September 3, 2021
Marco Island is the largest and northernmost of Florida's Ten Thousand Islands. It is about 28 miles south of Naples.
For many years it was inhabited by the fierce Calusa Indians. The first white settlers were W. T. Collier, his wife and their 9 children. They came to the island in 1870.
In 1896, W. T. Collier's son, Captain Bill Collier, opened a 20 room hotel which still stands today, the Olde Marco Inn.
This is not the same Collier family as the one that developed Everglades City and much of southwest Florida. That was Barron G. Collier.
Marco's early history was very quiet, but from 1908 to 1947 the Doxsee Clam Company was the biggest industry on the island. The company harvested, steamed and canned clams from the waters around Marco Island until the clam beds were exhausted.
The trailer park shown in the picture above was owned by the Doxsee family.
After the clam cannery closed, Barron Collier bought most of the island from the other Collier family. There was almost no development on Marco Island.
The quiet isolation of Marco Island changed in 1964 when the Deltona Corporation, headed by the Mackle Brothers, bought the island.
They began to develop the entire island as a beachfront resort and residential community laced with an network of dredged canals.
The mangroves were removed from much of the island, and canals were dredged and the material used to create lots.
Much of this work was done before people had developed a complete understanding of the environmental damage that would be caused by mangrove removal.
It was a very successful project, financially, in spite of some major permitting problems, and waterfront lots and homes were sold to eager buyers all over the world on the installment basis.
The 50 room Marco Island Hotel was one of the nicest in southwest Florida when it was built in 1965 at the same time the Marco Island community was officially opened.
Marco Island is now a modern place with some of the nicest condos, hotels, and restaurants in the state.
From a quiet fishing village of 550 people in 1960, it has grown to a major city with a population of 16,000.
Cape Romano is in the Ten Thousand Island a few miles south of Marco Island. It the site of some strange structures that still fascinate visitors to the area.
The domed structures sitting on stilts about 300 feet from the shore were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s what was then dry land on Cape Romano.
Erosion of the land over the years has resulted in these domes sitting isolated over the water.
The domes were originally designed and built by Bob Lee to be his vacation home. The family finally abandoned the home in 1992 after it was damaged by Hurricane Andrew.
It was then bought by John Tosto from Naples who hoped to move it back to dry land and renovate it.
He encountered the combined resistance of local, state, and federal regulatory agencies and had to give up the project.
The State of Florida now owns the home. Two of the domes have collapsed during subsequent hurricanes. Now that the state owns the structures, their fate is uncertain.