Quintessential Old Florida…Stop the Car!

With the Overwhelming Rise of American Super Highways…

the Ticky Tackiness of Summer Vacation Road Trips are Relegated to Nostalgic Memories.

 

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Why Take the Slow-Down-Through-Every-Little-Town Route, When You Can Speed Up a Super Highway Like I-75 to Get Where You Need to Be?

 

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Because You Would Miss a Treasured Spot Like This…

The Shell Factory.

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A Short History of The Shell Factory

Since 1937 when Harold and Mildred Crant first began selling sea shells by the seashore in Bonita Springs until today, The Shell Factory has seen hundreds of changes and overcome nearly as many obstacles.

Fire destroyed the original Bonita site and in 1954 the attraction moved to its current home.

Then … in 1960 Hurricane Donna destroyed the retail store, in 1981 the warehouse caught fire and in 1983 the opening of Interstate 75 took the constant flow of traffic far away from the roadside attraction landmark.

By 1997 the problems seemed insurmountable and one of the oldest tourist venues in Southwest Florida was about to become nothing more than a paragraph in history books and photos pasted in visitors’ personal scrapbooks.

It was in foreclosure and bankruptcy — a badly declining tourist trap in a deteriorating building — until developer, banker, entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas R. Cronin Sr., now 73, lended his vision, creativity and financial support.

He is still at the helm.

 

Fort Myers, Florida.  Southwest Florida.  On the Gulf.

After a Long Flight of Multiple Connections, We Ended Our Journey in Fort Myers.

 

At the Fort Myers’ Airport Information Center, We Were Directed to “Definitely Not Miss” The Shell Factory!

 

 

So We Stayed Off the Main Highway and Made a Pit Stop to The Shell Factory.

 

 

The Shell Factory boasts the world’s largest collection of rare shells, sponges, coral and fossils.

But…Oh My…it certainly doesn’t just have Shells.

Tucked in Next to the Talking, Smarmy Pirates…

 

 

and Jolly Ho Ho Ho Christmas Shoppe…

 

 

Is the country’s largest collections of taxidermy animals, birds, fish and reptiles.

All to See for Free.

 

Sad to See.  But Overwhelmingly Impressive.

 

 

Exotic, Almost Extinct Animals, in Diorama Settings.

 

As We Entered the Exhibit, We All Fell Silent.

 

 

We Respectfully Walked Through Looking from Right to Left.

 

 

Standing Eye to Eye in Amazement.

 

 

Quietly Hoping that This Would Be the Last of This Kind of Collection.

 

 

The Magnitude was Overwhelming.

 

 

Sometimes Confusing.  Most Times Just Sad.

 

 

Yet Appreciating the Stunning Beauty of these Wondrous Creatures.

 

 

The End.

 

 

 

 

 On the Way In and Out, You Can Also Shop for Colorful Florida Hats and Tees.

We Chose to Drive On.

 

 

The Shell Factory.

A Quick Stop on the Way to Somewhere Else.

Learning a Surprising Lesson.  All Tackiness Aside.  With a Dash of Magic.

9 thoughts on “Quintessential Old Florida…Stop the Car!

    1. I certainly was surprised at the offerings there. And the stop opened up an important dialogue for all of us for the rest of our drive. Guess you never know when inspiration will strike. Glad it was with you.

  1. Hmm. I wouldn’t know what to make of that – caught in the middle of sadness and awe, I suppose, rather like you. I’d have been squirming at the bad taste whilst at the same time fascinated! Not long ago, we visited Calke Abbey over here, which is rammed full of stuffed animals – it’s a bit sickening. Really interesting post.

    1. Yes, fun, but as always way too short. Tenants have lived in the Florida house much longer than we have. I keep trying to remember that it’s an investment. Hmm… 🙂

  2. Florida in general sounds like a great place to visit – and many British people do, every year. What a fascinating place The Shell Factory is, too! The collection of shells and corals must be amazing, But I’ve never liked the idea of taxidermy, Although the animals look really beautiful, just looking at them fills me with sadness, as it did you, Jeanne. Even as a child I wouldn’t look at the rooms of stuffed animals in our local museum. On a happier note, I enjoyed travelling to Florida with you today and hearing a little bit of history about your stop-off place,

    1. You’re right, Millie…I was on a dolphin viewing boat and sat with ladies from England…we chatted about the Royal Family on the entire trip…it was such fun! I noticed their accent(I usually can’t tell if it’s English, Scottish or Irish) and they saw my cell phone cover of William and Kate. Oh yes, Florida is a silly, silly place. Love the turquoise blue sky and water and both are always warm. 🙂

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