Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 012216 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
This 1965 photo of the first Edison Bridge reminds us that
not so long ago, the downtown riverfront was not just
seawalls, but still a natural shore here and there.
It also paints a dramatic contrast between the low human-
scale first bridge and today’s daunting twin-span bridge.
The first Edison Bridge was one of several Depression-era
projects that provided a boost to the local economy and fostered
long-term development and growth in Fort Myers.
Opened to traffic in October 1930, the modern two-lane
concrete bridge immediately upstaged the 16-foot-wide Fremont
Bridge in East Fort Myers, the first to be built over the Caloosa-
hatchee River. That “old wooden bridge,” as it came to be called, had opened just six
Several months after the Edison Bridge opened for traffic, Thomas A. Edison made
a special trip for the dedication ceremony on his 84th birthday, February 11, 1931. It
would be his last trip to his winter home; he died the following October.
The dedication had worldwide news coverage – both Paramount Studio and Moviet-
one News were present – and dignitaries and prominent celebrities attended.
Due to concerns for the famous inventor’s health, the festivities were less lavish
than they might have been in an earlier year, and Edison did not make an address.
Thomas and Mina Edison rode in a slow-moving car across the mile-long bridge,
escorted by a for mal procession that included coeds from Fort Myers High School
dressed in white and carrying white roses.
Oddly enough, the bridge named for the inventor of the light bulb did not have
lights until late 1937. As the 1965 photo shows, by then those original bridge lights
had been replaced.
If you want to see the original lights that graced the memorial bridge, take a look at
the south side of the entrance to Edison Park on McGregor Boulevard, where several
installed along the sidewalk.
In 1992, the current twin-span bridge replaced the old bridge, with a soaring south-
bound span at Fowler Street and a northbound one at Park Avenue. The 1931 bridge
The construction of a new bridge was inevitable, given the increase in traffic – 24
thousand vehicles and approximately 30 drawbridge openings per day – but people
who remember the old bridge know something besides the tangible was lost.
There was a magic in approaching the bridge from the north side, skimming close
over the broad Caloosahatchee shimmering in the moonlight, and seeing Fort Myers
waiting on the other side.
Walk down to the riverfront at Fowler Street and imagine a rocky shoreline and a
two-lane low bridge crossing to North Fort Myers.
Then, visit the Southwest Florida Museum of History at 2031 Jackson Street,
where you can learn more about how bridge projects have shaped local history for
more than a century.
For information, call 321-7430 or go to swflmuseumofhistory.com. Museum hours
are 10 a.m . to 5 p.m ., Tuesday through Saturday.
Then continue south on McGregor Boulevard to the Southwest Florida Historical
Society’s research center, where you can explore the Fort Myers of way-back-when.
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 infor-
Sources: The Archives of the Southwest Florida Historical Society and The Story
of Fort Myers by Karl H. Grismer.
THE RIVER - JANUARY 22, 2016
The River Weekly News will correct factual errors or matters of emphasis and interpretation that appear in news stories.
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Independently Owned And Operated • COPYRIGHT 2016 The River Weekly News • LORKEN Publications, Inc.
and Ken Rasi
Gerri Reaves, Ph D
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Marion Hauser, MS, RD
Ross Hauser, MD
Capt. Matt Mitchell
Cynthia A. Williams
The original Thomas A. Edison Memorial Bridge, pictured in 1965, extended from Fowler Street
photo courtesy Florida State Archives
Today, the southbound lanes of the twin-span bridge spill onto Fowler Street. The building of
the new bridge extended the street riverward. The northbound bridge is visible in the back-
photo by Gerri Reaves
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