A Look into the Past and Future of the Historic Boomer Estate
The majestic Boomer House stands at a distance, keeping watch over the Estero River. Its stately presence is enhanced by aged oaks canopying the lush lawn stretching from water’s edge to the Old Florida manor. The tidy grounds have been maintained by the same caretaker for the last 20 years. Everything from the tin roof to the shingled cedar siding has been preserved.
Although the Boomer Home is accessible from a long driveway off U.S. 41 south of Broadway Avenue, old groves and native vegetation cloak the estate from view by land. This piece of Estero history sits quietly on 26 acres owned by the State of Florida, but its upkeep and usage remains under the control of one individual: Nola Boomer.
The South African-born widow of businessman George Dupont Boomer has a life estate on the property, as part of a $14.5-million deal made in 2005 to keep this land preserved in perpetuity. The acquisition was a joint effort of the state’s Florida Forever program and Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program. The entire 104-acre Boomer estate — which sits across the Estero River from Koreshan State Historic Site— was added to the Koreshan holdings. However, 26 acres including the Boomer House was exempted from public usage for as long as Nola Boomer is living. And nothing much has been done on the rest of the acquired acreage, either.
At age 76, Nola seems in good health and recently appeared at an Estero Village Council meeting to express her wishes that the Boomer estate, or “Mirasol” as the family calls it, be preserved. In recent months, she has opened Mirasol for private tours so members of the Village Council and Estero’s Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) could see this hidden gem and imagine its possibilities.
“You can visualize it as a place where people would go sit and enjoy nature,” says PZB member Bob King.
During a public meeting conducted by the Florida Park Service last summer regarding the 10-year plan for Koreshan Park, it became obvious the state’s plan for “general improvements and upgrades” falls far short of the Village’s vision for this property. Estero residents have repeatedly indicated through workshops and surveys that they want better access to the river. Currently, the only public access is through the state park.
The Village has been quietly exploring possibilities for acquiring the Boomer estate, Koreshan State Historic Site and other privately held lands along the river.
“It is absolutely the most beautiful area in Estero when you drive up that 700-foot driveway to Mirasol,” says Councilwoman Katy Errington. She’s been gingerly developing a relationship with Nola Boomer over the last two years.
Although Nola is candid in asserting her distrust of politicians and reporters, lately she’s been talking to both. Estero Life was granted an exclusive interview by Mrs. Boomer to discuss the history and future of her beloved Mirasol.
She recalled the first time her late husband —Lucius’ son, George DuPont Boomer — brought her to Mirasol. It seemed an idyllic retreat from the pace of their lives in Manhattan.
“Every year before we left Mirasol, George would go down, sit at the river and shed a few little tears,” recalls Nola.
The son of hotel magnate Lucius Messenger Boomer, George grew up in the Waldorf Towers in New York. “He grew up with purple silk wallpaper and Chinese furniture,” notes Nola.
Mirasol had been George’s retreat ever since he went off to boarding school at age 14. He would take a train down to the family home on the Estero River as often as possible, says Nola. Many artifacts of his father’s travels are still evident at Mirasol. A portrait of Lucius Boomer hangs over the mantle; rooms are filled with antique clocks, vases, fine china, intriguing artwork and cherished family photos.
The home was built in 1917 for Lucius Boomer’s mother, Berthaldine “Bertha” Boomer, a member of the Koreshan Unity’s ranking “Planetary Court.” Bertha had brought Lucius with her when she followed charismatic cult leader Cyrus Teed (aka. Master Koresh) from the sophistication of Chicago to the mosquito-infested swampland of early Estero in hopes of establishing a New Jerusalem. After Teed’s death and the dispersement of his followers, Lucius acquired land across the river from the Koreshan settlement and commissioned Koreshan carpenters to build a home for his mother using lumber from a dismantled sanitarium.
Bertha lived out her days at Mirasol, leaving the estate to become a vacation home for future generations of the Boomer family. Lucius was known to host Thomas Edison and Henry Ford at Mirasol.
“I feel so honored to be part of the Boomer ancestry through marriage to George,” says Nola.
Her meandering path to Mirasol started by purchasing a one-way ticket from South Africa to England at age 19. The wanderlust continued as she hitchhiked her way through Europe with a girlfriend and eventually moved to the Bahamas with her first husband. After divorcing, she moved to New York, where she worked for a lawyer in the garment district. One snowy day, she took shelter in a restaurant and met George Dupont Boomer. They were married in 1985 and enjoyed 14 years together before George’s death in 1999. Nola always enjoyed their retreats to Mirasol and still visits often.
“I do hope I am able to continue to conserve and preserve Mirasol so your children and grandchildren will be able to get an understanding of what Estero was like in the early 1900s,” says Nola. “That is close to my heart.”
Although there has been talk of boardwalks, boat ramps and bridges, Nola hopes Mirasol will always retain its sense of serenity.
“I don’t want it to be a public place where people dump beer cans,” she says emphatically.
Nola agreed to open the estate for a wedding last summer, and the grounds have been used for Historical Society events in the past.
Estero Mayor Jim Boesch sees the Boomer estate as part of a bigger picture plan to provide river access and natural amenities to the citizens of Southwest Florida. Koreshan ranks low in state park revenues, and Gov. Rick Scott has indicated a willingness to turn over state-owned lands to other municipalities, Boesch noted. He recently arranged a meeting with Rep. Matt Caldwell to discuss this “long shot” acquisition.
“Our approach to the state is to take over the whole park, and that would include the Boomer property,” says Boesch, who envisions a future riverwalk area in Estero. “My yearnings and my political background tell me it’s possible.”
While Village Council has not authorized formal negotiations, the recent tours at Mirasol show interest on the part of Village planners.
“I’m a firm believer we need access to the water, and we don’t have it,” asserts King. “That area is very valuable to the Village as an extension of the town center.”