Fort Myers was one of the first forts built along the Caloosahatchee River as a base of operations against the Seminoles.
Fort Denaud, Fort Thompson, and Fort Dulany (Punta Rassa) all pre-date Fort Myers. When a hurricane destroyed Fort Dulany in October of 1841, the military was forced to look for a site less exposed to storms from the Gulf or Mexico. As a result of the search, Fort Harvie was built late in 1841 on grounds that now comprise downtown Fort Myers.
Abandoned in 1858, Fort Myers was re-occupied for a few weeks the following year. The War Between the States brought federal troops back in 1863 for the stay of two years, but at war's end, Fort Myers was abandoned by the military once and for all.
A few hotels began to appear during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the first begin the Keystone, at the foot of Park Street. By 1885, the population was up to 349, the Fort Myers Press was in operation, people were beginning to settle along the river away from the immediate fort area, and Fort Myers was about to gain its most famous resident. In 1885, Thomas A. Edison visited the town, fell in love with it, and within two years, he had built his home and laboratory on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River.
A colorful addition to the area during this period was the appearance of a number of pineapple plantations along the river. The year 1884 was critical for Fort Myers. Lee County was created,a new courthouse was built, a second newspaper - Tropic News - opened, and a severe freeze in the state resulted in much of the citrus industry moving father south - some of it to this area.
Early Twentieth Century 1898-1919
The twentieth century dawned with 943 residents in Fort Myers. The town was experiencing what one historian called a "building boom." The "boom" actually began in 1898 with the construction of what is no called the Murphy-Burroughs home setting the standard.
Within the next few years a number of more elaborately decorated frame vernacular homes appeared along First Street and out along Palm Beach Boulevard.
The growth of the community was greatly facilitated in 1904 with the arrival of the Coast Railroad,
During the same year, construction began on the Bradford Hotel which still stands on First Street.
Another notable sign of growth during the first two decades of the 20th Century was the beginning of several residential developments Streets were paved downtown, and the famous palms were planted along McGregor Boulevard, which itself was improved to Whiskey Creek on the road to Punta Rassa.
Boom Time 1920-1927
Most of the Mediterranean Revival buildings seen throughout the City were built during this period. In fact, the Mediterranean Revival style, which combines several other prominent architectural styles, typifies Florida during the 1920's.
Excellent examples of Mediterranean Revival construction are to be found in commercial buildings in the downtown area as well as in private homes in all parts of the city.
Still-prominent developments such as Seminole Park, Riverside Park, Edison Park, Valencia Terrace, Allen Park, Alabama Groves and others had their beginnings in the Boom Time. The opening of Tamiami Trail, linking Fort Myers with Tampa and Miami, added even more to the fantastic growth during this time.
Post Boom Time 1930-1939
Fort Myers suffered along with the rest of the state when a combination of poor publicity, hurricanes, and inadequate planning brought a collapse of Florida's boom time.
1940 and Beyond
The big story of the 1940's in Fort Myers, as everywhere else in the world, was World War II. Every county in Florida had air bases to take advantage of Florida's fine flying weather. Lee County's bases brought servicemen, and sometimes their families to Fort Myers. Many of these people, and their visitors, came back in later years to become permanent residents.
In the years since World War II, Fort Myers has grown along with Lee County and the rest of Southwest Florida. Gradually, vacant commercial and residential sites have been filled. Development has been concentrated east and west along the river, and south along Cleveland Avenue. New commercial buildings and shopping centers have cropped up in all parts of the city. Fortunately, the older downtown area, and the city's historic districts, have retained much of their charm. Today, Downtown Fort Myers is filled with businesses ranging from boutiques, restaurants, cafes, antique stores, jewelers, financial houses, apartments, and professional offices to a convention center. Also, Centennial Park, is a popular place for visitors and residents to gather for concerts and other functions.