View down Main Street from Carson Street, Parkview Hotel at left - Fort Myers, Florida
View down Main Street from Carson Street, Parkview Hotel at left – Fort Myers, Florida

You may know that Fort Myers, Florida, has the highest number of sunny days with sunshine in the state. You may also know that beaches in the area have the biggest variety of seashells and that nearby Sanibel has the only shell museum in the country. The question is whether you know how Fort Myers got its start or some of the interesting historical features of the area.

A 2,000-year Old Story

The town of Fort Myers Beach actually began over 2,000 years ago when the Calusa Indians built mounds made of shell along the beaches. The Calusa resisted colonization when Ponce de Leon attempted to conquer them in 1513 and 1521. In fact, it was during a battle with the Calusa where de Leon was mortally wounded. The Calusa were eventually displaced by the Creek Indians who established trade between the Ranchos, small fishing villages, and Cuba. During the 17th century, the area switched between Spanish and English control several times. Cuban fisherman set up Ranchos throughout southwest Florida.

First American Settlers

In 1850, General David Twigg took over a small fort on the Caloosahatchee River where he commanded a staff officer named Abraham C. Myers. General Twigg’s daughter, Marion, fell in love with Myers and, as a wedding present to the couple, named the area Fort Myers in his new son-in-law’s honor. The first American settlements are attributed to the Homestead Act of 1882. One of the settlers, Robert Gilbert, was granted a homestead grant in 1885. This grant included a shell mound at the end of Connecticut Street that became known as Mound House.

Subdivision and Development

By 1911, William Case was living on the property and is responsible for creating the first development and cottage rental industry on the island. As late as 1914, fishing, gardening and a sawmill were the only industries in Fort Myers. A second subdivision did not occur until 1916 when T. P. Hill divided a large tract on Crescent Street, creating beachside lots. By 1925, land was a high commodity in Florida with some investors sold property that was actually underwater.

Parade on First Street - Fort Myers, Florida
Parade on First Street – Fort Myers, Florida

Tourist Trade

In 1921, a toll bridge opened a connection to the beach and it was followed closely by two casinos, a hotel, a pier and a canal. However, the hurricanes of 1921 and 1926 slowed further development as the destruction caused by the storms changed the opinion of Florida’s temperate climate. Despite the fact that Florida fell into a small depression, restaurants and other small businesses continued to open along the beaches. The 1950s grew the tourism trade as new hotels were established in the area. It was during this period Rancho del Mar was built, bringing the first swimming pool to the area, and the swing bridge was electrified to assist with the flow of traffic.

Aerial view of Fort Myers
Aerial view of Fort Myers

Fort Myers has continued to grow over the years with just as many year-round residents as seasonal residents and tourists. The town was not incorporated until 1995. If you are planning a visit to Fort Myers Beach, contact Sun Palace Vacations, the best place to find rentals in the area. You can reach them by phone or online.

Image source: Florida Memory

Sun Palace Vacation Homes
(239) 208-0101
1750 Estero Boulevard
Fort Myers Beach FL 33931

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