Jul 2, 2021
A fishing village founded on the northern shores of Lake Michigan during the 19th century and a Florida resort city on the Gulf of Mexico are miles apart both geographically and culturally, but share a distinction by virtue of their Indiana connections.
Hoosiers have long flocked to both towns as seasonal destinations, with the cottages of Leland, Mich., popular during the summer, while many "snowbirds" have escaped during Indiana's winters to Naples, Fla., or nearby locales including Marco Island and Sanibel, where thousands also have moved when they retired.
The entrepreneurial Ball brothers of Muncie and their families led the Hoosier migration to Leland during the early 1900s, followed by the extended family of Indianapolis novelist Booth Tarkington. A neighborhood in the village even became known as "Indiana Woods."
Although Naples also traces its beginnings to the 19th century, the influx of Hoosiers didn't begin until the late 1960s and '70s, when real estate developers targeted central Indiana residents with sales pitches about the construction of condominiums, apartments and houses. After retiring as a pro basketball player, Larry Bird was living in Naples when the Indiana Pacers reached out in 1997 and asked him to become the team's coach. Members of the Hulman family - long associated with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - also are among Hoosiers who have owned or rented properties in the Naples area.
To explore the extensive Indiana links to Leland and Naples - both of which have neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places - Nelson will be joined by a guest who has deep connections to the two getaway destinations.
Indianapolis historian, educator and civic leader Jim Fadely plans to spend part of this summer in Leland for the 29th consecutive year. Jim, who is a former board president of Indiana Landmarks and the Society of Indiana Pioneers, is no stranger to Naples, either. The family of his wife, Sally, owned a condo there beginning in 1974; Jim and Sally Fadely inherited the residence and eventually sold it.
So many Hoosiers began spending part of the year in Naples and Marco Island during the 1970s that the former Indiana National Bank opened branches in the area. With an economy based heavily on tourism, Naples touts its "pristine white sand beaches," restaurants, historic Naples Pier and shopping opportunities.
Leland is more quaint and low key, noted for its historic cottages, cherry trees and vineyards, Jim Fadely reports. But he adds that in addition to the streams of Hoosier visitors and part-time residents, Leland has something else in common with Naples: the Lake Michigan water at Leland, which is on the Leelanau Peninsula, is aqua, just like parts of the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea.
The harbor area of Leland, called the Fishtown Historic District, has "shingled shanties with a Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard look," Jim Fadely says, adding that an "understated aesthetic prevails in Leland." Susannah Mayberry, the great-niece of Indianapolis novelist Booth Tarkington, wrote about some of the area's Indiana connections in a book titled Of Love and Leland: A World War II Generation Memoir (1997).
For much of the early and mid-20th century, Naples and other locales south of Fort Myers on the Gulf of Mexico coast remained secluded. Visitors could travel to Naples only by boat until train lines arrived in 1927. Later during the 1920s, the Tamiami Trail road was built across the Everglades and connected Naples to Miami.
Since the 1970s, new construction has continued at a rapid pace in the Naples and Marco Island area. With the influx of Hoosiers to the region, many Indiana-based organizations, including the Indiana University Alumni Association, have established chapters in Naples.