Collier hopes to preserve history of tourism, fishing industry in Goodland via restoration of cottages
Collier County is working toward preserving its roots in the tourism and fishing industries by trying to restoring three historic cottages in Goodland.
County commissioners approved the submittal of a grant application to the State Division of Historical Resources for restoration of the cottages at Mar-Good Harbor Park.
The total project cost is $522,952. The grant amount from the state is $261,476 and requires a 100% match of $261,476 from the county. Matching funds have already been identified in the county budget, according to the county.
The cottages were built in the 1920s at Caxambas on the south side of Marco Island and were owned by a business called Kelly Gantt's Fish Camp, said Collier County Museum Director Amanda Townsend.
They were used as short-term rentals for tourists coming to the area to fish, then were re-located to their current location in Goodland in the 1950s, Townsend said.
“Once they were moved, they were continued to be used for a tourist camp, fish camp kind of thing,” Townsend said. “Many buildings were relocated from Caxambas and Marco Island to Goodland at the time.”
The last time the cottages were used was the early 2000s, she said.
“They were still being used as short-term rentals," Townsend said. “That’s 80 years of continuous use as just a little place to lay your head after you fished all day. It’s pretty amazing.”
The cottages, located on the west side of the park in Goodland, are now boarded up. Rotted wood can be spotted on the exterior of some parts of the building, white paint has begun to chip and the cistern on site is not currently functional.
An architect has already drawn up plans to restore the cottages with money the county received from Division of Historical Resources Small Matching Grant in 2020.
The most recent grant was submitted in hopes of paying for the architect's plans and moving forward with the restoration process, Townsend said.
In late September, the Florida Historical Commission will have a public hearing and will create a ranked list of projects across the state.
It is then up to the state Legislature, which appropriates a certain amount of funding that varies each year toward the projects. This means county officials will have to wait until spring 2022 to learn if the cottage restoration project will be funded through the grant, Townsend said.
"It's painful to see the elements take their toll on the structures while you are working on putting the funding in place,” Townsend said. “Sometimes it takes a few years, but I think persistence gets rewarded. If we are not funded, we will probably re-submit the application again next year."
If the project is funded, work will include demolition of one of the cottages that does not have the same historic value as the other three, Townsend said.
The cottage will be replaced with an open-air pavilion, while exterior restoration of the three other cottages will take place. The foundations of the cottages will be stabilized, siding and roofing on the buildings will be replaced, the windows will be repaired and all of the cottages will be repainted.
A raised walkway between the cottages will be built so that they are ADA accessible. One of the interiors of the cottages will be restored so that visitors will be allowed inside.
“I'm imagining it will be kind of staged as what a fishing cottage would have been like if you would have come here and stayed in one in the 1920s,” Townsend said. “To keep the project cost down for now, the other two cottages will be exterior renovations only.”
The Marco Island Historic Society plans to donate $20,000 in cash and $5,000 in in-kind donations to the project if it moves forward. In-kind services will include providing research, sourcing images and writing copy for interpretive signs, according to the county.
"We share the same piece of ground with Goodland," said Patricia Rutledge, CEO of the Marco Island Historical Society. "Their history is our history. It makes sense for us to be a part of this because of our mission to preserve and share the history and heritage of Marco Island and the surrounding communities."
If the restoration project moves forward, Rutledge said it will give Goodland residents a place to remember the history of their home.
"While Goodland itself is historic, there isn't really a place where people can actually experience the stories of the past there," Rutledge said. "Those cottages would give that to visitors and provide residents a sense of where they have come from."
The restoration of the cottages is also important in preserving Collier County’s overall history, Townsend said.
“They have a pretty cool story to tell about the very, very early beginnings of what now is our amazing, booming tourist economy,” Townsend said. “People were willing to come and stay in an 8X10 building with no electricity and water from a cistern so that they could fish in our absolutely amazing environment.”
Mar-Good Harbor Park, where the cottages are located, was purchased by the county in 2005 through a Florida Communities Trust reimbursement grant.
The park has been developed with a community building, playground, canoe/kayak launch, pathways and pavilions, and other recreational amenities and is operated by the Parks and Recreation Division of the county.
The cottages represent Collier’s roots in the tourism industry, Townsend said.
"It's kind of a testament to our natural resources here,” Townsend said. “Often now we think of taking a vacation as being an opportunity to participate in more luxury than our daily lives. When the cottages were built, it was the opposite. People were willing to rough it a little bit to access the natural environment here.”