According to Austin Bell, Curator of Collections for the Marco Island Historical Museum, pineapples were once Marco Island’s leading export. And at one point in time there were approximately one million growing pineapples on the island.“The pineapple industry was a major industry on Marco Island in the late 1800s, early 1900s,” he said.
Recently the Marco Island Historical Museum paid homage to Marco Island’s fruity past with its first-ever Pineapple Day. Austin says that the event was created as a fun way to honor and celebrate Marco’s little-known history. Hundreds of people stopped by the museum to learn about the tropical plant and it’s roots here on Marco Island.As guests slowly trickled into the museum they were offered glasses of sweet pineapple juice, made with Sprite and lemonade. There were pineapple-tasting stations, arts and crafts for children, and members from the Collier Fruit Growers on hand to give pineapple-growing advice. Clothing store Lilly Pulitzer, best know for it’s bright, tropical prints, and students from the Florida Gulf Coast University Museum Club were also present. For Marco Island Historical Museum Manager Jennifer Perry, pineapples have “a connotation of welcome.” There’s just something about the bright fruit that’s tropical and inviting.
In terms of how the Pineapple Day came to be she said, “It’s one of those things that we thought would just be fun to try and create an event that honors history and brings potentially new people through our doors.”
Pineapple Day comes nearly one year after the opening of the museum’s “PioneerDays” gallery. According to Jennifer, a portion of the gallery celebrates the pineapple farms that once existed on the south end of the island. It details the history of J.M. Barfield who, in the early 1900s, raised and sold pineapples. “Pioneer Days” remains on display in the museum.
Today the only physical evidence that remains of Marco Island’s once fruitful pineapple business can be found on the east side of the island in Key Marco. There Captain Horr’s Pineapple Planation Historic Site resides. The plantation sits tucked between modern homes and nature.
For more information on the Marco Island Historical Museum visit themihs. info or call 239-642-1440. The museum is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island.