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For nearly 2,000 years, these barrier islands were dominated by the fierce Calusa Indians. They thrived on the island's abundant natural resources. Undisturbed through time, their numbers grew until gold-hungry Spaniards discovered their island paradise. The conquistadors nearly wiped out the entire Calusa population in a series of battles and enslaved the remaining few in Cuban prison camps, where they eventually died.
Frequented by tall-masted schooners and pirate ships, the barrier islands became a popular refuge from occasional heavy seas and high winds. It was on these islands that swashbuckling pirates like Jose Gaspar repaired war-torn ships and imprisoned beautiful female captives. Thus the island was named Captiva.
Around the turn of the century, North Captiva was the site of an extensive tomato plantation. More recently, it was the main location and processing plant of the Punta Gorda Fish Company. These days, North Captiva is home to a growing number of residents and visitors, drawn by her natural beauty and unspoiled island atmosphere. During the 1960's, approximately 10 homes were constructed and six subdivisions platted. At that time, three canals were dredged, originating from points around the perimeter of what is now Safety Harbor.
By the mid 70's, nearly 50 homes dotted the northern tip of the island from Gulf to bay. It was obvious that North Captiva was destined to follow the path of the highly developed barrier islands to the north and south. With a potential build-out of 4,500 dwellings, the charming island ambience of North Captiva would surely be lost forever.
However, in 1975 the state of Florida acquired six parcels of land totaling over 350 acres - almost half of the entire island. This timely acquisition came under the environmentally endangered land program, a swift and direct move to preserve this priceless resource from rampant over-development.
Today, there are just over 370 dwellings and about 50 year-round residents on North Captiva Island. Seven subdivisions at the north end of the island are comprised of 357 dwellings and one subdivision at the southern end with 13. Approximately 30 dwellings per year are being built, with an anticipated total build-out of approximately 450 homes. Having witnessed the rapid urbanization of other parts of the state, those who love North Captiva are making every effort to ensure that the island's natural beauty is preserved and protected and that growth is kept in balance with the sensitivities of the environment.
Indeed, North Captiva Island is one of the few places left where man can live in complete harmony with nature. This unique island paradise is not for everybody. But then, it was never intended to be.