Arts & History

When it comes to art, Bonita brings is proud of its local creations and its commitment to the Arts. Six Artist Cottages are located next to the Liles Hotel at Riverside Park. The cottages offer an enchanting selection of handmade jewelry, paintings, sculpture, and more. Come check out some of these masterpieces being made right here in your community! The Artist Cottages are Open to the public on Sundays durings season.

Downtown you will discover a public art collection that is a part of the Art in Public Places Program. Public Art on display includes The Secret Bench of Knowledge by Lea Divot, Setting the Pace, Lords of the Forest and The Ties that Bind from Colorado artist Jane DeDecker, with a mixed media work titled Imperial River History by David Kellum. The City plans to have several murals in the downtown area. Alex Nunez’s My Beautiful Town on the north wall of Benson’s Grocery is the first of a series of murals that will appear downtown. This mural depicts the history of Bonita Springs from the Native Americans and their hunting instrument to the present day. The mural program is a public-private partnership in which the business property owner makes available one of their exterior walls, the artist prepares the site and does the rendering, and the city provides the budget to cover the work.
Various local downtown businesses host and display art exhibits. For more information please call or visit the downtown businesses.
Riverside Park hosts many events with live music and entertainment, the National Art Festival, and Movies in the Park. The National Art Festival is rated one of the top Fine Art Festivals in the US. Hosted by the Center for the Arts Bonita Springs, the Festival features original paintings, glass, jewelry, clay works, mixed media, sculpture and photography. New artists are selected for each of the three weekend events that take place from January to March.

Explore History

Take a stroll through the past in the downtown district. Enjoy the unique architecture of its many historic buildings, or view a history exhibit in Liles Hotel in Riverside Park.

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Located in Riverside Park on Old 41, the artist cottages are renovated historic fishing cottages. The Imperial River cottages were built in 1945. Originally located on the edge of the Imperial River, their bungalow style was common at the time and they feature boardand-batten siding and gabled roofs. Newly renovated, they now house various types of artwork.
Also located at Riverside Park, the Liles Hotel was built in 1926. The Bonita Springs Historical Society has exhibits in the public areas of the hotel, and has decorated a first floor room as a period bedroom of the 1930’s. The second floor is used as a history resource center and meeting space open to the public.
The Fleming House was built in 1929 in the folk pyramidal, Bungalow style. It has become a signature landmark on Old 41. The home was originally owned by John and Jessie Fleming. Jessie was a respected teacher, volunteer, and activist in Bonita. Jessie was well known for giving music lesson to children, whether or not they could pay. Today the home remains in the family, and is the home of their grandniece.
The natural spring for which Bonita Springs is named is located on the grounds. The Native Americans believed the spring to have healing properties, and the land around it a sacred place. In 1921, the Heitman family constructed the first grand building on eight acres of land as 25-room hotel. The Depression brought hard times and the hotel was sold to the Haverfields and later to Walter Mach of the Cadillac family, who did elaborate remodeling and expanded the hotel to 50 rooms. Today the Shangri-la Springs is a wellness and learning Center. It offers the public a variety of classes and events.
On February 22, 1936, the Everglades Wonder Gardens was opened by two tough and enterprising brothers, Wilford (“Bill”) and Lester Piper. The brothers survived frequent injuries from the gators, snakes, panthers, and bears that featured their roadside attraction. The Wonder Gardens is now a lush botanic garden open to the public. However, evidence of its origin as a roadside attraction remains, making it one of the few remaining historic resources of this kind.
The Bonita Springs Historical Society has been gifted this house and property in Old Bonita. The generous donation was from the estate of Hudon and Ann Humphries. The property is located on Old US 41 Road and extends to Felts Avenue. The house is one of the oldest in Bonita Springs. Built in 1915, it is known as the McSwain House in reference to the original builders. The simple wood structure has survived several hurricanes, a testament to its strength. Initial plans include a historical museum. Donations of antiques, appropriate historical photographs, and, of course, financial gifts are always welcomed.