His name was El Jobean. He was a man of vision. He had a dream. He came upon the alligator infested wilderness of southwest Florida Gulf Coast and saw the future. He knew what had to be done. He knew, even before the writers and producers of the movie, “Field of Dreams”, knew that, “If you build it, they will come” 1. Yes, he knew that it was just a matter of good development and the Florida coast would be home to thousands of people and, for a smart developer with a little cash and time to dream, a whole lotta money to line his pockets.
All right. All right. His name wasn’t El Jobean. It was just plain ole Joel Bean and there didn’t seem to be a Spanish bone in his body so the exotic sounding name was nothing more than a ruse to get people’s attention like a photo-shopped owl with turquoise eyes posted on the internet that everybody knows ain’t real.
And maybe Florida wasn’t such a wilderness in the early 1900’s…..after all, the Seminole had long since been relegated to unwanted land in the swamps…or, what the locals might refer to as the “prairie wetlands” (I will admit, that’s a new one for me but it seems to describe the ‘Glades perfectly). On the other hand, there are still alligators today in and around the Myakka River so it is mostly safe to say that the land was probably “alligator infested” a hundred years ago so I’ll stick with it and make no apologies for that turn of phrase.
But Mr. Bean did have a dream and he was a developer and he started something that could have been incredibly lucrative and amazing right here in Florida in Charlotte County……something that he, no doubt, hoped would survive through the centuries as a monument to his amazing vision and ingenious planning, determination, and hard work.
And for a while, El Jobe-An (a name he came up with by rearranging the syllables of his own illustrious name) was all the rage. From its inception in the early 1900’s, the little community flourished. After all, Joel Bean knew what he was talking about….he had the trifecta of the means for the town to grow.
The community was situated on a peninsula between the arms of the Myakka River where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico…or is it Lemon Bay and then the Gulf? At any rate, there was plenty of land to the east for farms to grow crops that would be easily shipped out at ports nearby on Charlotte Harbor via the Gulf. And if that didn’t work; well, there was always the Tamiami Trail, that well-known roadway connecting the dots and all cities in between Tampa and Miami. And on top of that, there was the Seaboard Railroad. What more could you ask? Three modes of transportation all right there available for him to use in connecting his planned community to the world…..Sea, Land, & Rail.
In his mind, it was all very clear…….eight communities laid out in octagonal grids with businesses and civic centers in the middle of the octagon and houses all around.
On top of everything else, there was beautiful sunshine – it is the Sunshine State, after all – all warm days and star studded nights. I hear tell that before it stopped raining in California, it used to not rain in Florida…….boy, those were the days!
And the fishing! There is nothing to compare to the fishing in Florida. Why, every bar and grill I’ve visited in the area seems to be named “Snook” something or other. I thought it was some reference to how the alligators snook (sneaked?) up on you if you aren’t careful when you are out hiking or fishing but I am advised now that it is a type of fish…….and a delectable one at that.
So, Joel Bean couldn’t miss. He had Hollywood celebrities coming to stay at his Grand Hotel – El Jobe An Fishing Lodge and using the nifty new Post Office and General Store (est 1924) while they (RKO Pictures) filmed up at Warm Mineral Springs just a hop, skip, and a jump up the Tamiami Trail. I have never heard of the movie so I’ll have to look that one up – “Prestige” 4 starring Ann Harding and Adolphe Menjou. I have to admit I have never heard of these movie stars but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they were famous and they did visit El Jobe-An and they stayed at the Grand Hotel.
Another notable resident seems to have been Elizabeth Adams of the Adams Chewing Gum and Chiclet Empire. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a chewing gum empire but I have heard of Adams Chewing Gum…….. I loved their clove chewing gum when I was a child. (Note 5)
And, at some point, the hotel was sold to some daredevil dude named Leo Simon, aka “Suicide Simon” who I absolutely have to google. I know there is a story there. (Note 6) But it is said that he entertained other daredevils and carnies (hey, Ringling Brothers has their winter home just up the road a piece in Manatee County) and the Flying Wallendas may have even stayed there sometimes. I’m betting even Joel Bean could not have anticipated such notable clientele staying at his Grand Hotel.
But, alas, all things must end. There’s not much left of Mr. Bean’s dream and his “city of destiny” – an old post office (closed in 1964) used today as a bar and grill, a crumbling overgrown hotel, a street name running though Port Charlotte, a few real estate ads describing some housing developments laid out in octagonal grids that can only be recognized as such from the air. But there is still a bustling fishing pier and a small community that still bears the name of the dream – El Jobe-An.
- Field of Dreams; Director – Phil Alden Robinson; Producers – Lawrence Gordon & Charles Gordon; Screenplay – Phil Alden Robinson; Based on the book, Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella; Universal Pictures/TriStar Pictures; April 21, 1989; USA
- An Explorer’s Guide: South Florida; Sandra Friend, Trish Riley, & Kathy Wolf; Countryman Press, Woodstock, Vermont; 2010; pp 80-81
- Prestige; Director – Tay Garnett; Producers – Charles R. Rogers, Harry Joe Brown (Associate);Screenplay – Tay Garnett, Rollo Lloyd, Francis Edward Faragoh; Story – Harry Hervey; RKO Pictures; January 22, 1932; USA (Review of the movie can be found here.)
- I didn’t find anything on Elizabeth Adams but I did find a short article on Thomas Adams here which described him as the chewing gum maker.
- I was not able to find anything substantive on Leo “Suicide” Simon but I did find a photo here.