|The El Jobean Depot has been the hub of the community since the 1930s.|
EL JOBEAN -- I have a soft spot for cracker-style establishments that are known for their character, but not much else. When I drove by El Jobean Depot, a dilapidated bar in the middle of nowhere and overrun by mangroves, the spot stuck with me. I decided to patronize the place on my way back from Englewood beach. I had no make-up on, no shoes and my hair was a mess. El Jobean was the only place I could think of where no one would care. When I passed by, it was dark. A few shadowy figures were visible through the smudged windows. As I pulled in to the parking lot I thought, "this is the kind of place where you either get murdered, or have one hell of a good time."
The inside of the bar and restaurant was a throwback to the 1970s. The dining room was dimly lit with colored paper lanterns and white Christmas lights. The place was empty save a couple seated at a table and a few regulars sitting at the bar. I took a stool next to them. I knew it was my kind of place when they told me they had Miller High Life for sale. It wasn’t long before the conversation got rolling, and what a great dialogue it was!
As it turns out, the El Jobean Depot has an intriguing history. The restaurant once served as a post office, train station, jail, and grocery store. The owner of the establishment took me in the back of the historic building, which is basically an unofficial museum. There, carved into the finest pine was a small ticket window where residents would wait to catch the train, which apparently ran right through the present outdoor dining area. There was a life size cutout of Joel Bean, the man who created the small community of El Jobean with a vision that never came to fruition. There was even movie paraphernalia from Prestige, a motion picture shot on location at El Jobean, which starred Ann Southern and Adolphe Menjou.
El Jobean is an unincorporated community in Charlotte County. It is located off of County Road 776 on the northern bank of the Myakka River, just before the bridge to Englewood.
|The El Jobean Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places.|
The community was named after the founder – well sort of. Bean, originally from Maine, purchased the property from the state in 1919 with visions of developing a city “in the round” which was to be the first of its kind in Florida. Bean was a real estate broker and practicing attorney in Nantucket Beach, and was well-known as a developer of high-class seashore and suburban properties. Before it was purchased by Bean, the only habitation the area saw were men working the turpentine still that operated off the land. Bean didn’t want to name the community after himself, so he reverted the Joel into “El jo” and added the “bean,” making it El Jobean. He hoped the Spanish flair would add to the area’s appeal, according to the book “The Early History of El Jobean” by Marjorie R. Carson.
El Jobean flourished during the twenties, attracting all types of people from all across the northeast. Bean plotted land, grew crops, built a hotel and school and intended to keep his “City of Destiny” developing. However, when the stock market crashed in 1929, so did his prophecy.
The pioneers who had already settled there turned to commercial fishing to make a living. The El Jobean Hotel (which is still there today) remained in business for winter residents attracted to the area for the excellent fishing, warm weather, and rural location. The post office and general store became the hub of the community.
Today, Jobean has some condos that were constructed in the 1980s, but for the most part, remains true to its original fishing roots. Patrons of the depot like to talk fishing, Florida and history. By the end of my night at El Jobean, I’d learned a lot. I had made new friends and I had one hell of a good time.
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