Peek into Naples’ past at the Collier County Museum

Collier county museum naples
(photo: Collier County Museum)

You don’t need to go far from the heart of Naples to get a feel for the city’s rich history.

The main Collier County Museum is just off Tamiami Trail, right behind the high-rise County Courthouse in East Naples. The 5-acre museum has plenty — indoor and outdoor — to interest everyone in the family.

The main museum building has elaborate displays on prehistorical plants and animals, ancient and recent Native American populations and the lives of the Collier County pioneers. We thought we knew Naples pretty well, but we were astonished to discover the story of Naples’ vanished clamming industry and hear about Naples’ foray into the oil business in the 1930s. (After more than a decade of drilling in Collier County, a company struck oil in 1943. The well, 12 miles south of Immokalee, eventually produced about 20 barrels of oil a day.)

Baldwin locomotive Naples
(photo: Collier County Museum)

The museum grounds include a restored 1926 cottage (the Clark House), an archeology laboratory, and a recreated Seminole village. The cottage dates from the Roaring Twenties — a time when Naples’ year-round population was all of 300 people. In the cottage you’ll find a display of items from Rudy’s, Naples first restaurant, where you could get a full meal, featuring fried mullet, chicken, or beef, for all of 50 cents. The museum grounds also has the Baldwin locomotive (circa 1910) that was used to transport the lumberjacks who logged the county’s cypress forests.

Through June 30, the museum hosts a display of works by artists Guy Labree and Brian and Pedro Zepeda.

The Collier County Museum is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (except for national and county holidays).