| On Friday, January 13, before an assembled crowd of 100 members and invited guests, Wilderness Country Club dedicated a plaque to the original “Hole in the Wall,” the historic passage to the hunting and fishing grounds of the Gordon River and the Everglades. The unique story of this special place was researched by Wilderness’ own resident historian, Bill Thomson.
The “Hole in the Wall,” situated roughly 75 feet from what is now the 2nd tee of Wilderness Country Club, is rich with the history of Southwest Florida. The passage, approximately 15 feet wide, was carved into a thick canopy of Cypress trees in the late 1800’s. At a time when Naples was only accessible by boat and a single dirt road, this short trail leading to a tributary of the Gordon River afforded anglers and hunters the only direct route to the waters and land rife with fish, wild turkey, boar, deer and quail. Access to this bounty first sustained the Calusa and Seminole tribes, but by the early 1900’s, entrepreneurs entered the “Hole” to gather fish and game to sell to the only hotel in Naples.
In 1944 Edward H. Frank – better known as “Ed” – purchased 420 acres of land now occupied by the Wilderness and the Hole in the Wall golf clubs and aptly named his property “Hole in the Wall Ranch” in honor of this historic passage. Ed Frank was a master mechanic who operated Naples’ first auto garage. His love of hunting and fishing, coupled with his mechanical skills, inspired him to tinker with an old Model T Ford. The resulting vehicle, with elevated chassis and chained truck tires, enabled easier access to the “Hole.” Little did Ed know that he had invented the very first swamp buggy!
At the dedication ceremony, Peter Frank, Ed’s son, regaled the gathered crowd with stories of a youth spent hunting wild pig and deer and casting fishing lines in the abundant waters of the Gordon Pass. According to Mr. Frank, even swarms of angry mosquitoes were not enough to deter his boyhood explorations through the “Hole in the Wall.”
In addition to Mr. Frank, honored guests included Penny Taylor, Collier County Commissioner, Rob Moher, President and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Kathy Whorley, Director of Environmental Science at the Conservancy and Elaine Reed, President and CEO of the Naples Historical Society.