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North Fort Myers History

May 13, 2009
FL Guide

North Fort Myers History The unincorporated community of North Fort Myers is often referred to as the Gateway to Lee County. Indeed, if coming from the north, the only routes leading to anywhere and everywhere in Lee County first pass through North Fort Myers. These pathways are I-75 on the east, US 41 on the west, and Business 41, which branches off US 41 and goes eastward from the 'gateway.' The junction is only a few hundred yards before reaching 'Waltzing Waters,' the main attraction at the Shell Factory. A half-century back, the only US 41 was the business route now called the 'Old 41,' and it was the only main thoroughfare. It was called the Tamiami Trail, and still is today. It got its name for being the only way to go from Tampa to Miami, and was a narrow two-lane roadway, not paved everywhere. Presently, the old Tamiami Trail is undergoing another transformation, this time from four to six lanes. The first settler in his area north of the Caloosahatchee River was John Powell, according to 'Lee County - A Pictorial History' by Prudy Taylor Board and Patricia Pope Bartlett. This book and others can be found on the shelves of the North Fort Myers Public Library, where the librarians are always gracious in assisting patrons with anything they need. The book shows a picture of the bearded and mustached pioneer sitting in a rocker, with wife Quintilla standing next to him. The book devotes several pages to North Fort Myers and reports the area did not start being developed until 1930. One of the authors, Board, was an editor for one of the Breeze Newspaper publications, the Pine Island Eagle, in the early 1990s. According to a recent publication of the North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, this gateway community covers 70 square miles. It is adjacent to Cape Coral on the west side. The Caloosahatchee River brushes its southern borders and Charlotte County is the northern neighbor. On the east side are wide stretches of undeveloped land. A number of settlements had first occupied the land. They were: Samville, New Prospect, Bayshore, Cabana City, Slater and Woodrow, reportedly named after Woodrow Wilson. In 'Pages from the Past,' another book by Board - this one with co-author Esther B. Colcord - contains a photograph by Jack B. Board showing a row of tiny cottages lining the shore of a body of water. They were constructed from coral blocks in the 1930s, to be used by tourists. According to the authors, it was 'during the period after the completion of the Edison Bridge in North Fort Myers when the community began to be developed.' The community's growth took off more rapidly in the 1960s. Much has changed since then, from accommodations to recreational opportunities, but North Fort Myers is still a laid-back community extending the red carpet to visitors from near and far.

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