We are well aware that there is a lot of wealth in Southwest Florida especially in Naples. There are several planned communities in the area where the houses start at a million dollars and might go up to five or six million. As you travel along some beachfront roads there are several mansions that may be as expensive as ten million dollars. Our new friends who live in Naples suggested that we take a planned cruise around Naples Bay to witness where the real money lives.
We planned a cruise for when our friends would be visiting from Connecticut. On Wednesday we set out on the two o’clock cruise to see how the other half lives. The Pure Florida cruise left from the Tin City docks in Naples. The Captain quickly pointed out a few yacht clubs with several small and large yachts moored at slips around the pier area.
Eileen and our our friend John from CT ready to embark on the cruise
Some of the yachts moored at some of the yacht club docks
As the boat made its way further along the bay several exclusive homes sitting on both the east and west shores presented themselves. One would find oneself impressed with these beautiful homes, but we were warned that these homes were not the most expensive or expansive homes on the bay. We shortly came upon the most exclusive and expensive properties in the community known as Port Royal.
There was a marked visual difference between the homes we had witnessed up to this point on the shores of the bay and what we were witnessing in Port Royal. The community was the brainchild of Chicago radio executive John Glenn Sample. In the late 1940s Sample was looking for a place to build after having spent time in West Palm Beach with which he was not wholly impressed. South Naples and the land that is sandwiched between Naples Bay and the Gulf of Mexico seemed an ideal spot for his vision. The development was named for the 17th century Jamaican city that was a popular site for the pirates and smugglers of the day. Several of the streets reflect that history such as Galleon Dr., Rum Row, and Treasure Lane.
Some of the typical homes in Port Royal
In the early 1950’s Sample convinced several wealthy businessmen and others to take a chance on lots going for seven to twelve thousand dollars at the time. Building began with homes selling for approximately twenty-five thousand dollars on average.
Today those same lots are selling for between four and twenty-eight million dollars. Homes in the community are selling for as much as sixty million dollars. One home that we saw being built on a site as we made our way through the wide canals of the development was approximately twenty-five thousand square feet. The new owner had paid twenty-five million dollars for the existing home only to raze it in order to build a more expensive home. This is apparently a common occurrence not only in Port Royal but throughout wealthy communities in Southwest Florida.
As we passed by a beautiful lot and house that sat on the tip of a piece of land it was pointed out that the house and yacht belonged to the doctor who revolutionized the knee replacement. Appropriately the name of the yacht was “Bone Bender”. Another home sitting on one of the canals was pointed out as belonging to the founder of the Chicago hot dog restaurant chain Portillos who apparently had sold the business for close to one billion dollars and needed a home with a dock large enough to accommodate his yacht.
New home being constructed after tearing down the previous home purchased for 28 million dollars!
We were shown a home that was originally owned by the founder of Mary Kay products. The new owner had paid millions to tear down the house which was understandably pink and spent millions to build a house that was essentially the same design but now white.
The tour of the bay and these beautiful homes was interesting and engendered some expected humor about how people spend their money and the lack of it among those of us on the tour. The most disturbing fact shared was that only 12.5 percent of these homes are actually inhabited by humans on any given day. These palatial homes essentially sit empty the majority of the time. Most owners visit their homes on average three-four weeks per year. The remainder of the time they are overseen by caretakers and ogled by the envious tourists like us.
Although the afternoon was enjoyable with a beautiful ride around Naples Bay in bright sunshine and a refreshing but stiff breeze, I could not help thinking that there was a slightly troubling aspect to the tour.
The Point where Naples Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico
I guess that if you are fortunate enough to earn millions of dollars for whatever you do, make, or produce, you can spend it as you please. I also do not know these people or have personal knowledge of their finances. Some may use their money to support charities and better the lives of others. It does nag at me that the same person who spends 25 million dollars to tear down a house only to spend 40 million to build a new one, might be able to provide a better living wage for some of the people who work hard for that person and ensure that wealth. It just seems like an incredible waste of money to throw 60 or 70 million dollars away while we have people who go hungry every day, lack affordable housing, or simply live from paycheck to paycheck because the people they work for will not pay them a living wage.
I do not mean to sound like a socialist or Bernie Sanders. I do believe in a competitive market and the right and ability for an individual to parlay their hard work, intelligence and talents into wealth and a comfortable life. It is just hard to justify this level of opulence with what exists at the other end of the continuum. Maybe the new tax plan and its benefits for these people in the one percent will allow a trickle down of some of this wealth to the those who need it for better lives. Just kidding! We all know that is voodoo economics. As Marie Antoinette was reported to have said, “Let them eat cake.”