The Ivey House
The earliest settlers known to inhabit the area around Everglades City and neighboring Chokoloskee were Calusa Indians, whose civilization flourished in the Southwest Florida area 2,000 years ago. The first modern day settler to Everglades City came in 1868. In 1889, George Storter, Jr. of Alabama bought the area for $800. By 1920, the town was still a small fishing village. Then, in 1923, Barron G. Collier, a New York advertising industry millionaire, began buying land in what would later become Collier County. It became apparent that a road was needed for travel between Tampa and Miami, and Everglades City, due to its location, became the center of the Tamiami Trail road building project - turning the sleepy fishing village into a boomtown. When the federal government ran into delays, Barron Collier offered to finish the road through the Everglades cypress swamps in return for the new County being named after him. The Tamiami Trail was opened to great fanfare in 1928, and has just celebrated its 75th anniversary.
Everglades City, known in those days as Everglade, served as the County seat of Collier County. County offices were moved to Naples in 1961 after the devastating effects of Hurricane Donna, which struck in 1960, took their toll on the town. The town's name was changed to Everglades City in 1953 at the time of incorporation.
The Storter family home became the Rod & Gun Club in 1925, a gathering
Historic Smallwood Store in nearby Chokoloskee
place for hunting and fishing enthusiasts - many of them famous, including Ernest Hemingway and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Rod & Gun Club
is still run as a lodge and restaurant today.
Several of the buildings from this historic era are in use today. The town's old laundry building now houses the Museum of the Everglades
, a showcase for the history of the Everglades region - open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The town's bank now houses a day spa and rooming house, and the old recreation center is now part of the Ivey House B & B
On neighboring Chokoloskee Island, the Historic Smallwood Store Museum
recreates the actual trading post, store and post office that opened there in 1906, serving the Native Americans and pioneers who made their living from hunting, fishing and faming in the wild areas of the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands. The Smallwood Store Museum is open seven days a week from December through May from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays from May through November. This museum features an extensive collection of books, including Killing Mr. Watson
, the first in a well-known trilogy of novels by author Peter Mathiessen on the story of Ed Watson, an infamous Ten Thousand Islands resident who was gunned down at the store by townspeople after rumors of murders and other ill deeds.