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Historic cottage makes the big move

June 20, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It's not every night a nearly 80-year-old cottage transforms into a mobile home.

But Sunday, the little white house with red shutters from 3360 Estero Boulevard rolled down Estero Boulevard, tenderly watched over by many community members, as it made its transition to another property.

Fort Myers Beach developer Joe Orlandini voluntarily moved the cottage to save it. It will now sit on a property on San Carlos Boulevard until its final destination is ready.

Article Photos

Joe Orlandini moves the cottage late at night Sunday. Photo submitted by Suzy Katt.

"I'm working with the historical society and Lee County to put it behind the school by Matanzas Pass Preserve," he said.

The property at 3360 Estero is owned by Michael Huffman, one of Orlandini's business partner. They are building two single-family homes planned for the site, and learned of the historical significance of the cottage while getting their permits to build.

The move was a first for Orlandini.

"I've lifted a house, but never moved one," he said.

Several members of the community came out Sunday night to watch the move.

Suzy Katt, also a member of the Historic Preservation Board, said the move took about an hour and 15 minutes.

"It was a huge production," she said. "Joe Orlandini did a great job moving it."

Now, the cottage will sit until the county and the Estero Island Historical Society can work out some details.

Council Member Anita Cereceda recognized Orlandini's effort at the Monday council meeting.

"I got goosebumps last night," she said. "It was quite impressive. Thank you for going to the time, trouble and expense for taking on that project. It's made a lot of people very happy."

Now, since Orlandini and Huffman are donating the cottage to a nonprofit on county land, there is paperwork to be done.

"We're trying to speed things up," Orlandini said. "It (the cottage) will be fine. It's lasted this long."

Orlandini said the move went "surprisingly really well" with the most stressful spots being the dip in the road from the construction at the Red Coconut RV Park and the curve in the road before the Matanzas Pass Preserve. He called it a "nerve-wracking" experience, but, he appreciated the support he received from those who came out to watch.

The developer said one of the reasons he wanted to help save the cottage was to show that building new doesn't always mean sacrificing the character of the island.

"The idea behind this is that it brings the community together, is was what I was hoping it would do, and mend the anxiety out there about the new construction and show we care about the character of the island," he said.

The cottage's final destination is currently set to be adjacent to the Estero Island Historical Society at Matanzas Pass Preserve. The building will be used either by the historical society or Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve.

Last month, there was a flurry of discussion with the county as Boca Grande resident Bruce Kenan was going to donate a cottage to Lee County, and the county was also hoping to place the building on Fort Myers Beach at Matanzas Pass Preserve. The cottage was the former winter home of Katherine Hepburn. This is the cottage originally envisioned to be the education center, with Orlandini's cottage being an addition to the idea.

However, the Hepburn cottage is no longer Fort Myers Beach bound: the Boca Grande Historic Preservation Board voted to reject the county staff's recommendation to move the cottage to Fort Myers Beach.

"Given the vote in Boca Grande on Wednesday, the property owner and Lee County will no longer be working together to bring the historic cottage from Boca Grande to Fort Myers Beach," said county spokeswoman Betsy Clayton.

Clayton said the county would also work with the Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve to come up with options for the county-owned property on Fort Myers Beach, sans the Hepburn cottage.

"The island's going to continue to evolve and change," Orlandini said. "But I hoped this would bring people together and show there is a love for the island."



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