Cape homes prizes in TV game show, new exhibit reveals; 8 given from 1959-64
Carolyn Zenoniani, a volunteer with the Cape Coral Historical Museum, said she never imagined when she was looking through old Cape Coral Sun newspapers that she would find an article which told of a couple who had won a home as a prize on the popular daytime television game show, “The Price is Right.”
“I was shocked. I don’t think any of us here had any idea that a house in Cape Coral was ever given away as a prize,” said Zenoniani.
In fact, after digging through more old newspapers, Zenoniani was able to find several more articles about individuals who had won houses in Cape Coral as prizes on the game show.
“All in all there were eight houses in the Cape that were awarded as prizes,” said Anne Cull, curator of the Cape Coral Historical Museum.
Zenoniani said she and a group of other volunteers did research for several months to gather all of the information about the homes and their locations to create an exhibit, which is now on display at the museum.
“We have taken all of the articles and had them enlarged and we researched the property deeds and so we have those, too,” said Zenoniani. “We also have the older photos of the homes and the new photos from the property appraisals.”
The eight homes were all built by the same company, Gulf Coast Homes, and they were given away on the game show starting December 1959 through 1964.
Although all of the homes are still standing, Zenoniani said she is pretty sure none of them are owned by the original prize winners.
“I was really surprised that none of them were tear-downs,” she said. “I think many of them have changed hands at least three to six times.”
The houses are located throughout the Cape on streets such as York Court, Tower Drive, Del Rio Court, Vincennes Boulevard, Pelican Boulevard, Southeast 47th Street and Southeast 42nd Terrace.
“We found out from the article that the woman who won a house on El Dorado Boulevard also received in her prize package from the show 120 bottles of champagne and a Chinese junk boat,” said Zenoniani. “It said she would sell the boat and the champagne, but she was keeping the house.”
Zenoniani is not sure how the houses came to be part of the prize packages given away on “The Price is Right,” but she figures it had something to do with the Rosen brothers promoting their new-found waterfront wonderland.
“They had a lot of contacts,” said Zenoniani. “I imagine they had a hand in it.”
In addition to the “The Price is Right” display, the museum is also in the researching stage for another exciting and informative exhibit which should be up and running in the next couple of months.
“We are working on an exhibit on the first homesteads in Cape Coral,” said Zenoniani. “The motivation behind this exhibit is because so many people in the area think that the Cape was just swamp land before it was developed by the Rosen brothers.”
In fact, according to Zenoniani, the first homestead was here in 1840. She said that at the time, an individual could approach the government and officials would give the person up 160 acres in the Cape as long as within five years the person showed improvements had been made to the land.
Included in the exhibit will be information about the first families who lived here with a summary of their lives and how they came to acquire the land, as well as maps and pictures.
“In some cases, we have found the original land deeds which were signed by Benjamin Harrison, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover,” said Zenoniani.
The researchers have already uncovered the names of some of the first families of Cape Coral, including the Nelson family, the DeLacey family and the Molter family. Pat Emerson, a researcher for the museum, is a descendant of the Molter family, which had one of the first homesteads on what then was known as Molter Grade — today known as Chiquita Boulevard.
The Harney Point Questers, an organization that supports the preservation of history, presented a check to the historical museum Wednesday to help with the funding of the homestead exhibit. The grant was $695 of which $500 came from the Florida State Questers Preservation and Restoration Fund and $195 from the local Harney Point Questers Chapter 1080.
“They are a wonderful organization who help us financially with projects and exhibits,” said Cull.
The Cape Coral Historical Museum is located at 544 Cultural Park Blvd. It is open on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. It is closed during the months of July and August. For more information, visit the facility’s Web site: www.capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org or call 772-7037.