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The BSHS also wishes to thank all those that have donated historic artifacts to the Society over the years! We have collected an outstanding number. Some where used to raise money at Rummage sales and many where retained, then accessioned for archiving and displays. We have saved enough to fill both the S Riverside House and the McSwain House in addition to the Period Room and displays at the Liles Hotel in Riverside Park!

We especially thank the local Questers chapter who have donated not only artifacts but funds for purchase of items used for display and restoration projects at the Riverside House. Most of the house is now a living museum with 1930's period rooms. Some of the local antique and thrift stores have also been kind and called us when they run across pieces of particular meaning to Bonita Springs. Also some pioneer families have been kind and loaned items to the Society for display use.

Donated items have ranged from small pieces of jewelry to large furniture including an organ (musical organs that is - please no body parts). The antiques have ranged from early American to international pieces. We are always especially pleased when the artifacts are directly related to Bonita Springs, including a locally made pie safe, various clothing and textiles, maps, and of course photos. Thanks to the donations (and permissions to copy) of hundreds of photographs and the diligent work of Allison Fortuna and others, a wonderful photo-essay history book was published and we have an extensive photogallery on our website.

And of course, super thanks to the Humphries Family, who even donated a 1915 house on Old US41, which was loaded with antiques!

Shell FActory catalog_BSHS
One recent donation is an original copy of a sales catalog from the Shell Factory from when it was located here on the Tamiami Trail. The catalog was quite extensive with  pages of all sort of items (shells, glassware, gifts, etc) that could be shipped. The Society did not have anything like it and we are happy to archive it for future generations. The catalog was found by Trish Leonard and Gary Price in an antique store in Arcadia. Recognizing its uniqueness and import to early Bonita Springs, they purchased and then donated to the Society. We thank them for their keen eyes and generosity.

The Shell Factory, along with the Everglades Wonder Gardens, was a major tourist attraction in early Bonita Springs. It was located at the corner of Terry Street and the Tamiami Trail. It was not the first and was certainly not the only place hawking seashells to passing tourists, but was by far the largest and was the town's largest employer in its time. While vacationing here in 1938, Harold Crant from New York became interested in shells on the beach. He and his wife decided to make a business from this natural resource. Along with partner Ann England, they bought property and built a small building and began selling shells and articles made from shells to tourists and by catalog. They then purchased more land across the Tamiami Trail and in the early 40's built a dome shaped building, painted the roof orange complete with a big green leaf and started a stand for selling citrus juice and food. He then purchased another corner and brought in a group of Seminole Indians to build a replica Indian village (named Distant Drums), to live, make and sell handicrafts, and perform for tourists.
Shell Factory#51 copy_BSHS
When Crant later purchased the another corner parcel of for offices, he then owned all four corners of the intersection. His Shell Factory became the largest employer in Bonita Springs. Also near the corner was even a house of illusion called the Mystery House. The Shell Factory’s destruction by fire on New Year’s Eve of 1952 and subsequent relocation to North Fort Myers was a economic drain to Bonita Springs. The fruit juice and souvenir stand that resembled an orange, which later became the well-known Dome Tavern, was demolished in 1992.

There is still a lot to discover and understand about the history of our community. Donated artifacts, photographs, letters, publications, and stories help fill in the gaps. Please keep us in mind when "spring cleaning", or moving. We would like to see Bonita artifacts stay in Bonita Springs. To donate items, you may call us at 239-992-6997, or email to