The Marco Island Historical Society groundbreaking was held Saturday, March 15 on South Heathwood Drive across from the Marco Island Library. Watch »
Big dreams are directly proportional to the money it takes to realize them.
That was the single-minded mission facing the Marco Island Historical Society, whose ongoing efforts to create a museum in the heritage-rich island enclave have just taken the first tangible steps to fruition in the form of groundbreaking.
The subject of a glowing editorial in the Naples Daily News last weekend praising the efforts of the museum’s protagonists, the $4.5 million project is expected to be completed in 2010.
The 10,000 square-foot facility will host interactive exhibits. And, as society members hope, the facility will become a home to some of the artifacts recovered from Marco Island during some of the expeditions conducted here starting in the last part of the 19th century.
In particular, the society is interested in those unearthed by Anthropologist Frank Cushing in the late 1800s.
One of the most coveted artifacts the society would like to bring home is the Key Marco Cat, the iconic carved wooden figurine discovered by Cushing in 1896.
It is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and did, in fact, make a visit to the island about five years ago amid strict security measures.
To meet the needs of some delicate artifacts, the museum will be climate controlled by a sophisticated system.
The complex will hold two buildings, linked by galleries and walkways. One of the buildings, the Living History Hall, will seat 250 people and host meetings, theatrical performances and lectures.
Currently, the society has two small museum exhibits, with one in the lobby of the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors, and another located in the Shops of Old Marco.
The museum’s construction is a huge step forward for the society, which has dedicated itself to providing a permanent home for the remnants of Marco Island’s past.
Before the March 15 groundbreaking at the museum’s site next to the Marco Island Library, M&I Bank hosted a function to present glicée paintings by local artist Stephen Muldoon to the winners of an ETC-sponsored historical quiz.
Response to the competition had been excellent, said museum capital campaign chair Betsy Perdichizzi, before conducting the draw from a bowl containing entries that had the correct answers to the quiz.
Latecomer Carol Engstrom squealed with delight when the whole crowd applauded her entrance on the upstairs terrace of M&I Bank. She was one of the quiz winners, and later picked out a Muldoon glicée print to take home.
Later, guests’ attentions were drawn to a scale model of the museum, which had been painstakingly created by historian, attorney and ardent historical society member, Craig Woodward.
Working from a stripped-down and rudimentary model, Woodward drew on some childhood experience with miniature buildings he used to create for his dad’s model railroading projects.
He worked with the main model, on weekends in a workshop at his Everglades City vacation home and on week nights at his Marco condo. It took at least three months to complete the model.
And, instead of buying components at a crafts store, for example, he decided to be as authentic as possible.
Roofs for the two main buildings, for example, he fashioned from actual Traveler’s palm fronds that he cut with an exacto knife before gluing them down and pulling up the edges to look like thatch. To create the illusion of a small lagoon on the property, he used a black base which he filled with epoxy. For grass, he used coarse powder which he sprayed with different-colored adhesives, and many the trees he made with tiny branches of real trees.
“The most time-consuming was making Fakahatchee grass,” Woodward said in between accepting compliments for his model.
He bought loose bristles, which he then wound together like a fisherman makes a lure, and then lightly touched the tops with colored paints to give them different hues.
Woodward said the model would eventually end up in the museum itself, but in the interim would “do the rounds,” first to Collier County Commissioners for a look-see, and then at various follow-up fund-raising functions.
“It’s going to get a lot of mileage,” he said.
With groundbreaking a thing of the past, Woodward said initial work at the site would involve landscaping, creating a shell mound and completing the building shells only.
“We’ll leave the interior work until we have the rest of the money. But, interjected Marion Nicolay, also an ardent island historian and Historical Society volunteer, “by that time, we should have the rest of the money.”
— Staff Writer Leslie Williams contributed to this story