Naples Beach Homes: Cottages, Castles, and the Families That Built Them, by Robert and Carole Leher. Cuddy Cove Press. 252 pages. Oversized hardcover $65.00.
This nearly five pound book is many things at once. It is a glorious homage to the spirit of Naples and the enterprise and good taste of its residents. It is a well-scribed, delightful history of the once-sleepy little Gulf Coast town. It is a huge and astounding color gallery of vintage and recent photographs and – more amazingly – paintings by Paul Arsenault, the man who could be called the painter laureate of Naples.
It is also a fundraiser, as the Lehers have determined to donate all net proceeds from the book to the Naples Historical Society.
It will be a collector’s item and, I’m sure, a popular holiday gift.
While I’m enjoying a copy from the second printing, a confident run of 2,000, I understand that a third printing has already been ordered for January delivery.
The book, which focuses on residences in two adjacent communities – Port Royal and the Gulf Shore Boulevard environs – tells and shows a story of families and generations. It’s fascinating to discover how an address has been attached to several residences, passed from one owner to another. Sometimes the successive owners have honored the original design; on other occasions they have begun anew. Changes in style and size mark the comings and goings of original builders, relative newcomers, and returnees who had left Naples but just had to come back. Or perhaps their children or grandchildren made the return.
Often, though I won’t namedrop here, we discover the prestigious accomplishments of neighborhood residents, both before and during their Naples sojourns. It’s a who’s who, to be sure. The authors do a fine job of describing distinctive, colorful personalities; capturing in words the special architectural details of note; and giving a sense not only of individual homes and families but also the larger picture of community evolution.
In fact, it’s clear that they envisioned this project as a safeguard against the disappearance of what has made these neighborhoods special. What’s special is lovingly preserved in this handsome book.
Nostalgia is mixed with an upbeat, even whimsical tone that is captured well in many of the chapter titles: “From Coconuts to Easter Eggs,” “The Friends That Made Milwaukee Famous,” “Off to the Mad House,” “Once Just a Fish Camp,” and “A Contract on a Cocktail Napkin” are invitations to charming tales packed with information. . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 9, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 10 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Naples Beach Homes