Historic Everglades Trading Post Fights Developer

It's on the National Register of Historic Places, but a developer has cut off access to an important slice of Florida heritage: the Smallwood Store museum

It's the classic story: big developer vs. frumpy old building, supporters of which are staging a desperate war to save it.

But this frumpy old building is the much-beloved Smallwood Store museum south of Everglades City, a significant piece of Florida heritage that in 1974 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

More than 100 years old, the trading post-turned-museum is now surrounded and cut off by a fence that Smallwood's supporters say appeared without warning, erected by a developer.

With visitors unable to access Smallwood, it has been closed since April 14.

The developer, Florida-Georgia Grove LLP, wants to use the surrounding land for a marina. When the company didn't get approval to build a different access road, it simply fenced the sound end of Chokoloskee's Mamie Street and even tore up portions of the road, blocking access to Smallwood.

"I just told him, I said, "Why did you do this? Why would you not call us and, you know, notify us?" said owner Lynn Smallwood McMillen.

Her grandfather Ted Smallwood started the store as a trading post for Seminole Indians and newly-arriving white settlers. A post office for years, it is now completely choked off and boarded up.

McMillen's mounting legal bills are enough to make the soft-spoken woman lose composure. 

"We've made every effort to try and work out a solution and that hasn't, hasn't happened," she said.

"I don't think they really care much about historical sites. And I don't think they think that this store is as important as we do. You know, it's a National Register site. It's part of my family. Part of my heritage."

Collier County is suing Florida-Georgia for cutting off access to a public road. They want a judge to order access re-opened, at least temporarily.

Supporters of the store have been coming out of the woodwork, and plan a rally Wednesday at the county courthouse in Naples, where the jduge is expected to hear arguments in the case against the developers.

Some of the supporters are from families who have visited Smallwood Store for generations.

"They come back and they visit here," said McMillen. "So…It's something, you know -- it's been here longer than anything else in the Everglades."

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