I have two articles that I have written about Collier-Seminole State Park, and the park as an odd memorial to the Third Seminole War.
Collier-Seminole State Park opened as a state park in 1947, named for both the county’s namesake who developed the area, and the local Seminole Indians. But plans for this park went back many years before. As early as 1913, the Southern States Land and Timber Company set aside 150 acres for a park at Royal Palm Hammock. Barron Gift Collier brought the property and continued the effort to establish a park there. Collier wanted it to be a national park, the “Lincoln-Lee National Park.” It was named that due to the fact that the American Civil War was still fresh in the minds of many people in the south, when there were a few surviving but very aged veterans. The name was used as a way to bring the country back together and heal old divisions. But the federal government was not very interested at the time because it was a small park, a remote location, and the feds didn’t see a national and historical significance of Royal Palm Hammock. Ironically, the same year it opened as a state park, Everglades National Park was dedicated as a national park.
Barron Collier died in 1939, but efforts to open the park still continued by his sons and Collier County. Especially influential in creating the park was County Commissioner D. Graham Copeland. Copeland was originally hired by Barron Collier to manage the Collier businesses. He was an expert surveyor, graduated at the top of his class from the Citadel, and served as a naval engineer in World War 1. Copeland mapped out many remote areas of Collier County, while also locating the sites of several Seminole War forts, Seminole Indian trails and villages. On ten of those Seminole War locations that he discovered, Copeland installed memorials, or bronze plaques, on concrete pedestals at the sites. Some of the concrete pedestals still exist, but only one bronze plaque remains that has not been stolen or vandalized. (Described in the book, “Florida’s Vanishing Trail” by the late James Hammond.)
Copeland’s research into the historical Seminole War sites obviously influenced the early development of Collier-Seminole State Park. The first building built in the park is, “The Blockhouse,” designed to look like a fort blockhouse from the Seminole War era. But it has since lasted 70 years in the park, longer than most any structures from any Seminole War forts ever did. The design for the blockhouse was probably under Copeland’s direction. Early plans and designs of the blockhouse no longer exist; probably because all county records were flooded at the bottom floor of the courthouse when hurricane Donna struck in 1960. So no records survived from when the building was actually built, and by whom. Although, it does show up on an early map from 1940.
Since efforts to make this a national park failed, the county turned over the property to the Florida Park Service in March 1944. The state developed a campground and opened it as Collier-Seminole State Park in 1947. All that was open for the public in 1947 was a primitive campground, the Barron Collier Memorial Field, and the Blockhouse, which upstairs served as the caretaker’s residence. It would not be until 1969 that the boat ramp and canal connecting to the Blackwater River were completed. Mrs. Margaret Scott of the Collier County Historical Society raised funds for a museum to go into the blockhouse, but no record exists of what ever happened, or if she had gained any collection for display. (Written about in Carlton W. Tebeau’s book, “Florida’s Last Frontier, the History of Collier County,” 1966)
Below: The Blockhouse after renovation was completed in 2006.