An Appreciation of
Speed Menefee
----------------------------------------------
Speed Menefee

Naples first Mayor
some of the artwork produced
by Speed is shown below

85 Years old Tomorrow
Collier County News, Wednesday, April 1, 1964 - Pg.5
------------------------------
  Speed Menefee, Naples first mayor ( 1923 ) will be 85 on April 2nd. Good wishes came to him from many directions, everyone who has ever been or near Naples knows of Speed, and everyone likes him. He is a man without an enemy.
  In his person he joins "early Naples" a tiny group of cottages clustered around the old Hotel, accessable only by water and open for a few winter months ( January to April ) to the bustling, year round town it is today.
  In 1907 Speed stepped out of the blue onto the pier, the soul of romance. An artist, member of an old and illustrious Kentucky family, he came straight from wandering through Spain, France, Belgium and Holland with a group of other artist.
  No one who saw him then will forget the picture he made. A gracefully slouched hat crowned a Van Dyke face with a wisp of mustache and a small pointed goatee.
  A dot of an island up Gordon River was immediately christened " Mr. Menefee's Goatee". He wore a scarlet sash and pearl gray tapered trousers buttoned at the ankles. Naples fell in love with Speed and Speed fell in love with Naples. He thought then, having picked up a "bug" in Europe, he had come to Naples to die.
  He stayed at the Naples Hotel put up at the " corn-crete" overflow cottage near by, where Mr. Watterson always stayed. When the hotel closed, he made his quarters on an old land-locked house-boat back at the Bay, {now Crayton Cove.)  From that vantage point he learned the woods and waters. When guests reappeared the following winter, he was able to lead then on bewitching picnic expeditions to remote Indian mounds, or out to find and cut down a bee-tree, rich with wild honey.
  Once he defected to Marco a year round community to the south and ran the Inn for a time. He was quickly dubbed " The Count of Marco". If you were lucky he might take you in his small boat into the trackless hinterland to see giant royal palms, "planted by pirates".
  This is now Royal Palm Hammock, right on the Tamiami Trail. All that he did he was able to endow with a special allure and mystery.
  Finally, bartering several of his paintings ( some had made the Sorbonne yearly exhibit in Paris) . Speed bought a place on Naples beach and settled down. He had an efficient butler and in his one room house dispensed lavish hospitality. To this "mansion" came many of Speed's stylish Kentucky family to visit, even though his bathroom was an out-of-door affair without a roof and with a tilted bucket pulled by a string for a shower.
  When Speed's brother-in-law. a very practical minded financier, spent the winter with him, he was almost inveigied into underwritting a voyage to discover the " miniature mermaids" whose skeleton's Speed claimed to have found on the Naples beach.
Glib As Ever
  Always and ever, the ladies " God bless 'em" fell for Speed's banter. He was truly irresistible, strumming his Spanish guitar, but not one could catch him. He carries on the same sort of talk with the nurses at the Naples Community Hospital now, I understand where he has been a patient for several years. Though he has lost the use of his legs, his tongue is glib as ever.
  Gone now is the old Naples Hotel, gone is Speed's house on the beach, a victim of hurricane Donna. Gone are the members of Speed's family who used to visit him. He is th elast of the Menefees. In Louisville, however, there is one person who knew both the Naples of those early days and the family Menefee. For after April second, 1964, is also a very special day. She too was born on April second 1879.
Birthday Girl
Florence Phillips
  This 85 year old birthday girl is a fine colored woman named Florence Phillips. She came to Naples even before Mr. Menefee and continued to come every winter for 50 years. Florence does not brave the trip south anymore. She has a cozy home of her own in Louisville. She and various relatives of her's were mainstays in making the old Naples Hotel the place of charm and comfort and good cuisine that is was in the Shaleyon times.
  Only Florence can rival Mr.Menefee in his tall tales of those early days. She could look out the back of the hotel and see a panther or a wildcat robbing the garbage. Once she thought there was an old man there. His back was to her and he was rocking to and fro holding his feet in obvious pain. She went to him exclaiming, old man can I help you ? Then she realized it was no lod man at all, but a bear, He was rocking with the pain of a sandspur in his paw.
  Here is how one of a younger generation describes knowing Speed in his cottage days;
  " Part of the fun of coming to Naples was the anticipation of breakfast with Speed before the family was up. My cousins and I would bound out of bed and rush to greet another day on the beach. The sunset clams would be flirting  with the wind and tide by the million. The great-grandfathers were even more nonchalant about getting their feet wet than their offspring.  But that is all just background, warm sun, abundant beach life, blue sky, but most of all, breakfast with Speed. How he stood us, day after day, Heaven only knows. But he did and with all the graciousness he proffered to all his "best girls".
  There was a glamor to him intrinsically, apart from the shrunken heads and exotic oddities inhis cottage. The wind of faraway places blew in the corners of his always immaculate home. There might be a seine drying on the porch or crab traps, Oh, there might be anything! Whatever there was, it was wonderful.
Happy Birthday Speed
  People write poems to Speed. take pictures of him. His profile in this recient photo ( above) caused one friend to remark,"Why Speed, you look like Don Quixote incarnate." Quick as a whip came his answer. " I slept in the same room Cervantes did just 40 miles north of Madrid" perhaps that is where he picked up that remarkable "bug" that brought him to Naples just 57 years ago.
  

Art work done by Speed Menefee

Coconut Carving by Speed

Florida Digital Newspaper Library


return to Pioneer Index
return to Collier County Home
page by:Peggy