In 1887, a group of wealthy Kentuckians, led by Walter N. Haldeman, owner of the Louisville Courier-Journal, purchased virtually the entire town of Naples. One of the first improvements Haldeman and the Naples Company made was to build a pier 600 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The unusual "T" shape allowed large ships to dock easily. Despite being destroyed and rebuilt three times, the pier's "T" shape remains.
Naples quickly gained a reputation as a winter resort. Social life revolved around the Naples Hotel, which played host to celebrities such as Rose Cleveland, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, Greta Garbo, Hedy Lamarr, and Gary Cooper.
In 1911, Barron Collier, who had made his fortune in streetcar advertising, visited nearby Useppa Island. He was so taken with the area that he bought over a million acres of untouched swampland - including most of Naples. Collier believed that Florida's west coast could enjoy the same boom that the east coast was experiencing in the 1920's; but first it was necessary to bring in road and railroads.
Based on Collier's promise to help build the Tamiami Trail, in 1923 the state legislature created Collier County, of which East Naples is the county seat. Collier spent more than $1 million of his own money to construct the Tamiami Trail, which opened in 1926 as the only paved highway linking the state's two largest cities at that time - Tampa and Miami.
Naples continues to thrive and, along with the rest of Southwest Florida, maintains its reputation as one of Florida's premiere vacation, retirement, and leisure destinations. The Naples area (Collier County) is currently home to over 250,000 residents year round.