The History of Fort Myers is Exceptional!
History is one of the most fascinating topics. It’s the only thing that never changes, but constantly intrigues. The core of who we are as a society has been molded by historical figures, events, and challenges. We learn from the past. We grow from the past. We better ourselves every day from looking back and moving forward. The History Channel has made an empire from portraying history in a dramatic and entertaining way. In looking at our own unique experience, the history of Fort Myers, Florida is no exception. Our local history is rich, complex, and something we should all be proud of.
Fort Myers was one of the original forts built on the Caloosahatchee River back in the 1800’s. Not only did it serve as a base for the Seminole Indian Wars, but also was the sight of the southernmost battle of the civil war. As the city has developed into the mecca it is today, numerous discoveries have been made about its past. One example can be seen in the renovation project on the Caloosahatchee riverfront back in 2012. When the initial land development started many different artifacts were uncovered. “During the Seminole and Civil Wars, it (Fort Myers) was the site of a U.S. military fort that changed names, shapes and purposes. Much more than an attack-resistant building, in its heyday, Fort Myers could be more accurately described as a military base — a sophisticated 50-acre complex that housed hundreds of people.”*
It wasn’t until the building of the Tamiami Trail bridge in 1924, connecting what is now North Fort Myers to the historic downtown, that Fort Myers really started to boom. Up until this time there was no easy way to cross the Caloosahatchee in the downtown area. The urban planning and sustainable design that went into the city planning of Downtown Fort Myers was paramount to growth and development. Housing communities started to flourish as the population grew and Fort Myers was then becoming known as a destination location for Southwest Florida.
Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are perhaps two of the most famous inhabitants of our fine city. “In 1885, Fort Myers was the second largest town on Florida’s Gulf Coast.” Thomas Edison visited what was then a small village sustained by farming and logging, and decided to develop his estate on the banks of the river. Henry Ford who was a good friend of Edison used to travel back and forth from New York to visit his old friend’s new home. It didn’t take long for him to see the undeniable appeal of our beautiful weather, beaches, coastlines, and opportunities.
Today the Ford and Edison estates showcase some of the most beautiful landscape garden designs in Southwest Florida. Naturally flourishing year round due to our climate, the gardens are green and full of color any time of the year. More so, each winter the landscape designs are lit up by Christmas lights and our local history is on full display. The City of Palms comes to life during the holidays!
There are so many other little known facts about Fort Myers that have contributed to the community we have today. History is all around us. We can’t get away from our culture if we wanted to. So many great men and women have helped to build what we have today, our hope is that we continue to build upon the history and sustainability they have given us.