This structure was originally built in 1909, and served as the first one-room schoolhouse to teach the children of early Fort Myers pioneers. The small farming community from which it came was named Iona in honor of the Ionian Islands off the coast of Scotland, as some of the early residents emigrated from that area. According to a News Press article dated 1991:
“Vaughnie Rhodes, now age 96, was 12 when her family moved to the area in 1907. There were about 13 children attending the school. All of the Iona farmers’ children walked to school and classes lasted from 9 am to 4 pm. Students in grades 1 through 12 sat in the same room — ventilated with open windows and fans — listening to the same teacher.”
In the mid-1950s, the pine schoolhouse was moved from Iona to just west of the corner of Cleveland and Colonial Avenues, where it was used as a drive-in, non-denominational church led by a retired Presbyterian minister, Dr. Thomas C. Smart. It was equipped with parking spaces and speakers much like the drive-in movie theaters of the day.
In early 1977, Dr. Alfred “Lee” Kennan and his wife, Virginia, purchased the building and offered it to the Nature Center, provided they would pay to move it. With Junior League funding, the building was cut into three pieces and moved to the fill area southwest of the museum. The Junior League undertook the renovation of the Iona House. A small room on the side became the first Junior League office, and general membership meetings were held in the main room with its beautiful full-length windows that bring the outside in. The office and adjacent small room were later fitted as an efficiency apartment, which was used to house interns, but now houses our Camp office. The Iona House has been landscaped with native plants with funds from the South Florida Water Management District.
The Iona House’s main room is available for all manner of occasions and special events: group meetings, weddings, luncheons, parties, etc. The kitchen with full-sized refrigerator makes Iona House ideal for catered or self-catered events.