Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 100419 Contents THE RIVER - OCTOBER 4, 2019
Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Ever-Improving Hotel Kenmore
by Gerri Reaves,
In this circa-1917
photo, t wo
on the roof of Hotel
some of the many
received during its
As for the photo’s
date, evidence suggests that the workers
are atop the 1917 hotel addition, a
concrete-block structure with a brick
The Hotel Kenmore was among Fort
Myers’s early modern hotels and did a
good business for several decades. It was
essentially a ‘tween-wars establishment,
open roughly from the start of World
War I to just before the start of World
Location was one of its best assets, for
it stood, as it advertised, only a half block
from the railroad depot and opposite the
Specifically, it was located on Main
Street (called Oak Street) directly across
from the Lee County Courthouse, the block where Hotel Indigo is now.
Starting in 1904, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad tracks ran down Monroe
Street to the Caloosahatchee, while the packing plant and the passenger and
freight depots were on the west side of Monroe.
The Kenmore couldn’t have been more convenient for arrivals in need of
accommodations. And there were plenty of visitors to house during the boom
years of the 19-teens and 1920s.
A hotel had been planned on the property as early as 1908, but did not
materialize for a few years.
The wood-frame Hammon Hotel opened on the site in November 1914 with ET
Hammon as proprietor.
Under his management, single meals were 35 cents and a 21-meal ticket was $7.
Only a few months later, in February 1915, Hammon sold the property.
Now the land and hotel’s early history gets a bit tangled, what with “flipping,” as
we call it today, frequent improvements and the difficulty of sorting out land versus
business ownership – not to mention the murky role of investor.
The upshot is that the hotel ended up in the hands of major developer Peter
One theory stated more than once in the press is that he moved the wood-
frame section of the hotel from the southeast corner of First and Hendry where
the First National Bank was constructed in 1914.
That was a late-19th century two-story structure that had a ground-floor general
store and a second-floor multi-purpose community center, Phoenix Hall.
In fall 1917, the addition with brick façade went up just in time for the tourist
season. It stood center block, west of the existing hotel.
The hotel also got a new name, Hotel Kenmore, possibly as some kind of
tribute to Michigan, where Tonnelier had lived and made his fortune before coming
to Fort Myers.
Eventually, there was a second-floor balcony along the front of the building and
storefronts at street level.
Among the regular advertising phrases in the hotel’s early years were “just
like home,” “cleanest rooms and best beds in Fort Myers,” and “everything new,
It ran on both the American and European plans and offered rooms with or
In March 1920, the “new” Kenmore announced a new annex with baths with –
imagine! – hot and cold water.
In 1924, yet more improvements were made, such as a brightening paint job
and swinging transom windows for better ventilation – an excellent idea in that
Four years later, it was completely renovated, with new furniture in all rooms.
Fast-forward to May 1939... demolition of the hotel began. It was said to be a
victim of age and termites. The cit y had already condemned the lobby the previous
A newer concrete-block structure on the block was left standing, occupied by a
As is typical following a hotel demolition, various items were sold via classified
ads, including 700 octagonal stepping stones, which sold like hotcakes, as well as
windows, doors, plate glass and skylights.
Some lumber was salvaged to build beach cottages.
So, somewhere in Fort Myers there might be remnants of that historic hotel.
In her popular The News-Press column, Local Low Downs, Margaret Mickle
wrote of the Kenmore’s demise, “First thing we know we’re not gonna have any
local landmarks left....”
Walk down to the county courthouse and look across Main Street to the site of
continued on page 8
Today, Hotel Indigo continues the hotel tradition in the former Kenmore location
photo by Gerri Reaves
Workers perch atop the roof of the Hotel
Kenmore circa 1917, located on Main Street
(then Oak) across from the Lee County
photo courtesy Bob Clark
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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
Craig R. Hersch
Capt. Matt Mitchell
J. Brendan Ryan, CLU,
Ann Ziehl, Manager
Gerri Reaves, PhD
Independently Owned And Operated
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