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Featured Attraction
Edison-Ford Winter Estates

The winter home of Thomas A. Edison, beautifully poised along the Caloosahatchee River, is one of the greatest historic treasures within Lee County.

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The History of Fort Myers

Ponce de Leon explored areas along Florida's Gulf coast in 1513 & 1521. The barrier islands of Lee County are believed to be one of his many stops. Spanish and Cuban settlers created temporary fishing and farming camps along the coast, but for years Southwest Florida was a rugged and isolated area.

In the early 1700s the Lee Island coastline first appeared with some accuracy in British maps. During the last half of the 1700s coastal areas of Lee County were a base of operations for bands of pirates raiding the cargo ships sailing to and from the port of New Orleans.

Florida became a US Territory in 1821, and the ensuing wave of settlers asked for protection from the native Seminoles. Fort Myers was built along the Caloosahatchee River as one of the first bases of operations during the Seminole Indian Wars. Fort Myers was named in honor of Colonel Abraham C. Myers, the son-in-law of the commander of Fort Brooke in Tampa.

The fort was abandoned in 1858 and reoccupied by Federal troops from 1863-1865. The Southernmost battle of the Civil War, a skirmish between Northern and Southern troops occurred across the river in 1865 and is reenacted annually at the North Fort Myers Cracker Festival.

The fort itself was disassembled, and some of the wood used in construction of some of the first buildings in what would become downtown Fort Myers. No more than ten families lived in the original town when it was platted in 1876.

Herds of cattle were driven past the old fort grounds to Punta Rassa where they were lifted onto schooners and steamers using block and tackle, and shipped to Cuba. Cattle, farming, and logging were early mainstays in the Fort Myers area. Tomatoes, avocados, and castor beans were cultivated on Sanibel Island. Many pineapple plantations flourished inland along the river as settlers began to move away from the fort area.

By 1885 Fort Myers was bursting with pride and a bulging population of 349, the second largest town on Florida's Gulf Coast south of Cedar Key. That same year Thomas Alva Edison was cruising Florida's west coast and stopped to visit the village.

Captivated with what he saw, Edison built his home and laboratory, Seminole Lodge, on the banks of the Caloosatchee River. He subsequently became Fort Myers' most famous resident and a strong force in its growth and development.

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Copyright 2000-2006 Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, 2310 Edwards Drive, Fort Myers, Florida, 33902
Tel: (239) 332-3624 | Fax: (239) 332-7276 | Email: info@fortmyers.org

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