of Florida and the Caribbean"
Barron Gift Collier
Like Henry Flagler, Henry Plant, Arthur Vining Davis and other turn of the century tycoons, Barron Gift Collier made a fortune in business, and then traveled south to invest in the Sunshine State. His legacy includes descendents who continue to contribute to the economic and civic growth of Florida.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1873, Barron Gift Collier quit school at the age of 16 and went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad. By the time he was 20, he was already a business owner with a hot new concept in advertising. At a time when urban America got around on trolley cars, Collier came up with the idea of selling advertising on trolley signs and placards. His Consolidated Street Railway Advertising Co. captured the trolley advertising business in dozens of U.S. cities, Canada and Cuba. When you see big ads on todays city buses, think of Barron Collier.
Remote southwest Florida first attracted Colliers attention in 1911. "I was swept off my feet by what I saw and felt," he later said. By the early 1920s, he had acquired more than a million acres of land, making him the largest landowner in the state. His holdings stretched from the Ten Thousand Islands coastal area northward to Useppa Island off the coast of Fort Myers, and inland from what is now Naples into the Everglades and Big Cypress areas.
Collier appreciated the magnificence of South Floridas subtropical environment, but clearly wanted to bring it under control. He was instrumental in early efforts to drain large areas of Everglades wetlands, and he helped build roads linking Tampa, Fort Myers, Naples and Miami. His vision was to create a vacation, agricultural and environmental paradise. He established luxury hotels and exclusive fishing clubs, setting the upscale tone still evident in Naples today. He also donated thousands of acres for natural areas, parks and preserves, a philanthropic legacy kept alive by his heirs.