Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 101119 Contents THE RIVER - OCTOBER 11, 2019
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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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Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
History Lives On At The Collaboratory
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
of the 1924
Atlantic Coast Line
passenger depot into
the Collaboratory at
2031 Jackson Street
is one of historic
important successes of
the last few years.
Of course, one could facetiously argue,
for the pure love of local history, that it’s
nevertheless the third-best outcome for the
In alternative universe, the best outcome
would be that the depot remained one
to this day and that the town still had
passenger rail service.
Another optimistic outcome is that
the building continued as a historical
museum with public support and booming
membership ad infinitum.
Given those too overly optimistic
non-starters, however, what has happened is the best thing that could happen.
When the Southwest Florida Community Foundation chose the depot as its
new regional headquarters and commenced to expand it, they did it not only with
their usual passion and dedication to
the community. They did it with a love
of local history and a commitment to
But first, a quick overview of the depot’s
history until then....
The Mediterranean Revivalist-style
building opened on February 4, 1924
and, for nearly five decades, functioned
as a passenger depot. In 1971, the last
passenger train departed and the depot
was vacant for a time.
The depot was purchased by the City
in 1975 and, in 1982, opened as the
Fort Myers Historical Museum. It was later
renamed the Southwest Florida Museum
of History, closing with that name in 2016.
Enter the Southwest Florida Community
Foundation with an innovative plan for a
public-private partnership with the City of
The foundation’s project included not
only restoring the depot and preserving as
much history as feasible, but constructing
a 10-thousand-square-foot LEED-certified
addition. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)
The result is a state-of-the-art shared space for the community and tenants.
The Collaboratory held its grand opening celebration one year ago this month.
Even before you enter the building, you’ll notice how the project made honoring
history a priority. For example, actual old railroad tracks run right up to the building
and through it.
Wander inside and you’ll see artifacts recalling the days of rail travel in Fort
continued on page 6
These historic railroad tracks lead you to
the Collaboratory, where history and the
state-of-the-art present coexist
photos by Gerri Reaves
This amazing contraption spins up mileage
and route information from Fort Myers on the
ACL line. As shown here, Route 17 through
Savannah to Wilmington, NC, was 716 miles.
Who needs Google?
The ACL line traveled the southeastern U.S.
Years ago, someone hand-wrote arrivals
and departures on this board
The former ticket office is now a conference room
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