizer for his garden. The woodcarving became known as the Key Marco Cat, and today is widely recognized as the symbol of the Calusa Indians. The original cat is part of the collection at the National Museum of Natural History, but you can see a tiny bejeweled reproduction by clicking here
War, Disease, Death
During the1500s, Spanish explorers led by Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in Florida and happened upon our remote island. They christened it La Isla de San Marco (the island of St. Mark). War broke out between the Spanish and the natives, but Spain could not conquer the fierce Calusa with weapons alone. In the end, the Calusa were defeated by a combination of war and disease carried from across the Atlantic. The Calusa were completely wiped out by the mid 1700s.
For the next 100 years there were very few people living on La Isla de San Marco, whose name was eventually shortened to Marco Island. It was not until 1870, when Tennessee pioneer W.T. Collier brought his wife and nine children to Marco Island that the island once again began to show signs of life. W.T. Collier’s son, William D. “Captain Bill” Collier, opened a 20-room hotel in 1896 that is today known as Olde Marco Inn.
Live, Work, and Play 365 Days a Year
In the early 1960’s Marco Island was largely an isolated, undeveloped little island. The only way to reach it was by a narrow, wooden, hand-operated swinging bridge. All of that changed when the last of the Marco Island Florida real estate, once owned by both Collier families, was sold to the Deltona Development Corporation for the paltry sum, considering the Marco Island real estate property values today, of only 7 million dollars. Corporation owners, brothers Elliott, Robert, and Frank Mackle, set out to create a resort island where people could “live, work, and play 365 days a year.”
The “Hawaii of the East”
When the Mackle Brothers began development, construction materials had to be transferred from large trucks to smaller ones in order to cross the old wooden swinging bridge without toppling it. Canals were dredged to create waterfront home sites and an advertising campaign implemented to let the world about Marco Island’s "Grand Opening" in January 1965. According to Bill Schiller in The Maturing of Marco Island, September/October 2004 issue Marco Beach Ocean Resort newsmagazine, more than 25,000 people attended the island's debut, and home sites and condominium residences began selling rapidly. People from all walks of life were drawn to what was being referred to as the "Hawaii of the East.” A beachfront hotel lured guests onto the sandy, clean and pristine beaches of Marco, while those wishing to own a piece of paradise on the island’s eastern shore bought affordable Florida-style housing. Soon a bridge was built to provide easier access to the island and today two bridges service Marco Island to the mainland.
Exquisite Island Community
People continued to flock to Marco throughout the 1970s, and this quaint relatively unknown part of Florida evolved into an exquisite island community. Marco Island had been transformed into a plush resort on a crescent-shaped, white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico. And if all that wasn’t enough, since becoming incorporated as a City in 1999, Marco Island real estate has been booming. Today it is a well-established fact that Marco Island is a first-class resort island; a unique place where millionaires sit among fishermen to discuss the incredible fishing that can be had any time of the year.
Widespread development has brought multimillion-dollar homes and condominiums, four-star resort hotel complexes, stores catering to all tastes and styles and a truly delightful assortment of restaurants. Marco Islanders, like the citizens of any precious community, take pride in their island. This little Florida island has shaped into a true island paradise.
Work with a REALTOR® who knows the history of this area as well as what's happening in today's real estate market. Ready to buy or sell beachfront real estate in Naples Fl or Marco Island Florida real estate? Contact Lisa Gandy today!