A movement to restore the Bank of Everglades in Everglades City has crystalized since Naples resident Robert Flick gifted the half-million-dollar historic landmark to the Everglades Society for Historic Preservation in March 2021. It was the first bank in Collier County in 1923 and inhabited its two-story home on Broadway Avenue from 1927 to 1962. It was later used as a newspaper office and a bed and breakfast but has deteriorated after sitting empty for several years.
The nonprofit has worked with a contractor to clean out the building and remove upstairs partitions, has teamed with a pro bono architect, and has been raising money to fund the renovation project. Marya Repko, preservation society secretary and the author of some 15 regional history books, says facilities will be updated to meet accessibility requirements, including the installation of an elevator. Envisioned for downstairs is a visitor’s center. Flick was an extra in the 1958 film, Wind Across the Everglades, and plans are afoot to turn the original bank vault into a room where the classic plays on a continuous loop. Plans call for the second-story rooms to be rented as artist studios or office space.
“We’re unique in Everglades City,” says Repko. “There aren’t many villages that look today like they did 100 years ago.” The original goal was to unveil a fully restored bank building on May 8, 2023—the centennial anniversary of the founding of Collier County. “I had a dream it’d be open by then, but I don’t think it will,” she adds.