Naples Historical Society, Inc. ©2015
Naples Historical Society, Inc. is a local 501c3 nonprofit organization that was established in 1962 (formerly known as the Collier County Historical Society, Inc.). That is our operational entity. We also have Naples Historical Society Foundation, Inc. That entity was established in 2009 to house endowment funds. We have a solid endowment policy, and it is available to members in good standing upon request.
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, all of which are outlined in this website.
The Society’s flagship asset is also its Educational Headquarters -- Historic Palm Cottage™. This 3,500 sq ft house-turned museum is listed as a Landmark in the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 1982). The Cottage serves as a portal for residents and visitors alike to 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 growth, and (c) to pursue an Archival Development Project.
Since 1962, the Society worked toward accomplishment AND experienced austere complications. With an 11,000% increase in the county population since the 1960s (most of this was in the last three decades), it’s been a challenge to ‘save’ historic houses, a prominent community expectation. By the early 2000s, a general apathy for historic preservation emerged.
The notion of saving houses is a massive community endeavor that required more ‘tools’ than the Society had available in the early years. These tools include but are not limited to financial support, professional leadership and community endorsement; all are needed in order to effect change.
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 rebuild an organization. It took almost four years to restore public confidence.
In 2007, the Society hired Elaine L. Reed who recognized a need to define and create an organizational infrastructure 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 few staff and little 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. That’s when the Society’s outward mark in Naples really began to expand. As a result, staff was able to focus on another major initiative, the Naples Historic District project. Call Elaine Reed to learn more.
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 $3.5MM in the endowment thus far. We have a Board-approved 10-year plan (to 2023), and a pro forma to back it up, plus a capital maintenance budget to 2030. We have NO debt of any kind. We have our ducks in a row.
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.
Please ask for our Impact Statements which recaps a list of demonstrable achievements.