Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 113018 Contents THE RIVER - NOVEMBER 30, 2018
Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
When this photo of Broadway was taken from Main Street
circa 1938, two notable architectural features graced
the block, the Colquitt Building’s bell tower (left) and the
Belmar Building’s cupola (midblock right center).
This block of Broadway was conceived and built in the
mid-1920s, the brainchild of Hendry Colquitt, George R. Sims,
and Lucius C. “LC” Curtright. The city granted permission for
the developers to construct the street and the Post Office Arcade
(midblock on left) was the first structure to be completed.
The predominate architectural style on this block of Broadway
– indeed, in much of historic downtown -- is the Mediterranean
Revivalist style so popular during the Florida boom.
The style’s characteristics include non-overhanging eaves, arched openings, red-tile
roof, stucco surface, asymmetrical façade and floorplan, and decorative tiles, friezes
A bell tower like the one on the Colquitt corner (far left) qualifies as a more showy
and familiar feature of the closely related Spanish Mission style.
Constructed of brick, hollow tile and steel, the building had heart-pine floors, a
Spanish-tile roof, stucco façade and an ornamental frieze along the front.
Look closely at the sign in historic photo to read “Fort Myers Café.” That business
moved in shortly after the Colquitt opened and stayed until 1962, making it the oldest
cafe in the city and the longest residing tenant at the time.
The tower contained an actual bell until the late 1940s, when it was removed and
The bell-less tower still stands on that northwest corner.
Cupolas like the one on the two-story Belmar Building are scarce in Fort Myers.
The bell- or cup-shaped cupola is best described as a domed roof accent.
It is not exclusive to the Mediterranean or Mission style and may or may not
contain a bell.
The Belmar opened in 1926 across from the Post Office Arcade. Constructed of
tile and stucco, it had a 50-foot frontage, with shops and businesses at street level and
A series of single-story storefronts extended to Main and around the corner.
Now the Belmar is a law firm, and during conversions over the years lost not only
its cupola but most of its original boom-time features.
On the other hand, the Colquitt Building is still home to diverse businesses and
retains many original ornamental features, although the half-moon windows about the
awnings are blocked off.
While downtown’s streetscaping and the bell tower recall Broadway’s boom-time
look, there’s one sure sign of 21st century change that is impossible to miss: the
enormous crane stretching across in the sky. It portends change from the Luminary
Hotel construction site on Bay Street.
Walk down to Main and Broadway and compare the view to that of eight decades
Then learn more about the invention of Broadway at the following two research
The Southwest Florida Historical Society is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization
open Wednesday and Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon and Wednesday 4 to 7 p.m .
It is located at 10091 McGregor Boulevard on the campus of the Lee County
Alliance for the Arts. Call 939-4044 or visit www.swflhistoricalsociety.org for more
The Lee County Black History Society is located at 1936 Henderson Avenue,
adjacent to the Williams Academy Museum at Roberto Clemente Park.
Hours for the all-volunteer, non-profit organization are Wednesday through Friday
from 11 a.m . to 4 p.m . and on Saturday by appointment only.
For more information, call 332-8778 or visit www.leecountyblackhistorysociety.org.
Sources: Archives of the Southwest Florida Historical Society and the Fort Myers
The bell-less tower remains on the corner but the cupola has been sacrificed to
modernization. The gigantic crane etched across the sky (upper center) signals change in
the historic district.
photo by Gerri Reaves
In this circa-1938 northward view of Broadway from Main Street, the Colquitt Building’s bell
tower (left) and the Belmar Building’s cupola (right center) distinguish the skyline
photo courtesy IMAG History & Science Center
The River Weekly News will correct factual errors or
matters of emphasis and interpretation that appear in news stories.
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Marion Hauser, MS, RD
Ross Hauser, MD
Capt. Matt Mitchell
J. Brendan Ryan, CLU,
Ann Ziehl, Manager
Gerri Reaves, PhD
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