Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 100215 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
This 1994 photo shows the
interior of one of Fort My-
ers’s most popular eating and
meeting spots, the Snack House.
The restaurant once swept
along the entire north side of the
historic Post Office/Collier Arcade.
The point-of-view is toward the
front dining room (right center),
with windows facing Broadway.
Jesse Winford “Win” Ellis
opened the Snack House on Halloween in 1949. It had
the distinction of being the first restaurant in town to be
Former regulars say that it was a place where
the town’s real business took place over comfort
If you have fond memories of the restaurant,
this photo of a deserted Snack House with no
snack in sight might seem a little sad.
It had closed in 1993, one of the last busi-
nesses to vacate the L-shaped arcade in prepa-
ration for the demolition of the other wing that
had an entrance on First Street.
That demolition subsequently allowed for
the construction of a new federal courthouse.
Today, a courtyard and part of the courthouse
occupy the footprint of the destroyed arcade
The existing Broadway wing of the arcade
was completed in 1925 and housed the post
office as well as offices and businesses. The
other wing was added the following year.
In 1933, the post office moved to what is
now the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.
Barron G. Collier (the namesake of
Collier County, among his many
points of renown) bought it in 1934
and renamed it.
In the arcade’s first quarter centu-
ry, it housed everything from a shoe
store, tea room and music store to
an optometrist, barbershop and real
The arcade’s original features,
such as the rubble-random tile floor,
make this one of downtown’s most
distinctive and beloved historic struc-
It retains the many original doors
facing the arcade interior or open-
ing onto Broadway. The doors
are a reminder of how easily the
spaces could be combined or split to
accommodate tenants’ needs throughout the
decades – and still are.
In the 1990s, the arcade went through a
vacant and quiet period after the demolition
project, but by a couple of years into the
2000s, the arcade began to revive.
The area in the foreground of the 1994
photo became Ichiban Chinese & Japanese
A hair salon occupied the center portion,
and an independent bookstore was located in
the Broadway storefront.
Across from the bookstore, Bara Bread,
a French bakery and bistro, opened and the
arcade hummed with activity again.
Ichiban still occupies part of the former
Snack House space, carrying on the tradition
of being a good place to eat and socialize.
Stroll through the 90-year-old arcade and appreciate
its beauty and history.
Then, visit the nearby Southwest Florida Museum of
History at 2031 Jackson Street to learn more about one
of downtown’s most long-lived and famous restaurant
Call 321-7430 for information, or go to museu-
mofhistory.org. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday
Continue your local-history adventure at the South-
west Florida Historical Society’s research center at
10091 McGregor Boulevard on the campus of the Lee
County Alliance for the Arts.
The all-volunteer non-profit organization is open
Wednesday and Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon and
Wednesday 4 to 7 p.m. Call 939-4044 or visit swflhis-
toricalsociety.org for more information.
Sources: Archives of the Southwest Florida Historical
THE RIVER - OCTOBER 2, 2015
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and Ken Rasi
Gerri Reaves, Ph D
Read Us Online:
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Marion Hauser, MS, RD
Ross Hauser, MD
Capt. Matt Mitchell
Cynthia A. Williams
Pictured in 1994, the year after it closed, the Snack House stands vacant
after 44 years in business
courtesy Library of Congress, photo by William C. Minarich
Ichiban Chinese & Japanese Cuisine is located in a section of the
former Snack House space in the Post Office/Collier Arcade
photo by Gerri Reaves
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