Naples Historical Society
Naples Historical Society, Inc., widely recognized as the Central Voice of Naples History, is a local 501c3 nonprofit organization that was established in 1962.
The mission of Naples Historical Society is to preserve Naples history and heritage for the community and future generations to enjoy.
We also own Naples Historical Society Foundation, Inc. The Foundation, also a 501c3, was established in 2009 with a separate Federal Employment Identification Number (FEIN) to house and grow endowment funds. These funds help to support the Society’s vast array of initiatives and programs. The Board of Directors is the same for both entities.
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 the portal to Naples history and is enjoyed by tens of thousands of children, residents and visitors alike every year. All of our educational programs and events are held at Historic Palm Cottage: 137 12th Avenue South.
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 beautifully complements the Cottage because it serves to tell the story of Naples history through the lens of a garden. It is available to rent for your special party or reception!
Administration & Archives, also referred to as 107 Broad, its physical address, is another 3,500 sq ft contributing historic structure located ½-block north of the Cottage. This house, built in 1910, was acquired in 2011 for three reasons: (a) to preserve an historic property, (b) to facilitate program expansion, and (c) to pursue an Archival Development Project considered vital to the preservation of Naples history.
Over the last 50 years, the Society worked toward accomplishment, but also experienced austere complications.
Those swelling complications included: an 11,000% increase in the county’s population since the 1960s, the unique nature of the evolving market in Naples, a dramatic rise in the real property market, and vociferous public opposition to historic preservation long ago that had lasting and debilitating impacts. Reversing this sentiment was a challenge. For more information on historic preservation, please see Preservation & Rehabilitation.
These external complications were exacerbated by internal issues long ago at the Society; this was, quite simply, a lack of ‘tools’ needed to be successful (financial support and experienced professional leadership). This lack of tools long ago ultimately caused total frustration in the community, and as a result, a general apathy for historic preservation and the role of the Society struggled.
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. She recognized the 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; overhaul or craft transparent policy; generate community credibility with relevant preservation initiatives; assess, build and evaluate educational programming; establish the rationale for a staffing team to be equipped with the tools needed to make a difference, and demonstrate this through numbers and impact. Researched and judicious vision needs to be financed.
In 2008, Mary S. Smith joined the Society’s Board of Directors (and she later became the Board’s Chair in 2011). With unprecedented charitable support, she facilitated substantial organizational growth through personal investment. With her endorsement and backing, the Society was able to pursue depth in all educational programs and preservation initiatives. Finally, while the Society’s docents and volunteers are a godsend, Mary’s lead gifts enabled the hiring of additional staff in order to deliver consistent, meaningful services to the community.
Finally, those necessary tools, financial support and experienced professional leadership, are in place to engage in historic preservation and educational program development — the building and refining of a respected nonprofit organization that has a robust vision and provides needed arts and cultural services to the community, a venture worth charitable and membership investment.
Naples Historical Society has 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, and we have $6.7MM in the endowment thus far. We have a Board-approved 10-year plan (to 2029), plus a capital maintenance budget to 2030. We have NO debt of any kind.
To learn more about these statements or our story, we encourage you to call us.
History is an ever-present conversation in Naples now.
In short, we are now known as The Central Voice of Naples History.
Leadership & Staff
Executive Assistant to the CEO
Rental & Holiday Supervisor
Museum Coordinator (Weekends)
Board of Directors, 2019-2020
Mary Smith, Immediate Past Chair
Denny Glass, Chairman
Richard G. Prebish II, Vice-Chairman
Realtor, William Raveis Real Estate
Ginny Veras, Treasurer
Retired (from Ernst & Young, Sr. Partner)
Elaine L. Reed, President & CEO
Joseph S. Burke
CEO, Spec Consulting
Retired (from CBIA)
Attorney, Hahn Loeser
Charles G. Mueller, President
Northern Trust, SW FL Region
Attorney, Phillips Law Firm
Sharon von Arx
Cottage Briefs, e-Newsletter
Naples Historical Society strives to educate the community and visitors alike about Naples Historical Society’s projects, events and plans.
Click here to Sign Up to Receive the Cottage Briefs e-mail newsletter select the link to register your email address for the newsletter.
Useful Links for Naples
|National Trust for Historic Preservation||www.savingplaces.org|
|Guide to Historical Sites in Collier County||www.colliergov.net|
|United Arts Council of Collier County||www.uaccollier.com|
|The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce||www.napleschamber.org|
|Florida Trust for Historic Preservation||www.floridatrust.org|
|Community Foundation of Collier County||www.cfcollier.org|
|Everglades Society for Historic Preservation||www.evergladeshistorical.org|
|Collier County Museum||www.colliermuseums.com|
|Marco Island Historical Society||www.themihs.com|
|Collier County Genealogical Society||www.thegscc.org|
Historic House Research Guide