Thousands of years ago the area that we now call Marco Island was the home to ancient civilizations,one of which, the Calusa Indians, made their presence known in the form of middens, shell mounds and canals.
Indian Life on Marco Island
In an 1896 expedition by the University of Pennsylvania and the Smithsonian Institution, under the direction of the eminent anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing, more than 2,000 spectacular artifacts of wood and shell were excavated here, attesting to the sophistication and artistry of the these people. The rich muck of a Marco mangrove swamp preserved fragile materials rarely found in porous Florida soils. Included in these artifacts was the, now famous, “Key Marco Cat” which currently resides in a vault in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Museum. It is our hope that some day it will reside in our museum here on Marco Island where it began its life.
The Marco Cat-Replica by Artist Peter Sottong
The 1500’s found Ponce de Leon encountering the Calusa Indians on Marco, where he found the staples of their diet were fish and sea food, and in the early 1800’s it is said that the pirate Henri (Black) Caesar set up camp on various S.W. Florida islands, one of which was Marco Island. In 1870 the first white settlers came to Marco by sailboat. Their main sources of income were fishing and clamming, with two clam factories later setting up shop on opposite ends of the island.
Clam boat from the clam factory
In the 1960s a new chapter of life on the island was begun when the Deltona Corporation began massive development of Marco Island.
What is now the Judge Jolly Bridge being constructed from the mainland to Marco Island
These late-twentieth century development practices, while providing a beautiful lifestyle for residents and visitors to the island, have destroyed many of the prehistoric and historic features of Marco Island.
Marco Island as it looks today