If it were a Nancy Drew story, it could be called "The Secrets of the Sandwich Shop."
But even the girl detective herself might be bewildered by all the mysteries contained within the very ordinary-looking building at the corner of Third Street South and Broad Avenue South.
Known as the Olde Naples Building, the structure was completed in 1921. Since then, it has housed an array of Neapolitan necessities, including serving as the first town hall, City Council chambers and courthouse. It also takes the honor as Naples' first pharmacy, playhouse, library, movie theater, post office, real estate office, doctor's office and church. Most recently, it was home to Fantozzi's, a popular grocery and sandwich shop.
Now, it's undergoing a historical renovation to restore as much as of the building as possible to its original condition. The restoration also aims to create a gateway to the historic district and add value to the building and the surrounding area.
Jon Kukk, AIA and president of Kukk Architecture and Design, P.A., was tapped to work on the restoration project. Also chosen was Tampa's Stephanie Ferrell, FAIA, a historical consultant with experience in similar types of projects.
Kukk described the Olde Naples Building as "pretty special," not only as a witness to more than nine decades of local history, but for the restoration puzzle it posed. Through the years, a variety of tenants have occupied the space, and each has left their mark, tweaking, twisting and adjusting the original space to fit their needs.
The result was a restoration knot for Kukk and his team to unravel.
"When we found it, it was hard to see the original layout and form of the spaces," Kukk said. "For example, when we first went in there, we didn't know it was a large, full-height space in the middle."
That full-height space had been closed off, making what started as a one-story building with a high, 20-foot ceiling, into a two-story building. The building's interior has since been returned to its original, open plan, much as it would have been when the first Naples City Council meeting was held there in the 1920s.
Returning the building to a one-story layout was only one of the structural changes Kukk and his team confronted. For example, walls had been moved, or columns cut into to make cosmetic changes to satisfy previous tenants. As part of the restoration, these past alterations have been rectified to return the building to structural integrity, Kukk explained.
Then there were the termites.
In truth, they were not as bad as one might imagine for 91-year-old wood building. Built by the Naples Company, the Olde Naples Building was constructed of hard pine, a wood that termites tend to avoid. But subsequent human inhabitants of the building made their additions in woods that termites adore, and these areas were rotted away. Kukk jokes that the termites were using the original hard pine "as a highway to get around" to their preferred dining spots.
Ultimately, to restore a building of this age, the process had to be one of "selective demolition," Kukk said.
"You want to peel a layer off and look at what the next layer is, not just knock the wall down," he explained.
In doing so, more secrets rose to the surface. One of the most exciting for Kukk's team was finding the old movie theater projection room and silver screen. At some point in the past, another tenant had cut into the silver screen and damaged it, but some part of it still remained. The projectionist's room was just a small space, wrapped in tin. It was located directly behind where the words "Olde Naples Building" appeared on the outside of the structure.
At present, Kukk's team is continuing to return the exterior to its original condition, peeling away the stucco that had been slathered over the top of the original siding. The ground floor exterior restoration has been completed, and the trim and cupola restored. A new metal roof has been added as well. Inside, a fire alarm, sprinkler system and air conditioning have been installed.
Elaine Reed, executive director of the Naples Historical Society, praised the project and the property's owners, the Camalier family, for their dedication to the complicated restoration project.
In a community such as Naples, which has experienced a swift population growth, it's often difficult to maintain a high level of historic charm, she noted. Restoration of buildings such as the Olde Naples Building help keep that connection to the past.
"People have come down here for decades because of the charm and ambiance that the Naples Historic District exudes," she said.
Once it's completed, the Olde Naples Building may once again welcome a tenant, but Reed hopes it's a very different tenant for a very different building.
"My hope is that whatever moves in has a distinct appreciation for what once was," she said.