- The 1930’s historic Casner Home on Riverside Dr serves as the Society headquarters, an example of a early Bonita Springs home, and a place for functions.
- The historic McSwain Home (c1915), located on Old US41 was recently gifted to the Society by the Humphries Family - see below.
Purchased by the Society in 1996, the Casner-Holzmeyer House has served as the headquarters of Society, event venue, office space, work area, and storage for archives.
This early Bonita home was started in 1930, and was originally intended to be a water pump-house for one of the first planned neighborhood subdivisions in the community. William Casner purchased the building and transformed the simple structure into a 4 room house with a fireplace. Work is underway to restore much of it to a Period House to create a living history museum, and better illustrate what life was like here in Bonita Springs in the early 1900s. The yard will contain plants typical of the cultural landscape in early Bonita Springs.
The house was built in the Frame Vernacular style, the most common type of historic architecture in Bonita Springs, and like many historic homes, rooms were added though time. Common elements of this type of plain architecture of the house are a pine wood floor raised up on posts to prevent insect and moisture damage, low hip roofs to prevent damage during high winds, vented overhanging eaves with metal screen installed to keep out the animals, and asbestos shingles which were later added to protect the original exterior wood walls. A fireplace served for a heating system. Lots of windows, screen doors, and large trees for shade provided the cooling. Although not visible, heart pine was used for the structure framing, as with of the early homes in Florida. Cut from the center of large pine trees, that were common in south Florida, the wood remains hard and dense for centuries.
Anyone who has tried to hammer a nail into it gains instant respect. Like many homes in Florida, aluminum awnings were added later to provide shading, rain protection, and to protect during hurricanes when lowered over windows.
The Society’s historic house is within walking distance of the Liles Hotel in Riverside Park, which serves as a history education center, complete with research library. The Society strives to build enthusiasm and share historical knowledge about Bonita Springs with its mission to record, preserve and promote its history. In addition to documentation and education efforts, the Society hosts walking and house tours, presentations, exhibits, and various social and civic events. The Society is open to all, so please consider joining and helping. For more information and to participate, please call us at 239-992-6997.
McSwain - Humphries Home
The Bonita Springs Historical Society has recently been gifted a house and property in Old Bonita. The generous donation was from the estate of Hudon and Ann Humphries. True to their fashion, the family bequeathed their home unbeknownst to the Society.
The property is located on Old US41 Road and extends to Felts Avenue. The house is one of the oldest in Bonita Springs. Built in 1915, it is known as the McSwain House in reference to the original builders. The simple wood structure has survived several hurricanes, a testament to its strength.
The Historical Society is excited about the potential uses of the buildings. Initial plans include a historical museum and the Society hopes the community will get behind creating our town's first museum. Donations of antiques, appropriate historical photographs, and, of course, financial gifts are always welcomed.
McSwain & Humphries Families
The McSwain Family arrived in the settlement of Survey with six children in 1901. Having come from Osyka, Mississippi, the last leg of their trip from Fort Myers was by oxcart, requiring the oldest children to walk. They settled on the banks of the Imperial River (Surveyor's Creek) in an area near I-75 where they went to work and built a thatched roof cabin made of logs and mud.
Nearby, living in a grove shack near Imperial Street, were JW (James Wallace) Liles, age 28 and his younger brother, Marvin Winslow Liles, age 25. They migrated to Survey from Clay County, Alabama in 1897 to work in citrus. They were joined in 1905 by their two younger brothers, Lawrence Jasper Liles and Carson Columbus Liles.
Less than a year after the McSwains arrived, a flood washed away their cabin. So gathering all the personal property they could salvage, they moved further west to Imperial Street near the cemetery.
Before building a new home in the new subdivision known as Bonita Springs, their second oldest daughter (Mary) LuElla McSwain, married JW Liles in 1905 at the age of fifteen. In 1915, the same year the McSwains built their new home in Bonita Springs, their third oldest daughter, Effie Elizabeth McSwain married Marvin Liles at the age of twenty-two.
Joseph McSwain, undoubtedly with help of friends, built the traditional heart pine and cypress home now owned by the Historical Society on what was then Heitman Avenue and later to become part of the Tamiami Trail. All the McSwain children eventually left home, except for the next to youngest, Clifford. Clifford stayed and after his parents died, married, and raised five children in the home. Clifford built his own home on Delaware St. around 1959 and rented out the homestead for several years. After he was killed in a car accident, his son Harold moved into the home with his family.
The house was was sold in the 1970's to Hudon and Ann Humphries, who are survived by their two children, Linda Diane & Robert.
The Society is very appreciative of the Humphries family's gift and is glad the historic house will be preserved.
The above historical information was provided by Byron Liles.
Ann and Hudon Humphries
Good New, Bad News
When we inherited the Mc Swain house, we said, “The good news is we have inherited a house. The bad news is we have inherited a house.” The good news is that being a 501c3 non proﬁt organization, we do not have to pay property taxes, and we do not have a mortgage. And the property is in an ideal location for attracting visitors!
Upon completion of our restoration it will be a destination for gallery displays, videos of early Bonita, events, educational ﬁeld trips, etc. We will appeal to a variety of interests: archaeology, antiques, ecology, historical literature, local crafts, for a start.
The current “garage” is not historic and is in bad condition. We plan to replace and redesign the structure. We envision the annex behind the house being a place for outdoor happenings, in addition to having bathrooms, catering prep area, and storage space.
Behind the annex, we will have a delightful garden under the large live oak trees.
Front Yard: See below for a rendering of the current architectural plans to make the front on Old US 41 more inviting.
Our fund raisers that covered our operating expenses must now be expanded to cover two properties.
That is why we were so excited to have received matching grants and community support. A foundation in North Fort Myers (who would like to remain anonymous) supported our initial work with a $3,000.00 matching grant. We also qualified for a $10,000 matching grant from the City of Bonita Springs as part of their Economic Development Incentives. We were also awarded a grant of $10,060 from the Gannett Foundation, and $2,500 from the Young Professionals at Bonita Area Realtors.
We have worked hard on this project, putting in hundreds of volunteer hours. Now we have to get the word out that this is a worthwhile project for Bonita Springs and will enrich the downtown area.
Plans for the next phase have been drawn by local architect Sam Vincent and the Society is eager to move forward with your help. vYour support for the McSwain Historic Home will greatly help the BSHS in its mission to Preserve, Protect, and Promote the rich cultural heritage of Bonita Springs. Friends like you help us achieve our goals!
If you wish to contribute to the McSwain Home Fund please send a check to Bonita Springs Historical Society, Inc. or BSHS, Box 3015, Bonita Springs, Florida 34133. Please add on memo line of check: McSwain Home