Mound House is a unique archaeological and historical site on Fort Myers Beach, located directly on Estero Bay, and offers a variety of programs for local residents, visitors and school groups.
Estero Island, known today as Fort Myers Beach, was surveyed and platted in 1876. Robert Gilbert filed his claim in 1898 to build the oldest remaining structure on the island known today at the Mound House. Built as a Tudor home with dock and cistern in 1906, it was known as the "Mound Villa", and in 1909, as the "Bungalow by the Banyan" when the brick structure was added.
From 1914 to 1916 it was called the "Bayview" Post Office, when mail was delivered by boat. In 1921 the bungalow roof was remodeled and the bungalow named "Bayview Lodge". A garage was also constructed because cars were now arriving over the first toll bridge to the island. During the WWII years the property served as an R&R facility for the military, and by 1947 the James Foundation established an experimental station as part of the WWII effort using the kitchen and garage.
The mound was partially destroyed when new owners William and Florence Long purchased the property, which was then excavated to establish the "Shell Mound" subdivision. By 1958, a swimming pool and large Florida room was added with extensive landscaping. Known only as the "Long Estate", it served as a popular setting for fashion shows and club fundraisers on the Island. In later years the porch and side entrance were altered with a caregiver's addition.
By 1995 the Town of Ft. Myers Beach incorporated, and the Mound House was obtained as its first preservation effort in saving the structure and site from being demolished and replaced by numerous villas and condos. Today this property is an archaeological and historic site.
The Calusa were known as coastal people, and were "fisher-gatherers" whose sustainability depended on their rich and diverse habitat.
Over two thousand years ago the Calusa Indians dominated most of the southwest region of Florida. They assembled in small villages or fishing stations. They possessed a vast knowledge of seamanship and built seaworthy canoes. They also engineered water courts with terraced mounds for higher and safer ground from high tides and hurricanes. Calusa people built shell mounds, which are called middens. One such mound is where Mound House sits today. Although eroded and altered by the human use of the last century, it is still a substantial midden, and home to the unique exhibit called "Stories Beneath Our Feet".
In the 1950s an in-ground swimming pool was installed at the house. Although destructive, it allowed for the present day large scale exhibit to be created. Archaeologists have removed the swimming pool elements, cleaned the walls of the shell mound and exposed many layers of history. Visitors to Mound House today can tour this amazing "underground room" and see first hand what a midden looks like. Artifacts, a video display, and a 44-foot-long custom-made wall mural by artist Merald Clark which depicts the life of the Calusa Indians and their site usage at Mound House over the past 1,000 years, all serve to teach visitors about the past. The "Stories Beneath Our Feet" exhibit can be viewed by itself or combined as a dual tour with the Plants & People Trail, a 400-foot winding pathway where tour volunteers show and tell about native landscape and how it was used by early pioneers and indigenous peoples.
page information credit: Mound House, Estero Historic Society, Miami Herald, Naples Daily News
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors