Goodland has a very rich and colorful history that dates back to the late 1800s; even further when considering the Native Americans that inhabited much of Southwest Florida. I recently read a book entitled “A Girl Called Tommie,” which describes the unique history of Marco Island and its surrounding areas as seen through the eyes of Tommie Barfield, an original pioneer for growth in Southwest Florida. This book, written by Elizabeth Perdichizzi and Kappy Kirk, a “first family member” and niece of Tommie Barfield, discusses the very early years and slow development of Marco, Goodland and Everglades City. It also informs the reader of land acquisitions and how names and places came to be.
The most interesting part of the book for me, as a resident of Goodland, was that nearly 25 homes and buildings were moved to Goodland from the Caxambas area (now known as the Estates) in and around 1949. Why would so much time and effort be put into such a task? And what homes and buildings, if any, are still standing in Goodland today?
Through information gathered from my reading as well as a fascinating interview with Kare DeMartino, the daughter of Kappy Kirk and a fourth generation native, I was able to find answers to these burning questions.
When Marco Island was barely even on the map, a man named Barron Collier purchased nearly all of the land that makes up today’s Collier County. He had great plans for the whole area, especially Marco Island and Everglades City. One of his purchases, Caxambas,was already a small town that hosted clam factories as its main source of business. Homes were built for the workers here where they could stay with their families as long as they were employed by one of the local clam factories. When Collier purchased this land he promised those who lived there that when the time was right he would offer them lots in Goodland, financed through him and he would have their home moved for free. As many of these residents were by no means rich, they found this to be a generous offer.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit in 1928 and the immense progress in Collier County came to a halt. Barron Collier became ill at this time and passed away not long after. His three sons were left to decide the future of their father’s dream. After numerous family tragedies, it was eventually decided that the family would sell a portion of Marco Island. Due to the sale of the land, Collier’s promise was finally fulfilled and these 25-some homes were moved as promised. Lots were sold for $600 to $1500 at no money down. Twenty years after Collier’s death, those living in Caxambas finally became land owners.
According to Kare DeMartino, the building now known as The Little Bar Restaurant was one of the first buildings to be moved. It was originally a general store and also the post office to Caxambas. It was moved to Goodland and the United States Postal Service began delivering mail there. Kappy Kirk and her husband Arthur “Bud” Kirk were the postmasters in Caxambas at the time so it was understood that they would take over the new branch in Goodland. Their home was moved shortly after and sits at 200 Harbor Place across from The Little Bar Restaurant. They also purchased the property where Kirk’sSeafood is located. “Bud” Kirk, an avid fisherman, opened Kirk’s Seafood shortly after and it is still run by his family today.
The home that Kare DeMartino currently lives in is also an historic home. Her home is dated to have been in Goodland prior to the 1949 move and was also relocated at one point. Most of these homes that were built in the early 1900s were built out of heart of Southern Pine wood. This extremely dense wood is so difficult to penetrate that even termites are useless against its strength. That strength has also proven true for these old homes as they have weathered multiple hurricanes and violent weather yet are still standing proud.
One more interesting building of note is The Old Marco Lodge Restaurant. In 1965 it was moved to Goodland after the land that it sat on for 95 years was purchased. Run by Tommie Barfield’s daughters at the time, it was given to the Tasetano family as long as it was moved to a new location. The chosen spot: Goodland.
I would love to give all the addresses of the old homes here in Goodland but would hate to disrupt the lives of those who currently live in them. However, if you pick up a copy of “A Girl Called Tommie,” a convenient list of homes and explanations is listed in the back. If you do decide to take a driving tour of these old homes please remember to respect the privacy of those who inhabit them and always watch for animals and children in the streets. Happy house hunting!
Natalie Strom has lived in Goodland for over two years and has worked in Goodland on and off for more than five years. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is also a former Buzzard Queen of Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland.