Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 102315 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Travelodge On West First
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
In the early 1960s, large infill projects started to transform
West First Street in a flurry of commercial activity. Travelodge
was one of the very first of those projects.
In May 1962, the international motel chain Travelodge pur-
chased a riverfront site a bit west of Carson Street.
The 50-unit motel opened in January 1964.
The historic photo was taken years after the opening when a
new sign was installed, probably in the 1970s.
Note the building’s decorative blocks and the scalloped – or
“wavey” – roof of the porte-cochère, typical mid-1960s architec-
tural features that have disappeared in the intervening years.
Travelodge offered an up-to-date alternative to some of the older tourist homes and
motorcourts in Fort Myers. Amenities included a heated pool overlooking the river
and cable TV, which was a pretty nifty thing in the 1960s, even if there were very few
The national motel chain
had begun with the opening
of an auto-court in 1935 in
San Diego. It was success-
ful, so others were opened
in the next five years.
In 1940, the one named
Travelodge opened. The
company’s name became
Travelodge in 1946.
The mascot, a nightshirt
clad Sleepy Bear featured
on the large sign, was born
Others signs of infill
development visible in
the historic photo are the
Holiday Inn sign (far left),
just beyond the oval Dobbs
House Snack Bar sign. The
Holiday Inn had opened on
the riverfront not long after
The former Travelodge
has outlived its competing
Holiday Inn and is still a
hotel. The Holiday Inn was
demolished several years
ago for a planned condo
Since Travelodge opened
in 1964, high-rise condo-
miniums have become a
major feature along West
First. In fact, when Travelo-
dge opened, the street’s first
high-rise condo was under
construction, the Riverside
Club at Clifford Street.
Although only seven stories, that condo was then the tallest structure along West
Walk down West First Street and appreciate the engineering ingenuity that turned
river into commercial property.
Then, wander over to the Southwest Florida Museum of History at 2031Jackson
Street to learn more about mid-twentieth century downtown.
Call 321-7430 for information, or go to museumofhistory.org. Hours are 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
Visiting the Southwest Florida Historical Society’s research center is a must-do for
all local-history fans.
The all-volunteer non-profit organization is located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard
on the campus of the Lee County Alliance for the Arts.
The research center is open Wednesday and Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon
and Wednesday 4 to 7 p.m. Call 939-4044 or visit swflhistoricalsociety.org for more
Sources: Archives of the Southwest Florida Historical Society, the Fort Myers
Press, and travelodge.com.
THE RIVER - OCTOBER 23, 2015
The River Weekly News will correct factual errors or matters of emphasis and interpretation that appear in news stories.
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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
Today, the former Travelodge building’s look has changed – no Sleepy Bear beckons, and
condominium towers loom nearby
photo by Gerri Reaves
Travelodge opened on West First in January 1964. This photo
was taken later, probably in the 1970s, when a new sign
was installed. The oval sign on the left is for Dobbs House
Snack Bar and the one beyond it for Holiday Inn.
courtesy Southwest Florida Historical Society,
Stanley Ink Collection
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