Located on the corner of Gulfshore Blvd and 12th Avenue South, Naples Historical Society’s delightful Historic Palm Cottage house museum perfectly encapsulates Naples history. This charming historic landmark is well deserving of its place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1895, it is the oldest home in Naples and is one of the very few surviving constructions made of tabbie mortar, a mixture of sand, seashells, and water. Also, it was the winter home of Henry Watterson, Pulitzer Prize winner and influential editor during World War 1.
A tour of the delightful house and gardens with a trained docent is an informative way to learn more about the history of Old Naples through this architectural gem. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday between 1 and 4 p.m.
The Changing Owners of Palm Cottage in Naples
Palm Cottage was a spacious home built by Walter Haldeman who owned much of Naples, such as it was in the 1890s. Haldeman was the owner of the Louisville Courier Journal. He also owned the small hotel in Naples, and he built Palm Cottage primarily to accommodate his long-time friend and editor, Henry Watterson, during his winter visits. The house actually had seven bedrooms when it was completed, but they came in very useful as extra accommodation for guests when Haldeman’s hotel was fully booked.
Haldeman died in 1902, and the house was sold in 1916 to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Parmer, also from Louisville. They made some significant changes to the house, including the addition of indoor plumbing and the installation of electricity when power arrived in Naples in 1926.
Walter Parmer died in 1932, and his wife eventually sold Palm Cottage to racehorse owner George Hendrie and Mr. Gillis of Hamilton, Ontario in 1938. Hendrie already owned a house across the street in Naples and used Palm Cottage as a rental property, renaming it the Hamilton Ontario House.
In 1944 Palm Cottage survived a hurricane which damaged many of the older properties in the growing town. Laurence and Alexandria Brown were not so lucky, losing their Naples beach home. They were happy to buy Palm Cottage, moving in 1945. Once again the cottage had a new name. It was known as the Brown House and featured high on the social calendar in Naples as the Browns frequently entertained their wealthy friends and neighbors. In its heyday, the house had many glamorous Hollywood guests including Gary Cooper, Robert Montgomery, and Heddy Lamar.
When Mrs. Brown died in 1978 the house was purchased by the Collier County Historical Society who realized the historical significance of the property. They paid $100,000 for the property and spent another $300,000 in 1996 restoring it to its former glory. They also restored the original name of Palm Cottage.
Norris Gardens at Naples Historical Society’s Historic Palm Cottage
In 2006 the extensive gardens were restored, and visitors can now tour them with a guide on the first and third Thursday of the month at 10 a.m. At other times visitors can stroll through the gardens on a self-guided tour. The Naples Historical Society also presents informative lectures, entertainers and featured speakers in The Norris Gardens at Palm Cottage at their popular Garden Side Chickee Chats.
There are five different gardens: the Palm Collector’s Garden, Garden of the Senses, Pioneer Garden, Edible Garden and the Shade Garden, each with their own delightful highlights and plantings.
Historic Palm Cottage events and the 3,500-square-foot house museum offer an intriguing insight into the history of Naples. The furnishings, photographs and personal treasures reveal the changing lifestyle of Naples over the last century. Filmed interviews of Naples Oral Histories add to the local information and can be enjoyed in the cozy Cottage Theater as part of your visit.