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Overview of Naples Historical Society, Inc.
FEIN:  59-6166907

23 August 2017

Organizational Overview

Naples Historical Society, Inc. is a local 501c3 nonprofit organization that was established in 1962 (formerly known as the Collier County Historical Society, Inc.).  Naples Historical Society, Inc. is our operational entity.  We also have Naples Historical Society Foundation, Inc.

The Foundation, also a 501c3, and was established in 2009 with a separate Federal Employment Identification Number (FEIN) to house endowment funds.  This corporation is for those who choose to contribute with a current gift, a pledge or through planned giving to the Mary S. Smith Chairman’s Council.  We have a solid endowment policy, and it is available upon request.  The Board of Directors is the same for both Florida nonprofit corporations.

The Society’s mission is to preserve Naples history and heritage for the community and future generations to enjoy.  The strategy we employ to accomplish our mission is through the efficient production of ten (10) educational programs and five (5) preservation initiatives (see also What Do We Do?). 

The Society’s flagship asset is also its Educational Headquarters -- Historic Palm Cottage™.  This 3,500 sq ft house-turned museum (which is Naples oldest house , built in 1895) is listed as a Landmark in the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 1982).  The Cottage serves as a portal for tens of thousands of children, residents and visitors alike to appreciate and learn about Naples history. 

A ½-acre property adjacent to the Cottage is a lovely garden, The Norris Gardens at Palm Cottage.  This property was acquired in 2004 to protect the scale and charm of the Cottage and to prevent a parking lot or other construction inconsistent with the presence of Historic Palm Cottage.  The Norris Gardens at Palm Cottage serves to tell the story of Naples history through the lens of a garden. 

Administration & Archives, also referred to as 107 Broad, is located in another 3,500 sq ft contributing structure located ½-block north of the Cottage.  This 2011 acquisition was made for three reasons: (a) to preserve an historic property, (b) to facilitate staff expansion, and (c) to pursue an Archival Development Project. 


Over the last 50 years, the Society worked toward accomplishment AND experienced austere complications (Society-driven and market induced). 

It’s been a challenge to save historic houses, a prominent community expectation, due to many reasons.  Those include but are not limited to:  an 11,000% increase in the county’s population since the 1960s, a dramatic rise in the real property market, strong public opposition to preservation ordinance mandates, a lack of ‘tools’ needed (financial support and adequate professional leadership) to engage in historic preservation, and more.  All of this ultimately caused total frustration in the community, and as a result, a general apathy for historic preservation emerged. 

By 2002, the organization had declined to the point where its very survival was in question. Amidst all the apathy and frustration, Donald P. Wingard, seeing that the Society and the Cottage were failing, willingly stepped into the picture in 2002 to stop the hemorrhage and begin to restore public confidence.

In 2007, the Society hired Elaine L. Reed, now serving as President & CEO, who recognized a need to define and create an organizational infrastructure (Board and staff) that had long-term value to the community; build the Society and its brand; re-align its mission; generate greater community credibility with relevant preservation initiatives; assess, build and evaluate program; and demonstrate this through educational impact and community approval.  Accomplishing this with two staff and a small budget was a perennial challenge.  

In 2011, Mary S. Smith became the Society’s Board Chair and with unprecedented charitable support, facilitated substantial organizational growth.   With her endorsement and backing, the Society was able to expand staffing in order to deliver consistent, meaningful programming to the community.  As a result, additional staff facilitated the exploration of other initiatives, including the Naples Historic District Initiative. 

Naples Historical Society has re-built its reputation as a credible non-profit that is fiscally sensible, strategically sound, organizationally strong, and community supported. 

Our program and tour numbers are all excellent; we have built infrastructure for lasting sustainability, and we have $5.7MM in the endowment thus far.  We have a Board-approved 10-year plan (to 2027), plus a capital maintenance budget to 2030.  We have NO debt of any kind. 

To learn more about these statements and this project, we encourage you to visit Naples Historical Society’s website, www.NaplesHistoricalSociety.org, and click on Naples Historic District to find a plethora of information on this project.  Comments or questions are always welcome. 

The community embraces our work, and history is an ever-present conversation in Naples now.  In short, we are now known as the Central Voice of Naples History. 

It Takes a Community to Preserve One!

Production is a broad-based term that refers to the assessment, research, creation, implementation, servicing and evaluation of our initiatives and programs.

Historic Palm Cottage was the second oldest house, but after the oldest house (1885) was moved outside of Collier County, the Cottage acquired the title of “oldest.”


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