On this day in 1924, bridge over Caloosahatchee led to 2-year building spurt in downtown Fort Myers (03-12-14)

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On this day in 1924, a wooden bridge spanning the Caloosahatchee opened. Extending north from Fremont Street, the bridge connected Fort Myers to the world via Tamiami Trail. At the time, it was regarded as one of the most important events in Fort Myers’ history, celebrated by a parade, barbeque, rodeo, mardi gras, regatta, baby carnival and fish fry.

How big a deal was it? Well, because of the lack of a bridge connecting Fort Myers to Punta Gorda, Tampa and beyond, Fort Myers almost missed out on the big real estate boom of the 1920s. Strange as it may sound, construction of the bridge was opposed by a powerful political faction known as the Dixie Highway advocates. The Dixie Highway group felt that the town should invest in a road connecting Olga to Arcadia, and they finally succeeded in completing a narrow, bumpy marl road connecting the two towns in 1922.

But two years later, the wood bridge to North Fort Myers was finally built over their objection, and one month later, Fort Myers joined the Big Florida Real Estate Boom that other cities had been enjoying for more than two years. In the year the bridge was completed, Fort Myers issued $503,000 in new building permits. The following year, the volume of new building permits jumped to $2.785 million, which was more than all the permits issued by the City of Fort Myers since its incorporation in 1885. And in 1926, that number jumped to $2.807 million.

Do you know which buildings in downtown Fort Myers were built during this two-year spurt? Do you know who built them and why? No? Then you should take one of True Tours‘ downtown Fort Myers historic walking tours. For days and times, please visit www.TrueTours.net or telephone 239-945-0405.

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