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‘From Pioneers to Paradise’

By Staff | Dec 16, 2014

Most residents have probably heard the story about the Rosen brothers and the Gulf American Land Corporation, but far fewer are likely as familiar with the homesteaders role in the city’s history.

Through December, the Northwest Regional Library will have an exhibit on display called “From Pioneers to Paradise.” It was put together with the help of the Cape Coral Historical Museum.

“I think there’s just a lot of people who are probably surprised the history goes back even more than people are aware of, that there were homesteaders here,” Claudia West, a reference librarian, said.

West explained that part of the exhibit covers the Cape’s more well-known history, such as the role Leonard and Jack Rosen and their corporation played in the development of the city. However, using pieces on loan from the museum, part of it also focuses on the homesteaders who were living here.

“Long before the city of Cape Coral was even imagined,” she said. “It was sort of like the pioneer times out West, but it was pioneering here in Florida.”

For example, the exhibit references the Nelson family, who Nelson Road in the northwest Cape is named after. It also talks about the Molter family and Molter Grade Road, now Chiquita Boulevard.

“They have some framed panels that show some photographs and things from the history of Cape Coral,” West said.

There are snapshots of the Waltzing Waters, along with pictures of an “amphibicar,” a vehicle that could drive on land and on water. It was used to take potential land buyers on property tours.

“There’s photographs of when Gulf American Land Corporation sold its first $1 million in land sales,” she said.

The idea for the exhibit stemmed from the book “From Pioneers to Paradise,” written by Pat Molter Emerson and published in 2012. A homesteader descendent, Emerson volunteers at the museum.

“When we got that here, and I realized how close to home this history was, I thought about making a great exhibit if the historical museum had something to go with it, to be more visual,” West said.

Last month, the library hosted an hourlong presentation by Emerson for the exhibit.

“She talked about the people who lived here and how they established their homestead,” she said. “They had some of the pictures of the people who lived back then.”

West estimated that approximately several dozen people attended the presentation.

“We had a pretty good turnout,” she said.

According to West, the goal of the exhibit is to share some of the Cape’s history with library visitors, but it also to raise awareness about the historical museum for those interested in learning more.

“To let people know how much of the story of Cape Coral is available to be learned about at the Cape Coral Historical Museum,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know that it exists.”

She urged anyone interested in learning more about the city’s history to visit the museum.

Admission is a $5 donation for adults and $2 donation for children.

“We’re the public library, whatever we have is free and open to the public,” West said. “If you want to just get a sampling of the history of Cape Coral, we make it a convenient way to get a taste.”

The “From Pioneers to Paradise” exhibit opened on Nov. 3.

“We have one at a time,” she said.

Each exhibit can last from six weeks up to two or three months, with six to eight scheduled per year. The next exhibit, “The Heart Gallery of Southwest Florida,” will run January through February.

“It’s an exhibit provided by the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida,” West said.

It will be a gallery of photo boards bearing pictures of children in foster care.

“The purpose is to get those faces out there and to get people thinking about adoption,” she said.

For more information on the “From Pioneers to Paradise” exhibit, call (239) 533-4700.

For information on the museum, visit: www.capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org.

The Northwest Regional Library is at 519 N. Chiquita Blvd.

The Cape Coral Historical Museum is at 544 Cultural Park Blvd.