The Society has been a proud part of the Bonita Springs community for over 30 years.
Over 30 years of preserving and promoting our community's history.
The Bonita Springs Historical Society (BSHS) was formed in 1984 by a small group of dedicated individuals who shared an interest in discovering and preserving the unique heritage of this area. Over 30 years later, the Society continues to strive to build enthusiasm and share historical knowledge about Bonita Springs with its mission to record, preserve and promote its history.
With good leadership and hard work of the members, the Society has seen steady growth into what is now an active organization with hundreds of members and friends. Events for the Society have traditionally included popular luncheons, Mayor of Survey, Sammy the Snook, and various “happenings” along with participation in City functions such as the 4th of July parade, Taste of Bonita, and Celebrate Bonita. The Society also offers seasonal walking tours, educational lectures, and various presentations.
In late 2011, the Society was graciously gifted by the family of Hudon and Ann Humphries a piece of property in the heart of downtown Bonita Springs, located close to the city’s Riverside Park. Because the property has one of Bonita's oldest houses (and fine example of early pioneer architecture), it was decided not to sell the property despite the poor condition of the structures. Rather the Society decidedit would renovate the house and use the Old Tamiami Trail location to increase awareness of our town's history, provide a venue for educational displays and exhibits, events, and highlight the beauty in historic buildings that contribute so much to our Old Florida charm. Built in 1915, the building is called the McSwain House after the original owners. First action was to get the building designated Historic under the City's Historic Preservation Ordinance. It is one of about 20 such designated buildings in the city and has the potential to contribute to the city's current downtown redevelopment plans and goals. The Society committed much of its resources to salvage and renovate the house and now the structure is stabilized, protected from the elements, has a new foundation, and modern utilities. Much work remains to be done to get the property operational, including adding a large porch and handicapped ramp for usability.
The Society is also proud of its work in the Liles Hotel located in Riverside Park. In August 2006, the Bonita Springs City Council granted permission to the Bonita Springs Historical Society to occupy some space at the newly renovated historic Liles Hotel. With many thanks to member Allison Fortuna, history exhibits are now on display in the public areas of the hotel and a first floor room is decorated as a period bedroom representative of the 1930s. The Society’s two rooms on the second floor are utilized as a history resource center with an impressive library and archives for furthering the study and understanding of our local heritage. As a result of visiting the Liles Hotel, we hope that visitors will come away with a greater appreciation of the past which helped to create the special place that is Bonita Springs; and in turn, see the value of encouraging preservation of our cultural and historical resources. The public is invited to view the exhibits on both floors and the building is normally open for visitors: 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. The riverfront park setting, complete with shade trees, water fountain, walking plaza, boat docks, canoe rentals, and local artisans in the historic cottages provide a great family venue in the heart of Old Bonita.
The Society accomplishments are many and in the last decade include:
- a popular speaker series with support from the Florida Humanities Council,
- numerous temporary exhibits in the Liles Hotel, including the Rob Storter Collection,
- the acquisition of several grants allowing renovations and purchase of technology for education
- the building of one of the best reference libraries on SW Florida,
- historical videos production,
- oral history recordings,
- the archiving and preservation of numerous artifacts from our early community,
- the digital archiving of over 1,000 images,
- partnering with the local Questers chapter on various projects
- partnering with the Center for the Arts of BS on a history themed art competition and exhibition,
- the creation and publishing of a Historic Bonita Springs booklet funded by City of Bonita Springs and available free at City Hall, the Liles Hotel, and the Chamber of Commerce,
- and the assistance in publishing of several books including “Images of America: Bonita Springs”. This beautiful book was written by local journalist Chris Wadsworth along with Allison Fortuna of the Bonita Springs Historical Society. It explores the development of Bonita Springs, with more than 200 historic photos and is part of the popular “Images of America” series of books published by Arcadia Publishing.
In an area of rapid growth, the Society is often a voice and pillar for preservation of our physical historical resources.
We hope you will help our preservation efforts by becoming a member and consider donating towards the salvage and renovation of the McSwain House.