Opinion: Let’s take a moment to honor Naples’ Main Street
July 2, 2019
There’s nothing more American than Main Street on the Fourth of July. From parades honoring heroic veterans to ice cream and flag-waving kids, it’s a great place to be. It is the heart and soul of towns and small cities across the country.
We have much to celebrate this Fourth of July in terms of our nation’s independence and the freedoms we all enjoy. We also have much to celebrate every day of the year about our own main street … Fifth Avenue South.
Fifth Avenue enjoys a proud heritage since the 1920s, when it was first considered the unofficial Main Street of Naples. Back then, it consisted of a handful of businesses, including Ed Frank’s garage, the Chamber of Commerce, the phone company, Jack “Doc” Prince’s Naples Liquors, Hixon’s Sundries, and Club 41.
Many remember that Fifth Avenue also boasted a golf course at the end of Fifth, near the beach, in the 1930s. From time to time, Charles Lindbergh would land his plane on the course to pick up supplies on Fifth for his family, who had a retreat on Sanibel.
Club 41 was hugely popular among locals and even boasted visits by a number of stars in the 1930s, including Gary Cooper and Gloria Swanson.
In the forties, Naples got its first traffic light at the junction of Fifth Avenue South and 41, known then as Four Corners. We also got our first bank and the Sunshine Supermarket, opened by the Wynn family of Wynn’s Grocery Store and Sunshine Ace Hardware today. And our beautiful Cambier Park, just off Fifth, was created.
After suffering a major hit by Hurricane Donna in 1960, Fifth Avenue spent the mid-60s making a comeback with a real estate boom. But by the late 1960s and 70s, newer more modern shopping centers began popping up on the outskirts of downtown, creating new destinations for shopping, dining and entertainment.
In the early 1990s, Naples-area business owners and civic leaders recognized the importance of a cohesive plan for the Fifth Avenue South district and engaged the assistance of renowned urban planner Andres Duany. With his guidance, an already fashionable street was transformed into Southwest Florida’s premier shopping, dining, cultural, and performing arts destination.
Today, almost a century later, Fifth Avenue remains the heart and soul of Naples. It is historic and integral to this community.
Although featuring over 200 businesses today, Fifth Avenue continues to boast a timeless and classic feel. It is an icon for the community, the county, and the world. It has been described as “electric” where visitors come every year for food, fashion, art, and entertainment. It highlights antique car shows, holiday festivals, art exhibits, and Evenings on Fifth, where visitors and residents stroll to music or dance the night away.
The future of Fifth Avenue is bright. It will remain an engine for innovative business and an economic hub for growth and revenue, but will always be a place of historic development, memories, and inspiration.
As we stand on our Main Street this Fourth of July and watch a parade of dazzling floats that honor our country and celebrate our independence, we should also take a moment to celebrate our own little piece of Americana and take pride in Fifth Avenue’s glorious past and fervent future.
For further information about upcoming Fifth Avenue events, visit www.fifthavenuesouth.com.
Bruce Barone, Jr., an 18-year Naples resident, is the Executive Director of the 5th Avenue South Business Improvement District