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Fort Myers is the commercial center of Lee County, Florida, and gateway to the Southwest Florida region and a major tourist destination. The winter homes of Thomas Edison ("Seminole Lodge") and Henry Ford ("The Mangoes") lie within the region. The statistical area is serviced by Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), just southeast of the city. Its 7-mile-long Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach has sand and space enough for everyone

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History[edit] Architecture of Downtown Fort Myers.

Fort Myers was one of the first forts built along the Caloosahatchee River as a base of operations against the Seminole Indians during the American Indian Wars. During the Seminole Wars, Fort Myers was a strategic location for its visibility and access to Atlantic waterways.

After the Wars, Confederate blockade runners and cattle ranchers called Fort Myers home. These settlers prospered through trading with Seminole Indians and Union Soldiers.[8]

Settlement and founding[edit]

The Fort Myers community was founded by Captain Manuel A. Gonzalez on February 21, 1866. [9] [10] Captain Manuel A. 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. [11] [12] When the U.S. Government abandoned the Fort following the Civil War, Gonzalez traveled by sailing vessel from Key West, Florida to found the community. [13] [14] [15] Three weeks later, Joseph Vivas and his wife, Christianna Stirrup Vivas, arrived with Gonzalez's wife, Evalina Gonzalez, and daughter, Mary Gonzalez.[16]

Gonzales had shipped supplies and carried mail during the war and settled his family near the abandoned Fort Myers to begin the town's first trading post. Gonzalez traded tobacco, beads, and gunpowder, and sold otter, bobcat, and gator hide, to the neighboring Seminole Indians.[8]

In 1881, the wealthy industrialist Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia came to the Caloosahatchee Valley to dredge and drain the everglades for development. Diston connected Lake Okeechobee with the Caloosahatchee River, which allowed steamboats to run from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee and up the Kissimmee River.[8]

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.[17]

In 1885, inventor Thomas Alva Edison was cruising Florida’s west coast and stopped to visit Fort Myers.[18] He soon bought 13 acres along the Caloosahatchee River in town, and built a home and laboratory, "Seminole Lodge", as a winter retreat. After the Lodge was completed in 1886, Edison and his wife, Mina, spent many winters at their home in Fort Myers. Edison also enjoyed local recreational fishing, for which Fort Myers had gained national notoriety.[19]

In 1898, Fort Myers became a nationally known winter resort destination with the building of the Royal Palm Hotel.[20]

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.[21]

In 1908, the Arcade Theater was constructed in downtown Fort Myers. It served originally as a vaudeville house, and was an auditorium that Fort Myers resident Thomas Edison sat in to view his first films, with his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.[22] The Arcade Theatre was eventually converted into a full movie house, with a wall dividing the stage to form two screening rooms. 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 with America's reliance on foreign supplies of rubber. He partnered with tire producer Harvey Firestone, of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and his good friend Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company, to try to find a rubber tree or plant that could grow quickly in the United States and, above all, 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.[23]

In 1928, the Edison Botanic Research Corporation laboratory was constructed. It was in Fort Myers, Florida that Edison would do the majority of his research and planting of his exotic plants and trees, sending any results or sample rubber residues up to West Orange, New Jersey, to his large Thomas A. Edison "Invention Factory" (now preserved in the Thomas Edison National Historical Park). Through Edison's efforts, theroyal palms lining Riverside Avenue (now McGregor Boulevard) were imported and planted, and would become the reason for Fort Myers's "City of Palms" nickname.[24]

After testing 17,000 plant samples, Edison eventually discovered a source in the plant Goldenrod (Solidago leavenworthii). Thomas Edison died in 1931, and the rubber project was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture five years later.[25]

In 1916, automobile magnate Henry Ford purchased the home next door to Edison's from a Robert Smith of New York, which Ford called "the Mangoes". Ford's craftsman style bungalow was built in 1911 by Smith. Ford, along withHarvey Firestone and Thomas Edison, were generally considered the three leaders in American industry at the time, and often worked and vacationed together. All three were part of a very exclusive group titled "the Millionaires' Club". The three men are now memorialized in statues in downtown Fort Myers' Centennial Park

In 1924, with the construction of the Edison Bridge, which was named after the city's most famous winter resident, the city's population steadily grew. In the decade following the bridge's construction, the city experienced its first real estate boom. Several new residential subdivisions were built beyond Downtown, including Dean Park, Edison Park, and Seminole Park [26] 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, and is known for its community activities and strong neighborhood ties.[27]

On February 11, 1931, the 84th birthday of its namesake, the Edison Bridge was opened. Edison dedicated the bridge, and was also the first to drive across it.

In 1947, Mina Edison deeded Seminole Lodge to the City of Fort Myers in memory of her late husband for the enjoyment of the public. By 1988, the adjacent Henry Ford winter estate was purchased and opened for public tours in 1990. The combined properties today are now 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 short, warm winters, and long, hot, humid summers, with most of the year's rain falling from June to September.

The temperature rarely rises to 100 °F (38 °C) or lowers to the freezing mark.[28] At 89, Fort Myers leads the nation in the number of days annually in which a thunderstorm is close enough for thunder to be heard.[29]

Fort Myers has a warm humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa). 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.[28]

[hide]Climate data for Fort Myers, Florida (Page Field), 1981–2010 normalsMonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYearRecord high °F (°C)90
(39)Average high °F (°C)74.7
(29.3)Average low °F (°C)53.7
(18.6)Record low °F (°C)27
(−4)Average rainfall inches (mm)1.89
(1,423.9)Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 in) NOAA (extremes 1892–present)[28]Demographics[edit]Historical populationCensusPop. %±1890575 —1900943 64.0%19102,463 161.2%19203,678 49.3%19309,082 146.9%194010,604 16.8%195013,195 24.4%196022,523 70.7%197027,351 21.4%198036,638 34.0%199045,206 23.4%200048,208 6.6%201062,298 29.2%Est. 201574,013[30]18.8%source:[31]Fort Myers Demographics2010 CensusFort MyersLee CountyFloridaTotal population62,298618,75418,801,310Population, percent change, 2000 to 2010+29.2%+40.3%+17.6%Population density1,559.1/sq mi788.7/sq mi350.6/sq mi(Non-Hispanic White or Caucasian)30.6%53.9%57.9%Black or African-American39.3%18.3%16.0%Hispanic or Latino (of any race)32.0%20.4%22.5%Asian1.6%1.4%2.4%Native American or Native Alaskan0.6%0.4%0.4%Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian0.1%0.1%0.1%Two or more races (Multiracial)2.8%2.1%2.5%Some Other Race8.0%4.7%3.6%

The population of Fort Myers was 62,298 during the 2010 census.[32] 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.[32]

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.


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:


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

Library Services include:

  • Fort Myers Regional Library
  • 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.[39]

Economy[edit][icon]This section requires expansion.(November 2015)Sports[edit]City of Palms Classic[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]

Buses run by LeeTran provide local service in Fort Myers.[41]

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.[42]
  • Some courthouse and other "city" scenes in Just Cause (1995) were filmed in downtown Ft. Myers and the beach scenes were filmed in Sanibel, Florida.[43]
  • Part of the independent film Trans (1999) was filmed in Fort Myers, Florida.[44]

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[45]

Notable people[edit] Fort Myers has experienced rapid population growth.Present[edit]

Past[edit] The Mangoes: Henry Ford's Winter home

Sister cities[edit]

Fort Myers has twinning agreements with the following sister cities:


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