At last - we have obtained a Certificate of Occupancy from the City of Bonita Springs to allow use of the McSwain House!!! It has been a long and winding road and thanks to all who helped make it it possible. More to follow...
For those of you wondering what is going on at the Historic McSwain Home - here is an update of work and plans.
As of December 2018 - long awaited construction is nearly complete at the Society's 1915 historic McSwain Home on Old US 41. A new front deck and ADA ramp has been built to allow the opening of the building.
AND it is with sincere gratitude that we acknowledge Tri-Town Construction's generous contribution of labor for installation of a new metal roof and to ABC Supply which is donating the roofing material! A new roof was greatly needed as near this time last year, Hurricane Irma removed many of the buildings aging shingles.
Also to be noted with great gratitude is the vision of our City Council to fund a Historic Preservation Grant Program for their Historic Preservation Board. The Society was successful in a grant application which will reimburse for much of the current construction. Special thanks go to city manager Arleen Hunter, Community Development's Mike Fiigon, and to the members of the COBS Historic Preservation Board and its chairperson Dallas Revord for approving the substantial grant.
It is due to the commitment, efforts, and kindness of all of these people that we are very close to accomplishing our goal of having the McSwain Home open to the public in historic downtown Bonita Springs.
Click here for video about the history of the McSwain Home.
After the completion of the infrastructure and roadwork in downtown Old US41 in front of the house, we started a Front Landscape Project that it is part of a project to fulfill grant requirements from the City of Bonita Springs Facade Grant, a grant from the Gannett Foundation, and the Young Professionals at Bonita Area Realtors.
Historic McSwain Home Gets New Look with Help from
Local Contractors and Businesses
The Bonita Spring Historical Society (BSHS) has announced completion of another renovation phase of their McSwain Home at 27451 Old US 41 Road. Charlie Strader, president of the Historical Society, said, “After the city roadwork was finished in front of the McSwain Home, we’ve been able to implement part of the design plan that will help make the home, which is the oldest on Old US 41, a showpiece of adaptive restoration.”
To get to this point, Strader acknowledged, that the Society has received a lot of help, including a façade grant from the City of Bonita Springs as well as a grant from the Fort Myers-News Press/Gannett Foundation.
Strader added “We are honored and tremendously grateful that Wright Construction has stepped up in a big way and volunteered to execute this project. I particularly would like to thank Andy Powell, Ray Atkinson, and Joe Restino, Rondell Newson, and of course company president, Fred Edman. The Historical Society is fortunate to have their expertise and eagerness to make this project a success. It has been impressive and a pleasure to meet the managers and employees of WCG. Not only are they obviously competent at what they do, they actually care about and give back to the communities in which they work. All of the people at WCG with whom we interacted have been outstanding. This is something repeatedly heard by all I have met in Bonita Springs who have worked with them.”
Another example of a contractor “stepping up” to help out with the project is AFC Electric. They are local as in literally less than two blocks away from the McSwain Home location. Not only are they generously donating labor toward the project, within only a couple days of asking, they were on the job working! Thom Zirkle was a pleasure to work with and much thanks go to him and company president, Justin Sheffield. The Sheffields are well-known and longtime residents of Bonita Springs.
The Society is also very grateful to the Stallman-England Company. You may have been seeing some of their trucks around town as they are doing much of the irrigation work on the downtown infrastructure project for the city. Early in the McSwain project, Vice President Steve Hall volunteered to install and provide a state of the art drip irrigation system. The system will allow the BSHS to apply for certification in the Florida Water Star conservation program. The program sets standards and guidelines for water efficiency. So, not only is Stallman-England saving the BSHS money on the landscaping portion of the project, the Society will save long term with lower utility bills with this addition of new technology to the historic property. It also gives the Society a head start on the future gardens planned for the property. Landscaping goals include highlighting native and period appropriate plants.
In late 2011, the Humphries family graciously donated the McSwain Home to BSHS. Because the home is one of Bonita's oldest houses and a fine example of early pioneer architecture, it was decided to renovate the house and use the location to increase awareness of our town's history and highlight the beauty in historic buildings that contribute so much to our old Florida, small town character. When the house was built in 1915, the road was called Heitman Avenue. Only later did it become the Tamiami Trail, part of US Route 41. It is the oldest building remains on our section of Old US 41.
During Phase I of the restoration, new pilings were added beneath the house and repairs made to the framing and flooring. Deteriorating windows and doors were replaced, the interior was reworked, vinyl siding was removed, and the original wood siding was restored. Electric and plumbing were brought up to date and an air conditioning system donated by the Trane Company was installed. The home is now stabilized, solid, and protected from the elements.
With generous help from members, friends, and local companies, the McSwain Home is on its way to becoming a highlight of the downtown revitalization project, but much remains to be done. BSHS continues its efforts to raise funds to complete the McSwain Home. Our wish list includes a covered porch, a handicap ramp, a new metal roof, and replacement of the out building. When completed the property will be a welcoming spot for residents and visitors offering gallery displays and more.
As the Beatles’ song goes, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
We have completed Phase I of our overall plans with a triage focus. We focused on the house and made great progress as it had many of the problems one might expect in a hundred year old house, including rotted wood substructure and flooring. We had to raise the entire structure, construct new concrete pilings, and replace framing and flooring. We replaced/repaired windows and doors, gutted and refinished the interior, removed the exterior vinyl siding and restored the original wood siding. We also had to replace the original electric, plumbing, and entire bathroom to bring up to code. These efforts and the installation of air conditioning means the building is now stabilized, solid, and protected from the elements.
Our intent is for the property to become a showpiece of adaptive restoration and contribute to the city’s overall downtown redevelopment efforts. The house and property will provide a destination for welcoming the public, gallery displays, exhibits, social events, and meetings.
To make the house structure more "useable", Phase II will address the Annex building on site. Originally a garage and carport, it was not built in the early 1900's like the house, so it was not built with the same hard woods and quality. In fact, it is in bad shape with an old shingle roof and has water and insect damage. After many consultations, the best option is to demolish the structure instead of trying to repair. So, Phase III would be to build a new Annex building designed for multiple uses. The new building needs 2 ADA bathrooms, catering prep area, A/C storage and office area, which is lacking in the house. We also plan to add outdoor covered space, screened and open for gatherings, events, and picnics.
Phase III will include equipping and improving the interiors of the two structures for public use and education.
Phase IV will include more landscaping and adding parking to the property. We hope to create a delightful and beautiful garden-type outdoor space which takes advantage of the massive existing oak trees and other period appropriate flora. With the use of native plants and flora appropriate to here in the early 1900's, the property can also be use for education.
Your 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
WHAT WE’VE DONE SO FAR - for photos click here
We have managed to do all of this with the help of many generous people. There is still much to be done - so please let us know if you can assist!
Click below for a video created by builder Russ Hillyard showing his work at the Bonita Springs Historical Society's McSwain House in 2013 and 2014.
McSwain House construction video.
Sincere thanks for funding and in-kind donations of service or materials for the McSwain House go to:
- Gannett Foundation / Fort Myers News-Press
- City of Bonita Springs / EDI Facade Grant
- Sam Vincent Architects
- Wright Construction Group
- Young Professionals Network of B.E.A.R. (Bonita Springs Estero Association of Realtors)
- Ronda Lyles Lawhon
- Russell Hillyard (Master Builder)
- John Gooding
- Barbara & Bruce Bachman
- AFC Electric / Thom Zirkle
- Blair P. Foley, P.E.L.L.C.
- Cherokee Painting / Bill & Martha Simons
- Donald Dachuk Tractor Services & Donnie Dumps Dumpster
- J C Air Conditioning
- J & M Electric / Joe Hogue
- James Leese
- James Lyles, Jr
- Naples Lumber / Jimmy Weeks
- Lezgus Plumbing
- LLC Decorative Metals
- Scientific Pest Control
- Sherwin Williams
- Stahlman-England / Steve Hall
- South Florida Excavation
- Timo Brothers Paving
- Trane Air Conditioning / Phil Young and Brian Raus
- West Side Builders
Without their help we would not be open.
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