Quaint, old-Florida museum under the oaks; a collaborative project of the Alva Library Association (chartered 1906) and the Alva Garden Club. Y'all come!
Nestled under live oaks just a stone's throw from the Caloosahatchee, this independent little museum is one of the remaining strongholds of old Southwest Florida. Come to think of it, so is the little town whose history it contains. The first incorporated municipality in Lee County, Alva was founded by one of its original colorful characters: Captain Peter Nelson, a red-bearded, hard-drinking, big-hearted Danish seafarer who claimed to be the illegitimate son of the king of Denmark. It was Capt. Nelson who donated the land for the town's first library — now the front part of the museum. The back part is what remains of the old Owanita chapel, which was picked up, moved to town and merged with the library building some years ago. This hybrid, just 15 miles away from the bigger and far better-funded Southwest Florida Museum of History, is still rich with history. From ancient fossils to still-working gramophones, the all-volunteer museum gives a compact — if a bit cluttered — view into the town's past. A visit to the museum feels a bit like poking around in Alva's collective attic. On one wall is a burnished grandfather clock from the English family, a clarinet someone found at the bottom of the Caloosahatchee, old canvas citrus bags and a hunk of home-cured tobacco. An old screen-fronted pie safe shares space with antique military swords. A display of alarmingly shaped vintage medical implements all but fills one small room. You can pick up one of the folded, circa-1960 histories of Alva penned by the granddaughter of the town's third settler and longtime librarian of Alva High School, the late Irby Clay, it's a quaintly engaging account of Alva's more distant past. And when you're done, you can head over to the Alva Boat Ramp, just up Pearl Street, park and stroll out onto the dock over the Caloosahatchee. There, if you've got a copy of Irby's pamphlet, you can dangle your feet and read what she wrote about that river - the river that gave birth to Alva. "... Every place on the river, whether bows or bends, you were in full view of banks laden with hibiscus and greenery. Huge oaks stretched their arms, draped in grey beards of Spanish moss and air plants ... Tall, stately cypress trees reached skyward. Many varieties of water-loving flowers grew on the banks - white spider lilies, blue flags, hyacinths. When salt water reached the river, we spent many hours at night fascinated by the phosphorous waterfire. Every sunken log, every fish or turtle that moved became a light of fire. After dark, the river was then an unbelievable paradise. Long ribbons of fire followed your boat or your hand as it was held in the water. This is one of the many beautiful things about the river I am thankful to have known."
21420 Pearl St
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