THE HISTORY OF VANDERBILT BEACH

It is sometimes difficult to define a starting point when talking about the origin of a place or thing and so it is with Vanderbilt Beach.  The origins of Vanderbilt Beach can be traced back in time to an event some twelve to fifteen billion years ago when all of the matter which is now thought to exist in the Universe was condensed into an incredibly small object smaller in size than the ball of a ball point pen. This object exploded ("Big Bang") and the universe, as we know it, began to evolve.

The next event in the history of Vanderbilt Beach occurs more than four billion years ago when gravitation caused a cloud of hydrogen gas to condense into a more and more dense object. At some point in the process the temperature got so hot the the hydrogen atoms began to undergo thermonuclear fusion.  In the process of  changing into helium the hydrogen atoms released pure energy as in E=mc2. As our Sun was coming into existence our planet Earth was most likely being formed at the same time.

I know that this is somewhat of a "cosmic" history of Vanderbilt Beach" but Vanderbilt Beach has some cosmic characteristics to it. Have you ever wondered how many grains of sand there are in one cubic foot of sand. (Probably Not) Well there are approximately one million grains of sand in one cubic foot of sand. The next time you walk on Vanderbilt Beach try and imagine how many grains of sand there are on the Beach.  Carl Sagan the great scientist and astronomer when asked how many stars there were in the Universe did not say billions and billions as is sometimes said.  He did say "There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all of the beaches of Earth.

At some point more than three billion years ago living organisms were flourishing on Earth.  Several billion years pass and life continues to evolve.  At lease five times in the history of life on earth mass extinction events have occurred.  These events are thought to be caused by a meteor or asteroid impacts and or massive large scale volcanic activity.  Currently life on earth is experiencing a mass extinction event.  This event is being caused by the impact of humans on life on Earth.

Humans are relatively recent arrivals on Earth.  Modern humans are currently thought to have appeared on in Africa around 135,000 years ago.  Only about 10,000 years ago did humans began to domesticate plants and animals.  About 4,000 years ago human cultural evolution had reached the level where methods of agricultural productivity became efficient enough to enable large cities to come into existence.  Historians sometimes refer to this level of human cultural evolution as "Civilization".

It is not clear as to when humans first entered into what we now call Florida.  We have strong evidence that humans were present in Florida 10,000 years ago.  They may have been present much longer but clear evidence is lacking.  Although humans have been in Florida we do not know a great deal abut their early history.  All of this changes when Europeans come to Florida.

On April 2, 1513 Juan Ponce de Leon landed in Florida (probably near Melbourne Beach south of Cape Canaveral) he claimed the land for the King of Spain. In the next fifty years six expeditions (one French) attempted to establish a settlement in Florida.  The last one proved to be successful when in 1565 under the leadership of admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles the city of St. Augustine was founded.  Spain was to control and rule Florida for period of (1565-1763) sometimes called the first Spanish period. In 1763 the British were given control over Florida by Spain as a result of the French and Indian (1754-63).

By 1783 all of Florida had come back under the rule of Spain.  Spain's control over Florida was somewhat tenuous as the United Sates had become a formidable political and militarily force at this time   The United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821.  Florida became the twenty-seventh state on March 3, 1845  On January 10, 1861 Florida passed an Ordinance of Secession and became an Independent nation of Florida.  Less than a month later Florida becomes a state in a newly formed Confederate States of America.

In 1885-1887 Walter Haldeman and John Willams came via train to Punta Gorda (at that time that was the end of the line for rail), they then sailed down the coast an landed at Gordon Pass.  The next year they formed the Naples Town Improvement Company.  The city of Naples was plated and lots were sold to wealthy families in the north who were planning to build winter homes.  In 1888 the Naples hotel was built along with a 600 foot pier.

In 1911 Barron G. Collier a New York city multimillionaire started buying property in Florida.  Naples and Fort Myers were connected by a primitive sand road in 1914 and bus service connected Napes to  the outside world.

In 1923 the Florida legislature created Collier county (which was then part of Lee count) in return for Barron Collier financing work on the Tamiami trail to connect Tampa and Miami.  The trail  would pass close to a  mile from Vanderbilt Beach. In 1923  the Collier Corporation owned over million acres in Florida including much of what is now Collier county and of course Vanderbilt Beach.  Exactly how and when Vanderbilt Beach got it's name is probably not known.  As best I have been able to determine Barron Collier probably named Vanderbilt beach after Cornelius  Vanderbilt Jr.  There are some  written accounts that Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. was a friend and associate of Barron Collier.

On Jan. 7, 1927 the Atlantic Coast railroad's "West Coast Champion" arrived in Naples on it's inaugural run from New York, movie star Glori Swanson was on board.  On April 25, 1928 the Tamiami Trail was opened and Naples had a population of 350.

On November 23, 1948 J. W. Conners purchase from the Collier Corporation a tract of land which included Vanderbilt Beach.  By 1952 Vanderbilt Beach Rd. had been constructed and people could drive to Vanderbilt Beach.  On Dec. 3 1952 the Conners Vanderbilt Beach Estates, INC. sold  the piece of property that was to become the Vanderbilt Beach Motel  to E. A. Bond of Naples.  On Feb. 2, 1953 J. W. Conners obtained approval for unit #1 of the Conner's Vanderbilt Beach Estates.

On Sept. 10, 1960 Hurricane Donna (in those days hurricanes all had female names) Donna struck Vanderbilt Beach.  Donna, a Category Five Hurricane did extensive damage to the city of Naples but no human lives were lost.  The population of Collier County at this was only 15,753.

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