Many know the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club as a fixture in the Naples community. In honor of its 70th anniversary, we’re sharing the story of how the Watkins family has preserved this tropical paradise and created ongoing traditions for generations of guests.
1880s – The Naples Hotel, as it was then known, is constructed two blocks east of the Naples Pier and one-and-a-half miles south of the site now known as the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.
1929 – Allen Joslin and his wife, Lois (heir to the Jergens hand lotion empire), build the first 18-hole golf course in the Naples area, much to the delight of area golfers who had previously made do with nine holes and sand greens that did double duty as the airport. (Third Street and Fifth Avenue were the fairways—true story.) The Joslins also scoop up nearby beachfront property, which soon becomes The Beach Club, the first building on the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club site.
1946 – Henry B. Watkins Sr., a retired toy maker, buys the golf course, original hotel and Beach Club and the beach, which he develops into the current resort.
1960 – Hurricane Donna wreaks major havoc on Naples and the hotel, to which Henry shrugs and says, “We’ll just build it back better.”
1970s – Buildings are added to the new hotel property to keep up with demand, and eventually, the original hotel is demolished after it outgrows its footprint. (Naples was winning the popularity contest even then.)
1989 – Henry Watkins Sr.’s grandson, Michael Watkins, is appointed president of the company, with brother Henry Watkins III as EVP.
1996 – Party time! The Watkins family celebrates its 50th anniversary of hotel ownership with The Beach Ball, a recreation of a not-easily-forgotten 1946 beach party that includes hickory stick golf and wooden racket tennis tournaments. Ever the generous bunch, the Watkins donates funds from the event to build a new playground in Cambier Park.
2016 – Seventy years since its opening, the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club remains firmly rooted in Naples tradition for visitors and locals alike. Its longstanding summer concert series, SummerJazz on the Gulf, wraps up another season this month on Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m.
Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
851 Gulf Shore Blvd. N., Naples | 239-261-2222
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—Reporting by Mykala Fowler