Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 091319 Contents THE RIVER - SEPTEMBER 13, 2019
Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Dr. Winkler’s Legacy
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
Physician William B. Winkler came to Fort Myers circa 1899
when it still ranked as a cowboy town. He soon established
himself as not only a busy physician but a successful
At first, he reached his far-flung patients on horseback and later
Upon his death in 1933, it was noted that in his more than
three decades as a local doctor, he held the record for the number
of babies delivered in the area.
After Lee Memorial Hospital opened in 1916, he was one of
only five physicians who practiced there. (The hospital also had
two visiting surgeons on staff.)
In 1929, he was named official city physician.
But his efforts extended well beyond the medical. For example, he served as city
councilman in 1912 and 1915.
He also farmed on Whiskey Creek (think Winkler Road) and somehow he and his
wife, Lillian, found the time to build the first hotel on Fort Myers Beach in 1912.
The historic photo of Winkler’s Drug Store was probably taken around the time that
he transitioned from drug store owner to other things, circa 1911, but the exact location
and date are not known.
He had run a business in several locations. In 1901, his apothecary in the rented
home of Carrie Bass was completely destroyed by fire. He also had drug stores in the
Roberts Building at First and Lee and in the Smith-Matheson Building (today the Leon)
at First and Hendry.
Later, he had a store in the Bradford addition on First Street, which the window
reflections in the photo suggest was where the photo might have been taken. If so, it
was before the construction of the Earnhardt Building began in 1914.
That addition had been built by Harvie E. Heitman a couple of years after the first
phase of the Bradford had opened in 1905 on the northeast corner of First and Hendry.
Winkler’s store was located beneath the hotel dining room. Some of the other
storefronts were occupied by the new post office (Winkler’s neighbor on the west),
Foxworthy’s men’s clothing and M. Flossie Hill’s ladies’ clothing.
Winkler had a medical office in the same building.
The drug store’s window display is an interesting study in the early 20th century.
It seems odd that Welch’s Grape Juice was the main item on display – complete with
grapevines -- although signage indicates that books, papers and magazines were also
One quirky historical detail about that fruit juice, which is still on grocery shelves
today, is that it was invented by a physician and dentist, Dr. Thomas Branwell Welch, as
a non-fermented substitute for sacramental wine.
Was it a big seller in Fort Myers – who knows? Maybe it was used in some local
churches or was simply an especially popular juice.
Another display detail that harkens back to early drug stores is the ad for Hick’s
Capudine Cures (letters reversed in reflection).
In the early 20th century, many pain-relieving elixirs were still available without
prescription and the industry was largely unregulated. The patent medicines often
had a high alcohol content, caffeine and other additives, and did not treat the medical
condition, only masked them.
Some, like Capudine, became notorious for being exposed as actually life-threatening.
In 1912, the Journal of the American Medical Association established that one of its
components, antipyrin, could induce seizures.
In January 1911, Winkler got out of the drug store business when he sold the store
to MA Ringo and Louis G. Thorp. But he didn’t stop working.
In 1914, he and five other men incorporated, forming the Winkler Drug Co.,
continued on page 6
Circa-1911, Winkler’s Drug Store’s display
features Welch’s Grape Juice, which was
not only a tasty juice but a non-fermented
substitute for sacramental wine. The location
photo courtesy SWFL Historical Society
The last location of Winker’s Drug Store
was in the Bradford Block. It later became
Pixton-Shultz Drug Store.
photo by Gerri Reaves
Pioneer physician William B. Winkler traveled throughout the region to minister to patients,
first on horseback and then by automobile 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
Craig R. Hersch
Capt. Matt Mitchell
J. Brendan Ryan, CLU,
Ann Ziehl, Manager
Gerri Reaves, PhD
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