Everyone in Naples knows about the Naples Pier. It’s an iconic place. A one-of-a-kind, gorgeous structure that gets visitors from all over the world – and rightly so, not only the pier provides a beautiful view but also gives us a privileged position to gaze upon an incredible range of aquatic life, from small colored fish all the way to playful dolphins.
What many people don’t know about the Pier is its long and interesting story. It’s downright movie-script material. Having existed in three different centuries – and counting -, the Naples Pier has lived through hardship, tragedy, and disaster. It has survived through almost everything thanks to its resiliency, a little bit of luck, and one or two generous benefactors.
It all started in the 18th century. More exactly, in 1888. A steamship named Fearless was the thing that brought the Naples Pier to existence. The Fearless traveled from Punta Gorda to Naples. It was all smooth-sailing and happy traveling until problems started to happen. The boat had multiple issues when it had to deal with low-tides, especially when it came to dealing with sandbars. To solve this issue, a simple solution was built.
A 600 feet T-shaped pier was that simple solution. A year later, the Pier was finished. Soon after, Naples’ first hotel was inaugurated close by. The Pier then underwent several changes to ensure hotel guests could easily transport their luggage from boats into the hotel.
Earth, Wind & Fire
For over 20 years, nothing happened to the beloved Naples Pier. But soon after its 20th anniversary, the first tragedy did strike. One of nature’s cruelest and most vicious agents struck Naples. A hurricane tore through the Pier and the hotel – and both needed renovations afterward. The Pier got 100 feet bigger after the reconstruction.
A little over a decade later, a minor problem targeted the pier again. A cigarette-related incident ended up causing severe damage to it. The fire also destroyed a post office located nearby.
Two years later, in 1924, the pier becomes 1000 feet long – what once was a small structure to help people get out of their boats is now gaining size and momentum. People who visit Naples start to notice it even more than before.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t think the Pier had enough in 1910. 16 years after the first hurricane incident, in 1926, a second one hits Naples’ own and causes damage. Luckily for locals and visitors alike, the Pier survives gracefully.
One of the biggest tragedies happened in 1944. A year before World War II ended, a third hurricane threatened the Pier. And as the adage goes the third time’s the charm – or better said, the tragedy -, the third hurricane hit and completely destroyed the historic structure. The Pier was completely rebuilt shortly thereafter.
Naples Pier had gone through two World Wars and tremendous damage, both from man-made and natural disasters. But it couldn’t be stopped. In 1944 after it was completely rebuilt, the Naples Pier gained 100 feet. Fishermen loved it and so did people who went there after dawn to party.
Fishermen had quality time with their peers. Both young and old partied in the Pier as well. Until 1960. For some reason far away from human understanding, another hurricane hit the Naples Pier. This was the worst one so far, destroying it alongside the Naples hotel. The hurricane combined with a terrible storm made the Pier collapse into the gulf. And as adages go, another one rings true: When it rains, it pours. For some reason, this too away from human understanding, the City Council had canceled the Pier’s insurance a couple of weeks before the hurricane tore through it all. It was a bad scenario for the Pier.
People wanted the Naples Pier back, and conversations began on how to do such a thing. Several businessmen suggested moving it away from its original location to generate more profit from it. But this was all stopped before it began thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Dorris, two generous philanthropists who donated enough money to build the Pier once again under one condition. The Naples Pier had to remain where it always was.
Due to several issues, the Pier has to undergo several renovations in 1970. The City Council began to play with an unusual idea. They wanted to charge 25 cents to all visitors to cover the Pier’s expenses. Fortunately for everyone, the Norris family donated enough money to save the pier for a second time. This time, under another condition. The Naples Pier’s access should be free and for everyone to enjoy.
The Naples Pier was now older than several countries. It had survived two World Wars, both the Korea and Vietnam wars, the Cold War, and several major historic events. Kennedy’s assassination and Nixon’s resignation. Tragedies struck America as natural disasters struck the Pier – and both had shown the strength to fight back and survive.
By its 112th birthday what is now a Naples’ historic landmark was on its way to meet the 21st century. And it would do it with the same resiliency and grace that is already known for.
In 2015, the Pier closed down momentarily to undergo major renovations. Brazilian wood was imported into Naples to replace the old wood from the Pier’s structure. The new structure can now last over three centuries – and will need no major renovations until then.
Nothing bad happened to the beloved Pier in almost 50 years. It was a breath of fresh air. If things were fair in this world, this is how Pier should always be: a peaceful place filled with locals and tourists. With families and fishermen. A beautiful place to relax and spend time alone or with someone else.
Peace was cut short, unfortunately, in 2017. A sixth hurricane hit the Naples Pier. At this point in time, we all know what happened: the Naples Pier bounced back, as it always did.
As it always will, no matter what happens.
To this day, the Naples Pier is still standing tall. A home for fishermen, families, and anyone willing to stand on a piece of American history – a place for everyone to enjoy.