Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 082115 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
New Library On Historic Ground
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
Just over three years ago, the site now occupied by the Fort
Myers Regional Library at First Street and Royal Palm Av-
enue was cleared and ready for the next stage of downtown
Captured in the May 2012 photo with a southward view
through Cornog Plaza is the sweep of land from between First
and Second streets now occupied by the new library campus,
bordered on the east by Royal Palm.
The land on which the main library building and plaza are
located was part of the original Seminole- and Civil War-era U.S.
Army fort that formed the footprint of today’s business district.
As the June 2013 photo shows, only months before the new library opened, the
Google Maps Street View camera was putting the site’s latest transformation on the
map for the digital age and a new chapter in history.
Since the turn of the 20th century, that southwest corner at First and Royal Palm
has gone from orange grove to state-of-the-art library.
In August 1901, when the land was still an orange grove – imagine a citrus grove in
the business district today! – two skeletons were exhumed when a ditch was being dug
on the front edge of the property. They were assumed to be the remains of soldiers
from the Third Seminole War (1855-1858).
By the first decade of the century, houses had been built on the two parcels facing
The corner house remained a private residence for decades, until a cafeteria was
built there circa 1950.
However, the house that was located on today’s plaza had a more varied and inter-
In 1913, it became the Elk’s Lodge (BPOE), and remained so until the organization
built a new lodge in 1926 farther east on First. From 1947 until the late 1990s, it was
the American Legion Post 38.
The lodge on First Street then briefly reverted to being a private residence, but
then became Lawrence A. Powell’s funeral home until the 1950s, when it became
McQueen & Young funeral home.
During the 1920s, the site gained one feature that still exists today: the north-south
driveway that now separates the library property from that of Bank of America.
Originally named First Street Court, the “driveway” later became Vivas Plaza. In the
mid-1940s, a diminutive filling station was located on First at the court.
By the 1950s, the future plaza had become a parking lot and remained so until
library construction began several years ago.
By the post-World War II years, that section of First Street changed in other ways,
too, ways that erased traces of the town’s early history.
The Royal Palm Hotel at the foot of Royal Palm Avenue was demolished. The
grand hotel had opened in 1898 and had an immeasurable influence on the develop-
ment of Fort Myers.
continued on page 3
THE RIVER - AUGUST 21, 2015
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and Ken Rasi
Gerri Reaves, Ph D
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Marion Hauser, MS, RD
Ross Hauser, MD
Capt. Matt Mitchell
Cynthia A. Williams
In May 2012, the new Fort Myers Regional Library site at First and Royal Palm had been cleared
The main library building and the plaza are located on land where a Seminole War U.S.
Army fort, private residences, Elk’s Lodge, funeral home and more have existed
In June 2013, only months before the library opened, the Google Maps Street View camera
records it location
photos by Gerri Reaves
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