Marco Island: Florida’s Gulf Playground, by Michael Coleman. Marco Island Ink. 110 pages. $25.00.
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the “new” Marco Island, Michael Coleman has assembled an attractive volume that blends history, colorful personalities, the island’s many attractions, and a generous assortment of color photographs illustrating the natural and manmade beauties of the place named by TripAdvisor as the number one U. S. island travel destination.
A foreword by Herbert Rosser Savage, the distinguished architect of many of Marco’s private homes and public buildings as well as the Marco Beach Hotel (refashioned as today’s Marriot), sets the book’s buoyant tone and previews some of its key stories. Mr. Colman’s own prefatory note provides brief biographical notes on his contributors and offers thanks to many others, include the Marco Island Historical Society, for making the book possible. His overview whets the appetite for the essays to come.
Readers will enjoy learning about the native Calusa Indians, the Spanish settlers vanquished by diseases, and Marco’s early development in the last half of the eighteenth century. William Thomas (W. T.) Collier, known as the founder of Marco Island, settled there in 1870 with his wife and young children. This Collier (no relation to the Barron Gift Colliers) was a successful entrepreneur. He farmed, opened a hotel, helped start the first school, and invented a clam-dredging machine that launched a successful industry. For a short while, the island was named Collier City in his honor.
Just as interesting are the vignettes about Tommie Barfield, who successfully lobbied for better roads and schools in the area and worked with Barron Gift Collier, the major landholder, to split off huge Collier County from Lee County. She was a dynamic, forceful woman who received the governor’s appointment to be the new county’s first Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Remember that we are talking about a mosquito-infested frontier whose pioneers needed great resolve. The doctors Louis and Mary Olds were among those pioneers. A delicious chapter of the book is Betsy Perdichizzi’s incorporation of sections from Mary’s diary and letters into a fascinating narrative of early twentieth century Marco life. Mary’s poetic wonder at the area’s natural beauty leaves us wanting more.
The big story, of course, is the Mackle Brothers’ dream of a tropical residential wonderland. This experienced team of developers was smitten with the possibilities of a spectacular island community with affordable residential sections, mostly on canals; hotels and other resort amenities; and spectacular beaches. They aimed not at vacationers, but rather at retirees.
The scale of the proposed enterprise demanded extensive infrastructure work.
The brothers advertised widely and well, and they received a lot of interest across the nation. Magazines and newspapers ran feature stories about the mecca-in-the-making. Models were build and a five-phase plan developed. People were ready to purchase. And they did. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 1, 2015 Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Marco