Fort Myers or Ft. Myers, is the county seat and commercial center of Lee County, Florida, United States. It has grown rapidly in recent years. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 62,298 and in 2016 was estimated at 77,146.
Fort Myers is a gateway to the Southwest Florida region and a major tourist destination within Florida. The winter estates of Thomas Edison ("Seminole Lodge") and Henry Ford ("The Mangoes") are major attractions. The city is named after Colonel Abraham Myers.
Spain originally had colonial influence in Florida, succeeded by Great Britain and, lastly, the United States. During the American Indian Wars of the 1830s, the United States built Fort Myers as one of the first forts along the Caloosahatchee River; it was used as a base of operations against the Seminole. During the Seminole Wars and Indian Removal period, Fort Myers was a strategic location, with access to Atlantic waterways. While many Seminole were forced to remove to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River, others used their knowledge of the Everglades and Florida wilderness to resist the Americans. They were never defeated and two federally recognized Seminole tribes still control some of their historic territory.
During the American Civil War, Confederate blockade runners and cattle ranchers were based in Fort Myers. These settlers prospered through trading with the Seminole and Union soldiers.
The Fort Myers community was founded after the American Civil War by Captain Manuel A. Gonzalez on February 21, 1866. Captain 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. When the U.S. Government abandoned the fort following the Civil War, Gonzalez sailed from Key West, Florida to found the community. Three weeks later, Joseph Vivas and his wife, Christianna Stirrup Vivas, arrived with Gonzalez's wife, Evalina, and daughter Mary.
Gonzalez settled his family near the abandoned Fort Myers, where he began the area's first trading post. Gonzalez traded tobacco, beads, and gunpowder, and sold otter, bobcat, and gator hide, to the neighboring Seminole. A small community began to form around the trading post.
In the late 19th century, northerners began to travel to Florida in the winter. Some saw development opportunities. In 1881, the wealthy industrialist Hamilton Disston of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania came to the Caloosahatchee Valley. He planned to dredge and drain the Everglades for development. Diston connected Lake Okeechobee with the Caloosahatchee River; this allowed steamboats to run from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee and up the Kissimmee River.
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.
In 1885, inventor Thomas Alva Edison was cruising Florida's west coast and stopped to visit Fort Myers. He soon bought 13 acres along the Caloosahatchee River in town. There he built his home "Seminole Lodge", as a winter retreat. It included a laboratory for his continuing work. After the Lodge was completed in 1886, Edison and his wife, Mina, spent many winters in Fort Myers. Edison also enjoyed local recreational fishing, for which Fort Myers had gained a national reputation.
In 1898, the Royal Palm Hotel was constructed. This luxury hotel attracted many tourists and established Fort Myers nationally as a winter resort destination.
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.
In 1908, the Arcade Theater was constructed in downtown Fort Myers. It served originally as a vaudeville house. Thomas Edison viewed films here for the first time with friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. With the growth of the film industry, the Arcade Theatre was converted into a full movie house. A wall divided the stage in order to form two screening rooms. Changes in moviegoing habits since the late 20th century have led to the renovation of the theater for use again in live performance. 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 about America's reliance on foreign supplies of rubber. He partnered with tire producer Harvey Firestone, of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company, to try to find a rubber tree or plant that could grow quickly in the United States. He sought one that would 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.
In 1928, the Edison Botanic Research Corporation laboratory was constructed. It was in Fort Myers that Edison conducted the majority of his research and planted exotic plants and trees. He sent results and sample rubber residues to West Orange, New Jersey, for further work at his large Thomas A. Edison "Invention Factory" (now preserved in the Thomas Edison National Historical Park). Through Edison's efforts, the royal palms lining Riverside Avenue (now McGregor Boulevard) were imported and planted. They inspired Fort Myers' nickname as "City of Palms".
After testing 17,000 plant samples, Edison eventually discovered a source in the plant Goldenrod (Solidago leavenworthii). Thomas Edison died in 1931. The rubber project was transferred to the United States Department of Agriculture five years later.
In 1916, automobile magnate Henry Ford purchased the home next door to Edison's from Robert Smith of New York. Ford named his estate "the Mangoes". Ford's craftsman-style "bungalow" was built in 1911 by Smith. Ford, Harvey Firestone and Edison, were the three top leaders in American industry. They were part of an exclusive group titled "the Millionaires' Club". The three men have been memorialized in statues in downtown Fort Myers' Centennial Park.
In 1924, with the beginning of construction of the Edison Bridge, named for Thomas Edison, the city's population steadily grew. The bridge was opened on February 11, 1931, the 84th birthday of its namesake. Edison dedicated the bridge, and was the first to drive across it.
In the decade following the bridge's construction, the city had a real estate boom. Several new residential subdivisions were built beyond Downtown, including Dean Park, Edison Park, and Seminole Park 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. In the 21st century, it is known for its community activities and strong neighborhood ties.
In 1947, Mina Edison deeded Seminole Lodge to the City of Fort Myers, in memory of her late husband and for the enjoyment of the public. By 1988, the adjacent Henry Ford winter estate was purchased by the city and opened for public tours in 1990. The combined properties today are known as the Edison and Ford Winter Estates.
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 experiences a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw), with short, warm winters, and long, hot, humid summers, with most of the year's rain falling from June to September, from showers and thunderstorms.
The temperature rarely rises to 100 °F (38 °C) or lowers to the freezing mark. Fort Myers has 89 days annually in which a thunderstorm is close enough for thunder to be heard, the most in the nation.
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.
The population of Fort Myers was 62,298 during the 2010 census. 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.
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.
See: Lee County School District for other public schools in the area.
Institutions of higher learning in the city include:
See: Lee County Library System for other libraries in the county. Library Services include:
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.
The Fort Myers Metropolitan Area is served by two separate airports in and around the city limits.
Buses run by LeeTran provide local service in Fort Myers.
Fort Myers has a twinning agreement with: