As early as 1868, the first settlers came to our area and settled a small fishing village which is now known as Everglades City at the mouth of the Barron River on Chokoloskee Bay. By the early 1900s, it became apparent that a permanent road was needed to provide easier access to the area. In 1915, construction of the Tamiami Trail (pronounced tammy-ammy and standing for Tampa-Miami) began in the southern-most link between the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Building a road through the swampy, buggy, alligator-filled Everglades was an extremely difficult and dangerous undertaking. Construction delays during the early years were frequent due to unforeseen circumstances, such as the onset of World War I, hurricanes, and a land bust.
Eventually, in 1923, it took real estate developer Barron Collier, who had been buying land in what would become Collier County, took over the project, including the funding. Barron Collier’s efforts to build the Tamiami Trail included making Everglades City the center of his huge road project and it quickly became a boomtown.
Port DuPont, across the river from Everglades City, served as a distribution center for supplies needed to build the trail. It was there that Collier also erected a recreation building for his workers that included a bowling alley and pool hall. Today, that original recreation building is now the lodge portion of the Ivey House. It was moved to its present location shortly after a major hurricane in 1926.
One of the men who worked for Barron Collier was Earl W. Ivey. He oversaw the Bay City walking dredges used to create the roadbed for the Tamiami Trail. He worked eighteen hours a day to help complete the ten-mile stretch between Black Water River and the Belle Meade Crossing between 1927 and 1928.
When the Trail finally opened in 1928, the recreation hall was converted into a boarding house. Ivey and his wife, Agnes, ran the house for the Collier Development Corporation until 1960 when the Iveys purchased the house. Earl Ivey died in 1962 yet Agnes continued to run the house until her death in 1974.
Over the next few years, the house fell into disrepair until it was acquired by Beckett Academy. The Academy used the building as a dormitory and classroom for troubled children as part of its wilderness experience school. Men who stay in the historic lodge today will see evidence of the building’s use as a school — the curious men’s bathroom with stalls built more at a child’s scale.
In 1989, David Harraden, who has been providing guided canoe adventures in the backcountry of the Everglades National Park since 1979, purchased the school building from the Beckett Academy, and the Ivey House began its transformation to a bed and breakfast and eco-tour provider. In 1995, the Harraden family purchased and renovated the cottage next door to the Ivey House, making it a perfect rental for families or small groups.
In 2001, the Harradens again expanded the facility, creating The Ivey House Inn, which adjoins the Lodge. The Inn features 18 guest rooms with private baths, a great room with an Adventure Center, and a large dining room. All rooms surround a screened-in courtyard and a beautifully landscaped swimming pool with waterfall.
David and his family continue to provide kayak and canoe adventures into Everglades National Park and the surrounding areas. The Ivey House retains the typical appearance of the company town period and marks a permanent identification of the early history-making days in the life of the Everglades area.