Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 010816 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
Pictured in this circa-1964 photograph is Strasbaugh’s
Marine on Palm Beach Boulevard, just east of Billy’s
It was one of several boat-related businesses in “East
End” (aka East Fort Myers) that contributed to the neigh-
borhood’s thriving marine economy that existed for most
of the 20th century.
In the 1950s, Strasbaugh’s had been located at
Anderson Avenue (now MLK Boulevard) and later on
The shop sold outboard motors and boating accesso-
ries, radios and televisions, and home appliances and installed and repaired both
televisions and radios.
By the mid-1960s, it had relocated to the location pictured here, at the foot
of Isabelle Street, and was called Strasbaugh’s Marine.
At that time, the area east of Billy’s Creek Bridge still retained the industrial
feel that took hold in the late 19-teens and early 1920s.
Marine sales and repair and boat-building were major businesses in that part
of town, the largest, perhaps, being the historic Daniels Brothers Boatworks,
which lay along the riverfront east of the creek. Other marine businesses were
located in the vicinity.
By the time the East End was annexed by the City of Fort Myers in 1925, it
already had a substantial residential population and a well-established commer-
cial district centered near Superior Street.
So prosperous was East Fort Myers in the 1920s that it was expected to
over-take downtown Fort Myers as the main commercial center. Assets in
its favor included the first bridge over the Caloosahatchee River (1924), the
Seaboard Air Line depot (1927), the modern Edgewood School (1924), Citizens
Bank (1926) as well as a host of businesses, including boat-building and machine
However, the Hurricane of 1926 and the Great Depression ended the big
hopes for the East End.
In recent years, the construction of high-rise condominiums has transformed
the historic neighborhood, but the former Strasbaugh’s Marine building is one of
several reminders of the boating economy once focused around Billy’s Creek.
Not long after this photo of Strasbaugh’s was taken, roofing and carpet busi-
nesses briefly occupied the large structure, but it soon became a marine business
again. Today, it is a church.
Explore the east side of town and contemplate the boat-related businesses
that helped build the city during the 20th century.
Then, visit the Southwest Florida Museum of History at 2031 Jackson Street,
where you’ll find exhibits on Fort Myers’s historic ties to boat-building, fishing,
transportation, and water recreation.
For information, call 321-7430 or go to swflmuseumofhistory.com. Museum
hours are 10 a.m . to 5 p.m ., Tuesday through Saturday.
Don’t forget to visit the Southwest Florida Historical Society’s research center
for more historical adventures.
The all-volunteer non-profit organization is at 10091 McGregor Boulevard
on the campus of the Lee County Alliance for the Arts.
The 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 RIVER - JANUARY 8, 2016
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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
Today, the “East End” building is a church
photo by Gerri Reaves
Strasbaugh’s Marine, pictured circa 1964, was located on Palm Beach Boulevard near Isabelle Street
courtesy Southwest Florida Historical Society
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