Demolition decision for Bonita Springs historic 75-year-old restaurant

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Paul Dolan
Bonita Springs
Historic restaurant in Bonita Springs voted to stay, for now. (CREDIT: WINK News)

A 75-year-old restaurant at risk of being demolished will continue standing tall in Bonita Springs.

A discussion about The Wonder Gardens Cafe took place Thursday night. The city of Bonita Springs became the owner of the building and the property back in 2015 and two years later, it was designated as historic.

The city is looking to demolish the building, but because it is considered historic, they had to get the historic preservation board to sign off. The board did not sign off on that decision Thursday night. Thanks in part to dozens of people who showed up to make their voices heard.

“When people come here and it says, ‘welcome to historical Bonita Springs’,” said one person at the discussion. “If you guys start taking down everything, you might as well just say, ‘welcome to Bonita Springs’.”

The Everglades Wonder Garden restaurant in Bonita Springs. (CREDIT: WINK News)

The 75-year-old, now empty, restaurant at the Everglades Wonder Gardens needs repairs. The city has not said what they would like to see here instead, but the historic preservation board isn’t ready to see it torn down.

One by one board members denied the demolition unanimously voting to deny the city’s application to tear the building down. It came after multiple speakers gave passionate speeches in favor of keeping it in place. That now includes Dr. Alan White, chairman of the Everglades Wonder Gardens board of directors.

“This is exactly why the board had a reconsideration. This is something that people want,” Dr. White said. “And they shouldn’t be denied. So, that’s why we are where we are tonight. And I’m so glad that the board had the courage to do the right thing.”

Many people spoke about how the Everglades Wonder Gardens, including the restaurant, put Bonita Springs on the map. And they don’t want to see a piece of important history lost.

Ashley Piper is the great-granddaughter of the founder of Wonder Gardens. “My great-grandmother made biscuits there… to my grandmother… my mother and father,” Piper said. “So, you know, it would be… I would love to see it be a fourth-generation restaurant.”

To Piper and her sister Noelle, they appreciate seeing just how many people are fighting to protect an iconic piece of Bonita Springs’ history. “We knew that we had people behind us,” Noelle said. “But to see the actual people that are supporting us, even people from other cities, was absolutely phenomenal.”

The fight isn’t over just yet. The city attorney will present the results of the application to the city council at their next meeting. The City council will have an opportunity to appeal the decision made Thursday. As for the people in the community, WINK News was told they plan on protesting outside the restaurant this Saturday and Sunday. And, they’re urging people in this community to reach out to the city council and the Mayor.

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