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Bonita Springs, Florida (Images of America Series)

Bonita Springs, Florida (Images of America Series)

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by Chris Wadsworth

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The pioneer history of Bonita Springs stretches back to the 1880s, when an Alabama cotton planter named B. B. Comer bought 6,000 acres of land along Surveyors Creek. He started a tropical fruit plantation, and his tiny village became known as Survey, in honor of the U.S. Army engineers who had first surveyed the region during the Seminole Wars decades before. When


The pioneer history of Bonita Springs stretches back to the 1880s, when an Alabama cotton planter named B. B. Comer bought 6,000 acres of land along Surveyors Creek. He started a tropical fruit plantation, and his tiny village became known as Survey, in honor of the U.S. Army engineers who had first surveyed the region during the Seminole Wars decades before. When Florida started to boom in the early 20th century, investors bought up much of the land in the area. They quickly gave the community the more attractive moniker Bonita Springs and renamed the nearby creek the Imperial River. Beautiful beaches and world-class hunting and fishing soon turned Bonita Springs into a tourist mecca. Popular roadside attractions sprang up along the fast-growing Tamiami Trail, including the Everglades Wonder Gardens, the original Shell Factory, and the famous Naples–Fort Myers Greyhound Track.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Title: Bonita Springs History Society: History book sales bring crowd to Liles Hotel

Author: Allison Fortuna

Publisher: Naples Daily News

Date: 2/19/2009

The Bonita Springs Historical Society hosted a widely-attended event to introduce the public to a new history book from Arcadia Press. "Images of America — Bonita Springs," brought pioneer family members, locals and seasonal residents to the Liles Hotel to purchase this picture-rich book and sepia tone postcards. Held in conjunction with "Evening in The Park," the reception lasting almost three hours saw more traffic throughout the building than at any other event this year. On the first floor, 21 new pieces of artwork, submitted by Art League artists, were on display featuring historic subjects from well known homes to familiar faces to iconic buildings like the old Dixie Moon Cafe and the Liles Hotel. The latter was generously donated to the society and is a beautiful addition to a growing collection. Also purchased by the society was a painting of the 1947 Post Office, which is now Engel’s Bicycles.

Upstairs, more than 130 books were purchased and then signed by authors Chris Wadsworth, a local journalist, and Allison Fortuna, society member. Enthusiasm for Bonita’s newest history book was expressed by all who eagerly awaited its release. Long-time pioneer residents like Jean Hogue, Byron Liles and Don Trew were anxious to see the book they had consulted on months ago. Through the generous contribution of many individuals with roots in Bonita Springs, new images fill the pages. Readers will find a combination of historical facts and humorous anecdotes from Bonita’s early years.

The new Arcadia history book will continue to be for sale through the society on Thursday afternoons from 1 to 3 at the Liles Hotel and during monthly "Evening in The Park," held the second Friday of the month. Events such as Walk Bonita, Celebrate Bonita and others will also feature book sales. This is a significant fund raiser for the society. If you know someone who is looking to purchase this exciting pictorial history book, please encourage them to buy from the historical society. For more information, call 992-6997.

Title: Pictorial history of Bonita Springs on sale in bookstores

Author: Staff Writer

Publisher: Fort Myers Florida Weekly

Date: 2/11/2009

Like a memory-filled family album, the new book "Images of America: Bonita Springs" opens a door to the past of this fast-growing community in Southwest Florida.

Filled with more than 200 historic photos, "Bonita Springs" tells Bonita's story — how it grew from a small fruit plantation in the late 1800s into a major tourist destination during the early 20th century, from a traditional Deep South community into a melting pot of longtime families, immigrants, snowbirds and thousands more.

"There are so many fascinating secrets and stories about this community that many current residents and visitors don't realize," said Chris Wadsworth, a veteran journalist and the book's co-author. "Each building, park, street and home has a tale to tell."

Mr. Wadsworth teamed up with Allison Fortuna, the historian and archivist for the Bonita Springs Historical Society to create this treasure trove of fascinating facts and warm recollections. The duo pored over more than a thousand photos, selecting only the best to be featured in the book. Copious research and

interviews with longtime residents contributed greatly to the book's rich photographic images and captions.

"We wanted to be absolutely sure that we were capturing the true history of Bonita Springs," said Ms. Fortuna. "We researched decades-old documents in the historical society's archives and double checked our information and stories with some of Bonita's oldest families and residents."

The book is part of the popular "Images of America" series published by Arcadia Publishing, based in Mount Pleasant, S.C. The company has produced more than 5,000 regional and local history books covering communities all over the United States.

The book is available at local bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Books- A-Million and Borders as well as all local Walgreens stores. It is also available online at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble. com and other online booksellers.

Title: New book chronicles early history of Bonita Springs

Author: Mark S. Krzos

Publisher: News Press

Date: 2/11/2009

Chris Wadsworth, a News-Press columnist, and Allison Fortuna, a local teacher and member of the Bonita Springs Historical Society, have teamed up to chronicle the early history of Bonita Springs in a new book released by Arcadia Publishing.

The book "Images of America: Bonita Springs" was released last month and the two authors will attend a book signing event and answer questions from 5-8 p.m. Friday at the Liles Hotel inside Bonita's Riverside Park.

Wadsworth said the book was borne out of a love for local history.

"I'm a history buff and always liked finding out more about where I live," he said. "I've seen these books by Arcadia for years now. They're not best-sellers, but they found that they can sell enough of them to make a profit."

Wadsworth said he then took a look at the communities and cities that other authors for Arcadia had covered and thought Bonita Springs would make a solid addition to the collection.

"They were the ones that suggested I get in touch with the Bonita Springs Historical Society," he said. "So I called up Charlie Strader and he was on board and then put me in touch with Allison.

"We spent all last summer researching, looking at old photographs and writing captions," he said.

What went into the book is mostly photos chronicling the people and places that shaped Bonita Springs for generations.

"We were looking for photos that were visually interesting," Wadsworth said. "But we also wanted to give people an idea of what Bonita looked like back then so they could how it has changed."

The photos that stood out the most for Wadsworth was the cover shot and the first photo inside.

"I think my favorite was the second photo in the book," said Wadsworth, describing the photo of a young boy sitting next to his mother aboard a small boar and peering into the mouth of a giant snook.

The boy in the photo is the recently-retired and former Bonita Springs Fire-Rescue Chief Dan Gourley.

"I thought that photo of mother and son was really emblematic of old Bonita," he said. "We really wanted it for the cover, but we knew we couldn't use it because of the shape of the photo."

The cover photo was more of a mystery. It shows five people smiling in front of a chickee hut near the water.

"I really liked it because the people are smiling and they don't look dour like a lot of the Arcadia covers," Wadsworth said. "But we didn't know who any of the people in the photo were."

So Wadsworth and Fortuna went to longtime Bonita historian Jean Hogue and asked her if she knew.

"She said, 'Well, that's my mother and my uncle,'" Wadsworth recalled. "She got really choked up when we told her that was going to be the cover."

Inside the book, readers will find photos of a near desolate Bonita Beach, plenty of photos of the Everglades Wonder Gardens, the Liles Hotel, Bonita Springs Elementary School, the Imperial River, pioneering families and the devastation brought to Bonita by a wicked hurricane by the name of Donna.

"It's not supposed to be an exhaustive history of Bonita Springs," Wadsworth said. "It's meant to be more like a family album of Bonita."

Product Details

Arcadia Publishing SC
Publication date:
Images of America Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Veteran Southwest Florida journalist Chris Wadsworth has teamed up with Allison Fortuna of the Bonita Springs Historical Society to create this rich visual history of the city. Pulling photographs and stories from the society’s vast archives, as well as the personal collections of longtime Bonita families, they have created Images of America: Bonita Springs, sure to be treasured by residents and visitors for years to come.

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