An ongoing project for some 20 years, Mound House complex recently completed restoration of its circa-1906 home, the oldest standing structure on Fort Myers Beach, which sits atop an ancient Calusa shell mound.
Inside, a cultural and environmental learning center opened in November. Enter through the gift shop housed in a re-creation of the site’s original structure — the Tudor Kitchen.
The 2.77-acre bayside complex has been welcoming visitors for several years with recreational opportunities and one of two native American shell mound cutaways in Florida. (The other is in Sarasota.) The opening of the two-story home with its original brickwork, living room, and upstairs exhibits elevates Mound House to a don’t-miss attraction that spans 2,000 years of local history.
Upstairs, the Ancient People exhibit’s hands-on elements include recreated Calusa tools made from seashells that kids can touch. They can then look at the real things that were excavated on property. Beautiful tableaux explore Calusa life and European encounters.
Settlers on the Shells exhibit, with a re-created thatched wall of a Cuban fishing rancho hut as centerpiece, chronicles people of the mound who followed the Calusa. Human habitation ended in 1994; the town of Fort Myers Beach purchased the property in 2000. Walk through the French doors to overlook Estero Bay from the wrap porch and read about Calusa canoes and see a re-created fishing net in the making.
Touchscreen photo albums, excavated pottery shards under magnifying glass, and oversized puzzles turn kids into young archaeologists.
Odd as it may seem, the coolest exhibits, especially for kids, live in the bathroom. Its white tiled walls hold an exhibit named Digging Deeper. Touchscreen photo albums, excavated pottery shards under magnifying glass, and oversized puzzles turn kids into young archaeologists.
Also recently completed, a 2,500-square-foot Observation Pier hugs the property’s shoreline with interpretive signage and plenty of room to fish and observe wildlife.
The site’s original exhibit, the underground Stories Beneath Our Feet, allows visitors to peek into archaeological explorations. A video interprets the shell mound cutaway, illustrated with LED rope lights to distinguish the various layers of Calusa life. A 44-foot mural depicts an artist’s realistic interpretation of the Calusa village that once thrived here.
Green lawns, historic gardens, a kayak launch, picnic tables, and a boat dock complete the well-rounded facilities.
▪ Mound House: 451 Connecticut St., Fort Myers Beach; 239-765-0865; www.moundhouse.org. Visitors can self-tour house and grounds in season Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for $10 for adults, $8 for students, and $5 for ages 12-6. Docents are on hand to interpret exhibits and offer special programs.