By: Grant Fichter
In 1901 the Founder of the town of Alva, Danish Sea Captain Peter Nelson and librarian Esther Hover started the Alva Book Club. The Book Club grew in size and eventually outgrew the living rooms of the local residents and in 1906 the Alva Library Association was formed. Peter Nelson decided to donate some of his property for a Community Library, and in 1909 with the financial help of the community and Mr. Charles A. Dean, the funding to build the Library was in place. On March 27th, 1909, A.J. English began construction on the project and finished on July 5th of that year. It would be the first community library in Southwest Florida.
The Alva Garden Club became involved in 1974 and offered to turn the Library into a Museum. Miss Irby Clay, Mrs. Dan (Alice) English and Mrs. Margaret Foster made up the Museum Committee while Be Skillinger and Mattie Watkins of the Garden Club and many other community members donated their time and funds to make the museum a reality. The Museum building itself is a site to behold and a testament to the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the early settlers of the area. The Museum experience includes a visit to The Owanita Baptist Chapel, built 1901, which was moved to the Alva Methodist Church after the 1926 hurricane, and later to the Museum grounds.
The Museum is a treasure trove of local artifacts, historical documents, photographs, book, textiles, a dugout canoe pulled from the river bottom and many other amazing things that represent the history of not just Alva, but all of Southwest Florida. The Museum is open every Saturday from 10-2 and fully funded by donations and help from the community. There is almost always a local legend or a newcomer to the area visiting the museum, and often at the same time which makes for some great conversation and connections. The Museum holds events from time to time and recently hosted a photography exhibit with John Brady. You can find the Alva Museum on Facebook or visit their website for more information. If you are in the area, and looking for a step backwards in time, feel free to come on by and visit, you will definitely not regret it.