Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 120718 Contents THE RIVER - DECEMBER 7, 2018
Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Water Tower At Lee And Peck
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
Little progress was made on building a public water system
in the first two decades after Fort Myers incorporated in
An anti-tax mindset prevailed, so it wasn’t until 1904 that
even rudimentary progress was made.
Two wells were drilled on First Street, one at what would later
become Dean Street and one at Hendry Street.
Both were connected to Harvie E. Heitman’s private well at
Jackson and a series of hydrants put in, thus creating the first
In 1908, a very productive artesian well was dug at Second
Street and Park Avenue.
In 1910, major changes came with the approval of a bond issue that included funds
to greatly expand the town’s water infrastructure.
The “Sandspur Patch” at Lee Street and Peck Avenue (later Street) became the
site of the town’s first water
plant. The 120-foot tower is
pictured in 1911, the year it
The new tower was
run by two Fairbanks-
Morse rotary pumps and
supplied by three newly
drilled artesian wells. A
50-thousand gallon tank was
The catchy nickname
Sandspur Patch was
probably given to the area by
barefoot boys who suffered
the stings of sandspurs as
they explored downtown’s
more industrial areas. “Old
timers” occasionally use the
nickname to this day.
Even after the tower
was built, the area was still
known as “the sand-spur
Before the 1924 railroad
passenger depot was built
on Peck, there was plenty of
entertainment set up there,
and nearby railroad tracks
allowed circuses to unload
animals like elephants.
In his unpublished
reminiscences about his
boyhood, W. Stanley
Hanson, Jr., born in 1914,
recalls exploring that part
of town as a boy with his
After checking out the fire station just north of the city water tower to have an
exciting slide down the brass pole, he and his friends would then inspect the tower and
At that time, the two pumps were powered by one-cylinder diesel engines.
By the 1920s, the plant had doubled tank capacity and installed three more
Visit the site of the town’s first water tower and plant at Lee and Peck. Consider its
significance in the town’s prosperity – and see if you can find any of those sandspurs
the adventurous boys complained about.
Then visit the following two research centers to learn more about how Fort Myers
got modern infrastructure.
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 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; Fort Myers Press;
My Early Days in Fort Myers, As I Remember Them by W. Stanley Hanson, Jr.; and
The Story of Fort Myers by Karl H. Grismer.
The “sandspur patch” where boys explored hasn’t been one for a long time. On the right is
the rear of the former Central Fire Station. In the center distance is Campo Felice.
photo by Gerri Reaves
The city’s first water tower, pictured in 1911, the year it was
completed, was 120 feet high and stood at Lee Street and
Peck Avenue. Peck is now named Widman Way.
photo courtesy IMAG History & Science Center
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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
Independently Owned And Operated
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