Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holidays at the Rod and Gun Club!






When I was growing up in Miami, we always used to go at some point during the Christmas holidays to the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City for a day or two to enjoy the cool weather on the west coast of Florida, eat stone crabs and do a little boating through the Thousand Islands. In later years my best friend in High School and I used to organize an improptu day-long rally down Alligator Alley, with lunch at the Club, usually punctuated by someone's old british roadster breaking down along the way! It's amazing but this bit of Florida history is still around and kicking after all these years. Still as lovely as ever and great fun to visit. Less than a 2 hour trip from Miami, I am surprised so many Miamians either don't know the place or have never been to it. Everglades City was a pretty ramshackle town of the kind you saw many of in the old days. While its been somewhat modernized, it still retains that old Florida Cracker style and look.



Prior to 1923, Everglades City was called Everglade, a name given the settlement along the crooked little Allen's River in 1893 by Bembery Storter after the U.S. Post Office refused the request for the name Chokoloskee, which is now the name of an old outpost just to the south at the western entrance to Everglades National Park. Flamingo, the third of the old original towns, still marking the end of the main park road, is now a park community with a campground, ranger station, marina and lodge. Farming was the primary occupation of people living in the area and included sugarcane, bananas, and vegetables. George T. Storter is considered the true founder of the town. He and his family were prominent in Everglade's growth and activities and owned much of the land around the town until the arrival of Baron Collier in 1923. It was under the Storter stewardship that the Everglade began to draw visitors and sportsmen. The Rod and Gun Club was built around the Storter home.




Barron Collier is primarily responsible for the foundation of Everglades City as you see it today. In 1923 he and his company purchased most of the land in and surrounding the town. Within five years the sleepy trading post and farming community was converted into a bustling industrial-based company town replete with roads, a railroad, a bank, a telephone, sawmills, a boatyard, churches, a school, workers' barracks and mess halls, and even its own streetcar at one time. It served as the county seat of Collier County until 1960, when prosperity waned and county offices were moved to Naples. Neighboring Chokoloskee did not have a road until a causeway was built from the mainland in 1956.

8 comments:

Maria said...

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Dave said...

Maria: Feel free to link it to your blog. Regards, Dave

FerfeLaBat said...

My husband loves that place. They only take cash or checks, no credit cards.

Dave said...

Ferfelabat: Thanks for that comment! I forgot to mention they only take cash or checks and it could have been a nasty surprise for a new visitor. I guess your husband is like me. We are attracted to funky places!

FerfeLaBat said...

You make it sound so safe and charming. Everglades City (like the Keys) has a very interesting smuggling history. At some point in the eighties, evey man woman and child there was arrested for drug smuggling .. hopefully during the off season. It's not open year round is it?

Dave said...

Ferfe: I didn't know about the drug smuggling in the 80's, but EC has a tawdry history since it was first established. As an old timer there told me, half the folks were fishermen and hunters and the other half were smugglers and poachers. It makes sense as the 1000 Islands is perfect for hiding away from prying eyes. About 10 years ago I discovered a set of stories about EC in the 40's and 50's on the internet written by someone at the University of Miami. They were wonderful. This person had been the Game Warden at EC in that era. Unfortunately, I never saved them and now I cannot find them. It was like reading a set of Faulkner short stories.

MYLES O'STOOLEY said...

I have been to EC for the sole purpose of eating gator tail. That old wooden restaurant which sits on the water is quite a nice place..The city is also very interesting as some houses are on stilts and others seem to be built from a time long past...and did I mention the skunkape research facility is on HW 41 just before EC?

Intertainment said...
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