Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 090215 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
In The Trenches On First
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
This 1905 photo might re-
mind you of the massive Fort
Myers Utility and Streetscap-
ing Improvements Project that was
completed several years ago.
One by one, the streets were
fenced off and dug up, and traffic
Among other things accom-
plished during that project, under-
ground pipes as old as a century
were replaced before the vintage bricks repaved the
The historic photo of the northeast corner of First
and Hendry captures a moment when another infra-
structure project was underway, albeit a less disruptive
The Bradford Hotel,
not yet fully occupied
by businesses and only
months from a grand
opening, presides over the
In contrast to the
unpaved streets and
wooden structures, the
brick hotel stands for 20th-
with that modern look,
however, is the circular
concrete water trough in
the center of the intersec-
That drinking trough
might have been unsightly
by today’s standards, but
was a necessity for thirsty
horses, mules and oxen,
not to mention dogs.
Even more important
than quenching the thirst
of local transportation,
however, was the well’s
role in the town’s first fire-
When that trough fed
by an artesian well had
been installed in July
1904, it was hailed as a
wonderful addition to a
downtown without any
public water supply. That
well was the second one dug on First Street, the first
having been dug the previous May at Dean Street.
The photo was likely taken when those two wells
were being connected to Harvie E. Heitman’s private
well at First and Jackson (far center right). Both his store
and home were located on the north side of First at that
A series of fire hydrants was also part of the project.
By the time this photo was snapped, the trough
already looked anachronistic, especially against the back-
drop of the impressive Bradford. The new Stone Block
(now Leon Building) diagonally across the intersection,
which was also built in 1905, would only have empha-
sized the trough’s old-timey appearance.
That practical no-frills trough didn’t last for long. It
was removed in May 1910, by which time automobiles
were taking over the streets.
It appears more frequently in historic photos and
postcard images than might be expected, given its rather
small size and short existence, probably because of its
prominent location and sheer oddness.
Walk down to First and Hendry and imagine the
scene 110 years ago, when history was being made
Then, treat yourself by walking a few blocks to the
Southwest Florida Museum of History at 2031Jackson
Street, where you’ll learn more about the historic inter-
Call 321-7430 for information, or go to museu-
mofhistory.org. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday
Lovers of local history will also want to be sure to visit
the Southwest Florida Historical Society’s research cen-
ter 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: The Archives of the Southwest Florida
Historical Society, The Story of Fort Myers by Karl H.
Grismer, and The Fort Myers Press.
THE RIVER - SEPTEMBER 4, 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
At First and Hendry, the Bradford remains. But since 1905, the intersec-
tion has undergone more than one infrastructure project, both above
and below ground.
photo by Gerri Reaves
In 1905, three unidentified men observe what was probably the construction of a
fire-protection system on First Street. In the background is the nearly complete first
section of the Bradford Hotel. The men are unidentified.
photo courtesy Bill Turner Collection)
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