150 get peek at newly-restored Naples Depot Museum on eve of reopening

Zach Sonneborn 5 of Naples has been visting the Depot since he was one year old and was excited to see the renovated museum. The historic Naples Depot train station reopened permanently on Saturday. The train station was built in 1927 and served Naples until 1971. It was closed for nearly five years while undergoing a massive reconstruction. Photo Gary Jung

Photo by GARY JUNG // Buy this photo

Zach Sonneborn 5 of Naples has been visting the Depot since he was one year old and was excited to see the renovated museum. The historic Naples Depot train station reopened permanently on Saturday. The train station was built in 1927 and served Naples until 1971. It was closed for nearly five years while undergoing a massive reconstruction. Photo Gary Jung

Naples Depot Museum

1051 5th Avenue South, Naples, FL

— If you believe 1920s Florida was a bit of a backwater, then consider this gracious detail: When the Orange Blossom Special first rolled into the Naples Depot in January 1927, its passengers were greeted with fragrant roses and fresh oranges.

In planning a Friday night reception in advance of the grand reopening ceremony of the Naples Depot Museum on Saturday, organizers aimed to recreate this elegant bygone era.

Historical reenactors, clad in period dress, played the part of train passengers and chatted with other ceremony attendees, while bagpipers performed music, just as they did when the Orange Blossom Special made its first stop.

Even the menu received the historical treatment.

“We couldn’t have shrimp, because back then, shrimp was bait,” said Susie Litt, a member of the Collier County Museums board of directors. “No one ate shrimp. But we do have caviar.”

About 150 people attended the invitation-only ribbon-cutting event. Among those were several of the area’s community and civic leaders, including Naples Mayor Bill Barnett and Naples City Councilmen John Sorey and Doug Finlay. Also attending were Collier County Commissioners Jim Coletta, Georgia Hiller and Donna Fiala.

In his remarks, Barnett spoke about the role the Orange Blossom Special played in shaping the once-tiny Naples community.

Calling on the memories of an early Naples pioneer, Barnett described early 20th century Naples as a place of white sand beaches, palm trees and crushed shell streets — and 17 telephones. It was also a town where fishing sometimes took precedence over work.

Sorey praised the museum as an example of the county and city working together to preserve a historical asset.

“It’s a wonderful tribute to everyone who worked on it, and we’re delighted to have it in the city of Naples,” he said.

The Naples Depot Museum initially opened in 2007, but was quickly closed again for necessary repairs and renovations. The museum’s newly-designed exhibits include information about the area’s railroads, as well as historic photographs and other transportation-related artifacts, including those relating to the Calusa and Seminole cultures.

On Saturday at 9 a.m., the museum will officially re-open to the public. It is closed on Sunday. For more information, visit www.colliermuseums.com

For Nancy Webster, a volunteer in the county’s museum system, having the Naples Depot Museum open again is “magic,” she said.

“It has been closed for a long time while it was renovated,” she said. “For all of us who were asking, ‘When is it going to be reopened,’ this is a grand time.”

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