In 1887, a group of wealthy Kentuckians, led by Walter N. Haldeman, owner of the Louisville Courier-Journal, purchased virtually the entire town of Naples. One of the first improvements Haldeman and the Naples Company made was to build a pier 600 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. The unusual "T" shape allowed large ships to dock easily. Despite being destroyed and rebuilt three times, the pier's "T" shape remains.
Naples quickly gained a reputation as a winter resort. Social life revolved around the Naples Hotel, which played host to celebrities such as Rose Cleveland, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, Greta Garbo, Hedy Lamarr, and Gary Cooper.
In 1911, Barron Collier, who had made his fortune in streetcar advertising, visited nearby Useppa Island. He was so taken with the area that he bought over a million acres of untouched swampland - including most of Naples. Collier believed that Florida's west coast could enjoy the same boom that the east coast was experiencing in the 1920's; but first it was necessary to bring in road and railroads.
Based on Collier's promise to help build the Tamiami Trail, in 1923 the state legislature created Collier County, of which East Naples is the county seat. Collier spent more than $1 million of his own money to construct the Tamiami Trail, which opened in 1926 as the only paved highway linking the state's two largest cities at that time - Tampa and Miami.
Naples continues to thrive and, along with the rest of Southwest Florida, maintains its reputation as one of Florida's premiere vacation, retirement, and leisure destinations. The Naples area (Collier County) is currently home to over 250,000 residents year round.
The beach on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is more than 10 miles long, and is noted for its cleanliness and pristine white sand. In 2005, Naples was voted the best beach in America by the Travel Channel.
With more than 80 championship golf courses in the Naples area, Naples is the self-titled "Golf Capital of the World", claiming to have more holes per capita than any other community.
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Florida State. Tourism plays a primary role in the Florida's state economy. Walt Disney World, a massive cluster of theme parks near Orlando that is one of the world's leading tourist attractions and is only 3 hours away by the car from Naples; Universal Studios, a combination theme park and film and television production facility, also near Orlando; and other attractions draw millions yearly. Famed beaches, such as those at Miami Beach (1.5 hour drive by car), Daytona Beach , and Fort Lauderdale , attract hordes of vacationers. With more than 4,000 sq mi (10,360 sq km) of inland water and with the sea readily accessible from almost anywhere in the state, Florida is a fishing paradise. Other attractions include Everglades National Park , with its unusual plant and animal life; Palm Beach , with its palatial estates; and Sanibel Island's picturesque resorts.
Famous for its citrus fruits, Florida leads the nation in the production of oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and market-ready corn and tomatoes. Other important crops include sugarcane and many varieties of winter vegetables. Cattle and dairy products are important, as is commercial fishing, with the catch including crabs, lobsters, and shrimp.