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Old Railway Depot | Photo © 2023, www.abandonedflorida.com

Everglades City Railway Depot

Location Class:
Built: 1928 | Abandoned: 2014
Status: AbandonedEndangered
Photojournalist: David Bulit

Everglades City Railway Depot

Simply recognized as the Old Railway Depot, the old Everglades City Railway Depot located in Everglades City is a historic railroad depot once part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Built in 1928 in the typical Spanish-style stucco popular in Florida, was used in the 1957 film “Wind Across the Everglades,” starring Burl Ives, Chana Eden, Gypsy Rose Lee, and circus performer Emmett Kelly. After its closure, the building became known as the Everglades Seafood Depot Restaurant, and an extension was built to include a banquet hall.

The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was constructed in the 1920s when Everglades City was the headquarters of the Colliers’ enterprises in southwest Florida. The Colliers were influential in the development of the region, particularly Barron G. Collier, who played a significant role in transforming the area. The line ran between Everglades City and Immokalee and extended further toward Moore Haven. The purpose of the railway was to facilitate transportation and trade in the region, mainly tomatoes and cypress.

The line was abandoned in sections: the line from Everglades City up north to Sunniland was abandoned in 1957, and the tracks down south toward Everglades City were torn up in 1959.

The Everglades City Railway Depot, shortly after its closure, and the tracks were removed. 1960. State Library and Archives of Florida

At Risk of Demolition

Following the closure of the Everglades Seafood Depot Restaurant in 2014, Bill Odrey, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, bought the property in 2014 for $450,000, according to property records. Since then, Hurricanes Irma, Ian, and Idalia came through, along with the COVID-19 pandemic. During Hurricane Irma, the National Guard utilized the property as a staging area. Hurricane Ian, which occurred in 2022, caused substantial damage, particularly to the deck and docks. Notably, a sizable hole in the roof can be seen from the road.

Odrey said he hasn’t been able to get financing to replace the roof, make repairs and remodel the building. While he has a mortgage in good standing, he can’t get a loan on a business that’s not running. Mayor Howie Grimm Jr. said he wants to save the building as well, and suggested Obrey donate the building to the Everglades Society for Historical Preservation.”He’s trying to hold on. He’s trying to get someone to give him the money.” Grimm said. “I would love to see him donate it to the historical society and they can restore it. They can get grants.”

In mid-August 2023, Everglades City Code Enforcement and Collier County Growth Management issued a notice to Odrey that read, “The building noted above was found to be dangerous and unsuitable for the safe occupancy of its intended purpose. Immediate repairs up to and including demolition of the structure are required.” Collier County gave a 30-day time frame, September 16th, to demolish the building.

The Everglades City Railway Depot. March 4, 1930. State Library and Archives of Florida
The Everglades City Railway Depot. March 4, 1930. State Library and Archives of Florida

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David Bulit is a photographer, author, and historian from Miami, Florida. He has published a number of books on abandoned and forgotten locales throughout the United States and continues to advocate for preserving these historic landmarks. His work has been featured throughout the world in news outlets such as the Miami New Times, the Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, NPR, Yahoo News, MSN, the Daily Mail, UK Sun, and many others. You can find more of his work at davidbulit.com as well as amazon.com/author/davidbulit.

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