Fort Myers

Fort Myers is the county seat and commercial center of Lee County, Florida, United States. Its population was 62,298 in the 2010 census, a 29.23 percent increase over the 2000 figure.

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

Established in 1886, Fort Myers is the historical and governmental hub of Lee County. It is the gateway to the Southwest Florida region, which is a major tourist destination in Florida. The winter homes of Thomas Edison (Seminole Lodge) and Henry Ford (The Mangoes), which are both primary tourist attractions in the region, are located on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers.

On August 13, 2004, Fort Myers was hit hard by Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 hurricane that made landfall north of the area. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma struck south of Naples, but caused extensive damage nonetheless in Fort Myers and its southern suburbs.

Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is located southeast of the city in South Fort Myers, near Gateway and Lehigh Acres.

History

Fort Myers was one of the first forts built along the Caloosahatchee River as a base of operations against the Seminole Indians. Fort Denaud, Fort Thompson, and Fort Dulany (Punta Rassa) all pre-date Fort Myers. When a hurricane destroyed Fort Dulany in October 1841, the military was forced to look for a site less exposed to storms from the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of the search, Fort Harvie was built on the grounds that now comprise downtown Fort Myers. Renewed war against the Seminoles in 1850 caused a re-occupation and extensive reconstruction of Fort Harvie.

Fort Harvie began in 1850 as a military fort in response to Seminole Indians who were in conflict with the area's settlers. It was renamed in 1850 for Col. Abraham C. Myers, who was stationed in Florida for seven years and was the son-in-law of the fort's founder and commander. In 1858, after years of elusive battle, Chief Billy Bowlegs and his warriors were persuaded to surrender and move west, and the fort was abandoned. Billy Creek, which flows into the Caloosahatchee River and runs between Dean Park and Fort Myers Broadcasting, was named after a temporary camp where Billy Bowlegs and his men awaited ships to take them west.

The fort was abandoned and stood empty until December 1863, when Union Army troops re-occupied it during the Civil War. On February 20, 1865, the fort was attacked by three companies of Florida militia, determined to end the Union cattle raids against local ranches. The Confederate state troops demanded the fort surrender, but the Union commander refused, and sporadic firing continued through most of the day. The Confederates retreated after dark. One Union soldier was killed and three wounded in the Battle of Fort Myers. One Florida militiaman had been wounded. Even though the attack had been driven off, the Union troops abandoned Fort Myers the following month.

The first settlers arrived in 1866, but not until 1882 did the area experience a significant influx of settlers. Three years later, however, when Fort Myers was incorporated, it was the second largest city after Tampa on Florida's west coast south of Cedar Key, larger than Clearwater and Sarasota, also growing cities at the time.

Fort Myers first became a nationally known winter resort with the building of the Royal Palm Hotel in 1898. Access was greatly improved with the opening of a 28-mile (45 km) extension of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Punta Gorda to Fort Myers on May 10, 1904, giving Lee County both passenger and freight service. But what really sparked the city's growth was the construction of the Tamiami Trail Bridge across the Caloosahatchee River in 1924. After the bridge's construction, the city experienced its first real estate boom, and many subdivisions sprouted around the city.

Geography and climate

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

Fort Myers has a year-round warm, monsoon-influenced climate that is classified as either subtropical (by NOAA) or tropical savanna (Köppen Aw). Notwithstanding the classification, the area has short, mild to warm winters, and long, hot, humid summers, with most of the year's rainfall falling from June to September. Monthly averages range from 64.9 °F (18.3 °C) in January to 83.1 °F (28.4 °C) in August, with the annual average being 74.9 °F (23.8 °C). Records range from 25°F to 104°F.

Demography

As of the census estimate of 2007, there were 71,048 people, 19,338 households, and 10,799 families residing in the city. The population density 1,514.6/mi2. There were 21,836 housing units at an average density of 686.1 per square mile. The racial makeup of the city was 56.35% White, 33.39% African American, 0.38% Native American, 0.98% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 5.69% from other races, and 3.11% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.49% of the population.

There were 19,107 households out of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.3% were married couples living together, 18.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.8% were non-families. 33.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.3% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 17.6% from 45 to 64, and 14.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.3 males.

Government

Fort Myers is governed by a six member city council. Each member is elected from a single member ward. The mayor is elected in a citywide vote. Policing of the city is by the Fort Myers Police Department.

Economy

Chico's FAS is based in Fort Myers.

Education
Secondary schools

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

  • Dunbar High School whose Science Olympiad teams won 15th place overall in the 2007 Florida State Science Olympiad, including a win in the remote sensing category.
  • Fort Myers Senior High School, an International Baccalaureate school, is ranked as one of the best public schools in the nation by Newsweek magazine.
  • Bishop Verot High School, a private, Roman Catholic high school in Ft. Myers, operated by the Diocese of Venice, Florida.
  • Mount Hermon Christian School, a private Christian School in Fort Myers, FL home to 4 time National Flag Football Champions the Mount Hermon Lions.
Higher education

Institutions of higher learning in the city include:

  • Hodges University
  • Keiser University
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Rasmussen College
  • Southwest Florida College
Sports
Spring training

Fort Myers is the current spring training home for the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins baseball clubs.

Former Boston Red Sox left fielder Mike Greenwell is from Fort Myers, and was instrumental in bringing his team to the city for spring training. City of Palms Park was built in 1992 for that purpose and holds 8,000 people.

Perhaps the most memorable game played at City of Palms was on March 7, 2004. This was the first game played between the Red Sox and New York Yankees since Aaron Boone hit the home run that eliminated the Red Sox from the playoffs the previous October. Boone's replacement at third base, Alex Rodriguez, was the high-profile key acquisition of the off season for the Yankees, and he was savagely booed by the 7,304 in attendance.

The Red Sox's lease with Fort Myers runs through 2019, but the Red Sox were considering exercising the early out in their contract that would have allowed them to leave following the 2009 spring season. Chief operating officer Mike Dee met with Sarasota officials on April 25, 2008 to discuss the possibility of the Red Sox moving to Sarasota's Ed Smith Stadium once its current spring inhabitants, the Cincinnati Reds, move to their new spring home in Goodyear, Arizona. Representatives of the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers have also met with officials from Sarasota.

John Yarborough, director of Lee County Parks and Rec, met with Jeff Mudgett, a Fort Myers architect who is volunteering his time to brainstorm ideas on what can be done to keep the Red Sox in Fort Myers. "I’d like to have a project by 2012," Yarborough said after the meeting.

No drawings were shown or locations were discussed for a new Red Sox spring training site, but they said the dream would be to have a facility look like a mini-Fenway Park, the Boston home of the team.

A cross-town rivalry has developed with the Minnesota Twins, who conduct their spring training at Hammond Stadium in south Lee County, which has a capacity of 7,500 and opened in 1991.

New spring facility

On October 28, 2008, the Lee County commission voted 3-1 to approve an agreement with the Boston Red Sox to build a new spring-training facility for the team in south Lee County. Commissioner Brian Bigelow was the lone dissenting vote. Commissioner Bob Janes was not present for the vote, but stated that he supported it.

The new stadium will be south of Hammond Stadium. Speculation is that the stadium would be in the general neighborhood of Florida Gulf Coast University, though neither the county nor Dee wanted to be more specific until proposals come in from developers.

County officials have talked for months about the possibility of securing another team for City of Palms. No team has been contacted yet.Terry Park Ballfield (also known as the Park T. Pigott Memorial Stadium) in East Fort Myers is also not currently in use by a Major League Baseball team, though it is the former home of the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.

City of Palms Classic

The City of Palms Classic is an annual high school basketball tournament held in Fort Myers, Florida.

Points of interest
  • Art of the Olympians
  • Edison and Ford Winter Estates
  • City of Palms Park, home of the Boston Red Sox spring training program, close to downtown Fort Myers. It is also home to the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.
  • The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium is a private, not-for-profit, environmental education organization. Set on a 105-acre (0.42 km2) site, it has a museum, three nature trails, a planetarium, butterfly and bird aviaries, a gift shop and meeting and picnic areas.
  • Historic Downtown, waterfront entertainment district
  • Historic Downtown Fort Myers Art Walk
  • Edison Mall
Media

The metro area has TV broadcasting stations that serve the Fort Myers-Naples Designated Market Area (DMA) as defined by Nielsen Media Research.

Crime
Unmarked graves

In March 2007, the remains of eight people were found in a wooded area in Fort Myers, leading to an ongoing investigation for a possible serial killer. So far three of the victims have been identified (using DNA) as Erik Kohler, John James Tihay and John Blevins. Derek C. Gair was briefly considered a suspect in early 2008. This case has also been profiled on America's Most Wanted.

Crime statistics

The crime rates per 100,000 people for the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral MSA were:

Notable people
Present
  • Jason Bartlett – Tampa Bay Rays shortstop
  • Bob Beamon - former track and field athlete in the 1968 Summer Olympics
  • Bert Blyleven – former pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and California Angels.
  • Phillip Buchanon – NFL cornerback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (current team), Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders
  • Stacy Carter – former WWE wrestler
  • Terrence Cody – nose tackle for Baltimore Ravens
  • Bill Davey – professional bodybuilder
  • Noel Devine – running back at West Virginia University
  • Earnest Graham – NFL running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Mike Greenwell – former Boston Red Sox left fielder and former NASCAR driver
  • Randy Hand – offensive tackle, Buffalo Bills (current), New England Patriots
  • Mario Henderson – offensive tackle, Oakland Raiders
  • Nolan Henke – professional golfer
  • Anthony Henry – NFL cornerback, Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns
  • Sara Hildebrand – United States Olympic diver (2000, 2004)
  • Adam Johnson - former pitcher for the Minnesota Twins
  • Jevon Kearse – NFL defensive end, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans (current team)
  • Terri Kimball – Playboy Playmate of the Month for May 1964
  • Craig Leon – music and visual producer of the Ramones, Blondie , Luciano Pavarotti, Joshua Bell
  • Mindy McCready – country music artist
  • Seth Petruzelli – professional MMA fighter
  • Plies (Algernod Lanier Washington) – American rapper
  • Deion Sanders – Hall of Fame NFL cornerback for six teams inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame as a Dallas Cowboy, and Major League Baseball outfielder for five teams
  • Vonzell Solomon – American Idol 3rd-place finisher
  • Elissa Steamer – professional skateboarder
  • Tommy Watkins – former Minnesota Twins player
  • Walt Wesley – NBA player (1966–1976): Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Capital Bullets, Milwaukee Bucks, Cincinnati Royals
  • Cliff Williams – bass player for AC/DC
  • Julio Zuleta – former first baseman for the Chicago Cubs
  • Deion Sanders- retired cornerback for 5 NFL teams. retired outfielder for 5 MLB teams.
Past
  • Thomas Edison – Improved and perfected the incandescent light bulb and audio recording methods, had a winter estate next to Henry Ford
  • Henry Ford – Founded the Ford Motor Company, and father of the assembly line, had a winter estate next to Thomas Edison
  • Harvey Firestone – Founder of Firestone Tire Company, had a winter estate near Edison and Ford's homes.
  • Amanda Dunbar – Professional female bodybuilder
  • Peggy Schoolcraft – Professional bodybuilder. 1997 NPC Team Universe Champion
  • Patty Berg – Groundbreaking LPGA member
  • Charles Ghigna – poet and children's author known as "Father Goose;" boyhood home 1950-1973
  • Denise Masino – Professional bodybuilder
  • Kimberly Page – Former member of the WCW Nitro Girls and Playboy model.
  • Diamond Dallas Page – Former WCW and WWE wrestler, actor.
  • Jerry Lawler – WWE wrestler and announcer
  • Beverly DiRenzo – Professional bodybuilder
  • Gerard Damiano – Adult film director
Fort Myers in popular culture
  • The abandoned city scene from the 1985 movie Day of the Dead was filmed in downtown Fort Myers.
  • Some courthouse and other "city" scenes in Just Cause were filmed in downtown Ft. Myers.
  • The 1999 independent film Trans was filmed in Fort Myers, Florida.

Building Activity

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