Description & History:
A Sanctuary for Peace and Healing…
Our mission as a non-profit organization is to sustain the Happehatchee Center as it provides environmental and healing arts education. We preserve and honor Happehatchee’s vibrant land as a way to make sacred connections with ourselves, each other, and Nature.
The five acres of land, now called Happehatchee Center were originally part of the Koreshan Settlement in Estero, Florida in the early 1900’s. The land was planted with citrus groves, which were situated alongside the Estero River to take advantage of shipping through the waterways of Florida. The ownership of the land traded hands among small farmers, and was acquired by the local Girl Scouts in 1947. This organization was part of the Girl Scouts of the USA, a national organization founded in 1912. It’s mission, to empower girls, to help teach values such as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship through activities including camping, community service, learning first aid, and earning badges by acquiring and demonstrating practical skills. A camp was made with the inclusion of two buildings purchased from the Buckingham Air Field.
On November 1, 1954, the trustees for the Fort Myers Council of Girl Scouts deeded over the parcel to the Lee County Council of Girl Scouts, a non-profit Florida Corporation. On February 26, 1960, the Lee County Council of Girl Scouts Inc. changed its name to Caloosa Council of Girl Scouts, Inc. And on August 15, 1962, the Caloosa Council of Girl Scouts, Inc deeded over the parcel to The Gulfcoast Girl Scout Council Inc. Girls Scouts of Camp Caloosa had camped, held meetings, and conducted ceremonies here and have been linked to Happehatchee since 1947. In 1963, The Gulfcoast Girl Scout Council Inc. sold the property to a family from Key West as a “Northern Retreat.”
Happehatchee Campus (land and buildings), is now an official Lee County Historic Preservation Site, our current office space and meeting rooms were the original buildings of the Happehatchee Historic House and were built as World War II Bunkers at the Buckingham Army Air Field.
In 1972, Ellen Peterson purchased the property as her home. Ellen’s place was “home” to many of people of all walks of life for forty years. It was made it a private retreat used often by small groups including the Girl Scouts.
Ellen was a passionate social justice activist and Florida’s top advocate for environmental conservation. In 2005, Ellen began to conceive preserving the historical and environmental significance of her own property, “Happehatchee” or Happy River, as being worthy of preservation. Ms. Peterson decided to gather like-minded people together to discuss her vision of a community gathering place centered on sustainable land use and spiritual wellness. In 2006, Ellen created the Happehatchee Center, Inc., a private non-profit organization to preserve the lush five acres of “old Florida” on the banks of the Estero River.
Today, the Happehatchee Center’s team of volunteers and staff are dedicated to sustain the Center’s mission to provide environmental and healing arts education. They preserve and honor Happehatchee’s vibrant land as a way to make connections with ourselves, each other, and nature. The land and Historic structures are utilized by groups for private gatherings, weddings, life ceremonies as well as weekly, and monthly classes throughout the year.
Happehatchee Center is free for all to visit and enjoy; however, there may be fees required to reserve and rent Center facilities. Please check the website or call the number at the top of the page for more information.