Fort Myers, Florida

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Fort Myers, Florida
Sidney and Berne Davis Art Museum in downtown Fort Myers
Sidney and Berne Davis Art Museum in downtown Fort Myers
Nickname(s): 
"City of Palms"
Location in Lee County, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida is located in Florida
Fort Myers, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida
Fort Myers
Fort Myers, Florida is located in the United States
Fort Myers, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida (the United States)
Coordinates: 26°37′N 81°50′W / 26.617°N 81.833°W / 26.617; -81.833Coordinates: 26°37′N 81°50′W / 26.617°N 81.833°W / 26.617; -81.833[1]
CountryUnited States
State Florida
CountyLee
FoundedMarch 24, 1885
Government
 • TypeCouncil–manager
 • MayorRandy Henderson, Jr.
Area
 • Total49.04 sq mi (127.00 km2)
 • Land39.84 sq mi (103.19 km2)
 • Water9.20 sq mi (23.82 km2)
Elevation10 ft (3 m)
Population
 • Total62,298
 • Estimate 
(2018)[5]
82,254
 • Density2,064.61/sq mi (797.15/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
33900-33999
Area code(s)239
FIPS code12-24125[4]
GNIS feature ID0282700[3]
Websitecityftmyers.com

Fort Myers or Ft. Myers, is the county seat[6] and commercial center of Lee County, Florida, United States. It has grown rapidly in recent years. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 62,298 and in 2018 was estimated at 82,254.[4][5]

Fort Myers is a gateway to the Southwest Florida region and a major tourist destination within Florida. The winter estates of Thomas Edison ("Seminole Lodge") and Henry Ford ("The Mangoes") are major attractions.[7] The city is named after Colonel Abraham Myers, the quartermaster general of the Confederate States Army.[8][9]

History[edit]

Spain originally had colonial influence in Florida, succeeded by Great Britain and, lastly, the United States.

Seminole Wars[edit]

Blockhouse at Fort Myers in Florida

During the Second Seminole War, between 1835 and 1842, the US Army operated Fort Dulany at Punta Rassa, at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. When a hurricane destroyed Fort Dulany in October 1841, army operations were moved up the Caloosahatchee River to a site named Fort Harvie.[10][11] Fort Harvie was abandoned in 1842, as the Second Seminole War wound down. After a white trader was killed by Seminoles on the Peace River in 1849, the Army returned to the Caloosahatchee River in 1850. The new Fort Myers was built on the burned ruins of Fort Harvie.[12] The fort was named for Brevet Colonel Abraham Charles Myers, quartermaster for the Army's Department of Florida. It covered about 139 acres (56 ha), and soon had 57 buildings, including a two-story blockhouse that was pictured in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and a 1,000-foot-long (300 m) wharf at which ships could dock. Irvin Solomon notes that Fort Myers was described "as 'one of the finest and largest' forts of the Seminole Wars". It was abandoned in 1858, at the end of the Third Seminole War.[13]

Civil War[edit]

During the American Civil War, Confederate blockade runners and cattle ranchers were based in Fort Myers. These settlers prospered through trading with the Seminole and Union soldiers.[14]

The United States Army set up a camp on Useppa Island, near the entrance to Charlotte Harbor, in December 1863. It was intended as a place from which to recruit Union sympathizers and Confederate deserters and conscription-evaders, and to raid into the interior and interfere with Confederate efforts to round-up cattle for supply to the Confederate Army. After some probes along the Peace and Myakka rivers, which had mixed results, operations were moved to the mainland.[15] Troops from the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Regiment of Florida Rangers (later reorganized as the 2nd Florida Cavalry Regiment (Union)) left Key West for Fort Myers early in January 1864. The Union soldiers reached Fort Myers quickly enough to capture three Confederate sympathizers before they could act on orders to burn the fort to keep it out of Union hands. Beyond the principal reason for occupying the fort of providing support for Union sympathizers and local residents disaffected with Confederate taxation and conscription, the fort provided access to the large cattle herds in southern Florida, support for the blockade of the southwest Florida coast being conducted by the U.S. Navy, and a haven for any escaped slaves in the area.[16]

In April 1864, after the troops from the 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment had been transferred to Louisiana, Companies D and I of the 2nd United States Colored Infantry Regiment were transferred from Key West to Fort Myers, and remained at the fort until it was abandoned.[17] Company G of the regiment had also been sent to Fort Myers by early May. [18] Solomon argues that Brevet Brigadier General Daniel Phineas Woodbury, commandant of the District of Key West and the Tortugas, intended that action to be an irritant to the Confederacy. The presence of the black soldiers, who made up the majority of troops used in raids into Confederate territory, played on Confederate fears of armed blacks. It was reported that Woodbury took pleasure in placing a "prickly pear cactus under the Confederate saddle".[19]

By the Spring of 1864, Fort Myers was protected by a 500-foot-long (150 m) breastwork, 7 feet (2.1 m) high and 15 feet (4.6 m) wide, extending in an arc around the land side of the fort. The Seminole War-era blockhouse had been repaired and another two-story blockhouse built. The fort was soon harboring more than 400 civilians and Confederate army deserters. Many of the white men enlisted in the 2nd Florida Union Cavalry. Although designated as cavalry, the members of the regiment stationed at Fort Myers were never mounted. Escaped slaves that came to the fort were recruited into the 2nd United States Colored Infantry Regiment.[20]

The Union achieved control of the full length of the Mississippi River after the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863. The Confederate Army then became dependent on Florida for most of its supply of beef. By the end of 1863 between 1,000 and 2,000 head of cattle were being shipped to the Confederate Army from Florida every week.[21] As 1864 progressed, Union troops and sympathizers began driving cattle to Punta Rassa to supply Union ships on blockade duty and Union-held Key West, reducing the supply of cattle available to Confederate forces. The increased shipping from Punta Rassa led the Union Army to built a barracks and a wharf there.[22] By one Confederate estimate, the Union shipped 4,500 head of cattle from Punta Rassa.[23]

The Battle of Fort Myers was fought on February 20, 1865, in Lee County, Florida during the last months of the American Civil War. This small engagement is known as the "southernmost land battle of the Civil War."[24] (However, see Battle of Palmito Ranch.)

Settlement and Founding[edit]

The Fort Myers community was founded after the American Civil War by Captain Manuel A. Gonzalez on February 21, 1866.[25][26] Captain Gonzalez was familiar with the area as a result of his years of service delivering mail and supplies to the Union Army at the Fort during the Seminole Indian Wars and Civil War.[25][26] When the U.S. Government abandoned the fort following the Civil War, Gonzalez sailed from Key West, Florida to found the community.[25][26][27] Three weeks later, Joseph Vivas and his wife, Christianna Stirrup Vivas, arrived with Gonzalez's wife, Evalina, and daughter Mary.[28]

Gonzalez settled his family near the abandoned Fort Myers, where he began the area's first trading post. Gonzalez traded tobacco, beads, and gunpowder, and sold otter, bobcat, and gator hide, to the neighboring Seminole.[14] A small community began to form around the trading post.

In the late 19th century, northerners began to travel to Florida in the winter. Some saw development opportunities. In 1881, the wealthy industrialist Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania came to the Caloosahatchee Valley. He planned to dredge and drain the Everglades for development. Diston connected Lake Okeechobee with the Caloosahatchee River; this allowed steamboats to run from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee and up the Kissimmee River.[14]

On August 12, 1885, the small town of Fort Myers—all 349 residents—was incorporated. By that time, it was the second-largest town on Florida's Gulf Coast south of Cedar Key.[29]

In 1885, inventor Thomas Alva Edison was cruising Florida's west coast and stopped to visit Fort Myers.[29] He soon bought 13 acres along the Caloosahatchee River in town. There he built his home "Seminole Lodge", as a winter retreat. It included a laboratory for his continuing work. After the Lodge was completed in 1886, Edison and his wife, Mina, spent many winters in Fort Myers. Edison also enjoyed local recreational fishing, for which Fort Myers had gained a national reputation.[30]

In 1898, the Royal Palm Hotel was constructed. This luxury hotel attracted many tourists and established Fort Myers nationally as a winter resort destination.[31]

20th century[edit]

On May 10, 1904, access to the Fort Myers area was greatly improved with the opening of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, connecting Punta Gorda to Fort Myers. This route provided Lee County both passenger and freight railroad service.[32]

In 1908, the Arcade Theater was constructed in downtown Fort Myers. It served originally as a vaudeville house. Thomas Edison viewed films here for the first time with friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.[33] With the growth of the film industry, the Arcade Theatre was converted into a full movie house. A wall divided the stage in order to form two screening rooms. Changes in moviegoing habits since the late 20th century have led to the renovation of the theater for use again in live performance. It is now host to the Florida Repertory Theatre, a performing arts hall.

During the period of 1914-1918 (World War I), Edison became concerned about America's reliance on foreign supplies of rubber. He partnered with tire producer Harvey Firestone, of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company, to try to find a rubber tree or plant that could grow quickly in the United States. He sought one that would contain enough latex to support his research endeavor. In 1927, the three men contributed $25,000 each, and created the Edison Botanic Research Corporation in an attempt to find a solution to this problem.[29]

In 1928, the Edison Botanic Research Corporation laboratory was constructed. It was in Fort Myers that Edison conducted the majority of his research and planted exotic plants and trees. He sent results and sample rubber residues to West Orange, New Jersey, for further work at his large Thomas A. Edison "Invention Factory" (now preserved in the Thomas Edison National Historical Park). Through Edison's efforts, the royal palms lining Riverside Avenue (now McGregor Boulevard) were imported and planted. They inspired Fort Myers' nickname as "City of Palms".[29]

After testing 17,000 plant samples, Edison eventually discovered a source in the plant Goldenrod (Solidago leavenworthii). The rubber project was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture five years later.[29]

The Mangoes: Henry Ford's Winter home

In 1916, automobile magnate Henry Ford purchased the home next door to Edison's from Robert Smith of New York. Ford named his estate "the Mangoes". Ford's craftsman-style "bungalow" was built in 1911 by Smith. Ford, Harvey Firestone and Edison, were the three top leaders in American industry. They were part of an exclusive group titled "the Millionaires' Club". The three men have been memorialized in statues in downtown Fort Myers' Centennial Park.

In 1924, with the beginning of construction of the Edison Bridge, named for Thomas Edison, the city's population steadily grew. The bridge was opened on February 11, 1931, the 84th birthday of its namesake. Edison dedicated the bridge, and was the first to drive across it. Thomas Edison died in 1931.

Architecture of Downtown Fort Myers.

In the decade following the bridge's construction, the city had a real estate boom. Several new residential subdivisions were built beyond Downtown, including Dean Park, Edison Park, and Seminole Park [30] Edison Park, located across McGregor Boulevard from the Edison and Ford properties, includes a number of Fort Myers' most stately homes. The historic development showcases a variety of architectural styles. In the 21st century, it is known for its community activities and strong neighborhood ties.[34]

In 1947, Mina Edison deeded Seminole Lodge to the City of Fort Myers, in memory of her late husband and for the enjoyment of the public. By 1988, the adjacent Henry Ford winter estate was purchased by the city and opened for public tours in 1990. The combined properties today are known as the Edison and Ford Winter Estates.

Geography and climate[edit]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 40.4 square miles (105 km2), of which 31.8 square miles (82 km2) is land and 8.6 square miles (22 km2) (21.25%) is water.

Fort Myers has a Tropical savanna climate.[citation needed]

The temperature rarely rises to 100 °F (38 °C) or lowers to the freezing mark.[35] Rainfall averages just over 56 inches per year, strongly concentrated during the rainy season (June to September) with its frequent showers and thunderstorms; on average, these four months deliver 68 percent of annual rainfall. From October to May, average monthly rainfall is less than three inches. In years with drier than average conditions from winter into mid-spring, drought can develop, and brush fires can be a significant threat. Reflecting the June to September wet season, Fort Myers has 89 days annually in which a thunderstorm is close enough for thunder to be heard, the most in the nation.[36]

The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 64.2 °F (17.9 °C) in January to 83.4 °F (28.6 °C) in August, with the annual mean being 75.1 °F (23.9 °C).

Records range from 24 °F (−4 °C) on December 29, 1894 up to 103 °F (39 °C) on June 16–17, 1981.[35]

Climate data for Fort Myers, Florida (Page Field), 1981–2010 normals,[a] extremes 1892–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 88
(31)
92
(33)
94
(34)
96
(36)
99
(37)
103
(39)
101
(38)
100
(38)
98
(37)
95
(35)
95
(35)
91
(33)
103
(39)
Mean maximum °F (°C) 88
(31)
91
(33)
93
(34)
90.8
(32.7)
94.7
(34.8)
96.3
(35.7)
96.2
(35.7)
95.6
(35.3)
94.1
(34.5)
91.8
(33.2)
88.2
(31.2)
84.9
(29.4)
97.2
(36.2)
Average high °F (°C) 75
(24)
77
(25)
80
(27)
85
(29)
89
(32)
92
(33)
92
(33)
92
(33)
91
(33)
87
(31)
81
(27)
77
(25)
84.7
(29.3)
Average low °F (°C) 54
(12)
56
(13)
59
(15)
63
(17)
69
(21)
74
(23)
75
(24)
75
(24)
74
(23)
69
(21)
62
(17)
56
(13)
65.5
(18.6)
Mean minimum °F (°C) 37.0
(2.8)
40.0
(4.4)
44.9
(7.2)
51.7
(10.9)
60.8
(16.0)
68.5
(20.3)
71.3
(21.8)
71.9
(22.2)
69.8
(21.0)
57.3
(14.1)
48.9
(9.4)
40.0
(4.4)
34.5
(1.4)
Record low °F (°C) 27
(−3)
27
(−3)
33
(1)
39
(4)
50
(10)
58
(14)
66
(19)
65
(18)
63
(17)
45
(7)
34
(1)
24
(−4)
24
(−4)
Average rainfall inches (mm) 1.94
(49)
2.15
(55)
2.88
(73)
2.18
(55)
2.65
(67)
10.09
(256)
9.04
(230)
10.14
(258)
8.31
(211)
2.88
(73)
1.96
(50)
1.71
(43)
55.93
(1,421)
Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) 5.5 5.2 6.2 4.2 6.8 16.0 17.6 17.9 15.4 6.8 4.4 4.5 110.5
Source: NOAA[35]

[37]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1890575
190094364.0%
19102,463161.2%
19203,67849.3%
19309,082146.9%
194010,60416.8%
195013,19524.4%
196022,52370.7%
197027,35121.4%
198036,63834.0%
199045,20623.4%
200048,2086.6%
201062,29829.2%
Est. 201882,254[38]32.0%
source:[39]
Fort Myers Demographics
2010 Census Fort Myers Lee County Florida
Total population 62,298 618,754 18,801,310
Population, percent change, 2000 to 2010 +29.2% +40.3% +17.6%
Population density 1,559.1/sq mi 788.7/sq mi 350.6/sq mi
(Non-Hispanic White or Caucasian) 54.6% 53.9% 57.9%
Black or African-American 32.3% 18.3% 16.0%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 20.0% 20.4% 22.5%
Asian 1.6% 1.4% 2.4%
Native American or Native Alaskan 0.6% 0.4% 0.4%
Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
Two or more races (Multiracial) 2.8% 2.1% 2.5%
Other races 8.0% 4.7% 3.6%

The population of Fort Myers was 62,298 during the 2010 census.[40] Between the 2000 census and 2010 census, the city's population increased at a rate of 29.2 percent.

Fort Myers is one of two cities that make up the Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area. The 2010 population for the metropolitan area was 618,754.[40]

The population of Lee County, Florida and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area has grown 40.3 percent since the census in 2000, much faster than the average growth rate of 17.6 percent experienced throughout the State of Florida.

Government[edit]

Fort Myers is governed by a six-member city council where each member is elected from a single member ward. The city practices a council–manager form of government where the city council is responsible for the legislative functions of the municipality. The city council is responsible for establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations, and developing an overall vision for the city.

The mayor is elected in a citywide vote. The current mayor of Fort Myers is Randy Henderson, Jr.

Policing of Fort Myers is performed by the Fort Myers Police Department.

Education[edit]

Secondary schools[edit]

Bishop Verot Catholic High School

See: Lee County School District for other public schools in the area.

Secondary schools in the city include:

Higher education[edit]

Institutions of higher learning in the city include:

Libraries[edit]

See: Lee County Library System for other libraries in the county. Library Services include:

  • Fort Myers Regional Library: The Fort Myers Regional Library is the hub for the Lee County Library System, holding the main collections of legal, business, news, and financial information. The Library is located in Downtown Fort Myers at 2450 Main Street and is home to Cornog Plaza.[47]
  • Dunbar-Jupiter Hammon Public Library: The library officially opened on October 7, 1974. The founders named the library Jupiter Hammon Public Library in honor of the first African poet to have his work published. Dunbar, the community's name, was added at the request of its residents. The library was moved in 1996 to its current location at 3095 Blount Street. It is home to the largest African-American book collection in Southwest Florida.[48]

Sports[edit]

The City of Palms Classic is an annual high school basketball tournament held in Fort Myers, Florida, since 1973. Several of its alumni have made it to the NBA.

Points of interest[edit]

Murphy-Burroughs House

Public Transportation[edit]

Airports[edit]

Fort Myers has experienced rapid population growth.

The Fort Myers Metropolitan Area is served by two separate airports in and around the city limits.

  • The area is primarily served by Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), located southeast of the city. The airport, which sits on 13,555 acres of land is the 45th busiest airport (by annual passengers). In 2018 the airport served 9,373,178 passengers. It has been ranked as one of the top ten airports serving under ten million passengers in the United States.
  • The Fort Myers area is secondarily served by Page Field, which is a small general aviation airport whose primary traffic consist of smaller aircraft.

Ground Transport[edit]

Buses run by LeeTran provide local service in Fort Myers.[50]

Fort Myers in popular culture[edit]

In film[edit]

  • The abandoned city scene with the Edison Theatre, from the movie Day of the Dead (1985) was filmed in downtown Fort Myers.[51]
  • Some courthouse and other "city" scenes in Just Cause (1995) were filmed in downtown Ft. Myers.[52]
  • Part of the independent film Trans (1999) was filmed in Fort Myers, Florida.[53]

In print[edit]

  • Fort Myers is part of the setting of Red Grass River: A Legend (1998), an award-winning novel by James Carlos Blake[54]

Notable people[edit]

Present[edit]

Past[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Fort Myers has a twinning agreement with:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1981 to 2010.
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Sources[edit]

  • Buker, George E. (1993). Blockaders, Refugees, & Contrabands: Civil War on Florida's Gulf Coast, 1861-1865. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-1296-X.
  • Dillon, Rodney E., Jr. (January 1984). ""The Little Affair": The Southwest Florida Campaign, 1863–1864". The Florida Historical Quarterly. 62 (3): 314–31. JSTOR 30146289.
  • Solomon, Irvin D. (October 1993). "Southern Extremities: The Significance of Fort Myers in the Civil War". The Florida Historical Quarterly. 72 (2): 129–152. JSTOR 30148691.

External links[edit]