Everglades City (formerly known as Everglades) is a city in Collier County, Florida, United States, of which it is the former county seat. As of the 2013 census, the population is 402. It is part of the Naples–Marco Island Metropolitan Statistical Area. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center for Everglades National Park is in Everglades City.
The area around Chokoloskee Bay, including the site of Everglades City, was occupied for thousands of years by Native Americans of the Glades culture, who were absorbed by the Calusa shortly before the arrival of Europeans in the New World, but by the time Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States in 1821, the area was uninhabited. A legend says that Seminoles planted potatoes along what is now the Barron River during the Seminole Wars, in the vicinity of the present Everglades City.
American settlement began after the Civil War, when Union sympathizers who had farmed on Cape Sable to supply Key West during the war moved up the west coast of the peninsula. The first permanent settler was William Smith Allen, who arrived on the banks of Potato Creek (later renamed the Allen River) in 1873. After Allen retired to Key West in 1889, George W. Storter, Jr. became the principal landowner in the area. Storter gained fame for his sugar cane crops. He opened a trading post in 1892, and gained a post office, called “Everglade”, in 1895. Storter also began entertaining northern tourists who came to Everglade by yacht in the winter to hunt and fish. His house eventually grew into the Rod and Gun Club, visited by United States Presidents and other notables.
The first school in Everglade was organized in 1893. The school moved into a new building in 1895, but the building was destroyed by a tornado later in the year. The next school building was washed away by the 1910 hurricane. A Methodist circuit rider began visiting Everglade in 1888, and a Methodist minister became resident the next year, but he left after four years. After that Everglade was occasionally visited by itinerant preachers of various denominations. The Episcopal Church established a mission at Immokalee which eventually moved to Everglade when revitalized in the 1930s by Harriet Bedell.
In 1922 Barron Collier began buying large areas of land in what was then southern Lee County. In 1923 the Florida legislature created Collier County from Lee County, with the county seat at Everglade. The town was incorporated the same year as “Everglades” (adding the “s”). The town consisted of only a dozen families at the time, but some northern sportsmen had established winter homes there.
The Tamiami Trail, which crossed Collier’s domain, passed five miles north of Everglades City. While construction was proceeding on the Trail (it was completed in 1929), Collier pushed construction of what became State Road 29 from Everglades City to Immokalee, providing the town with its first land connection to the rest of the state. In 1928, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad began service to Everglades City, which became the southernmost point the Coast Line ever reached. Service was provided by an extension of the Coast Line’s Haines City branch from Immokalee to Deep Lake, where it connected to Collier’s Deep Lake Railroad, an earlier railroad that transported agricultural freight. The railroad was removed in 1957.
In 1960 the strong winds and coastal flooding of Hurricane Donna combined to destroy 153 homes in Collier County, as well as inflict major damage on 409 more, and damage an additional 1,049. Everglades was hard hit, and two years later, Florida’s legislature moved the county seat to East Naples, Florida. In 1965, the state legislature changed the town’s name to Everglades City.