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Posts Tagged ‘Fort Myers’

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We were leaving Charlotte County on US 41 last time. You’re about to re-enter Lee County now. From here on, you’re not going to see anymore "nature" on US 41 until you get out of Naples. Then you’ll see nothing but nature until you reach Miami.

First you’ll reach North Fort Myers. Take a right onto Pine Island Road and you’ll get to the old J. Colin English School. Like most schools, you’ll have better parking options if you visit on the weekend. Plus you can get pictures of the buildings without all those annoying kids in the way.

The next few spots are way west on Pine Island. I’ve not seen a one of them, so can’t say whether they’re worth the trip or not. You’ll have to get to the north end of the island to catch a boat to Cayo Costa State Park. So if you want to see that, you can always check out some of the other things along the way. (see Google map)

South on US 41 again, you’ll encounter another big bridge. This one crosses the Caloosahatchee River, whose start you may have seen if you did the Lake Okeechobee circumnavigation. You’ll also be going over the Caloosahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, which is a small island in the middle of the river. You may feel a bit deja vu, because once again you’ll be in a historic district on the other side. But this time you’re in Fort Myers, and the district is a bit smaller.

Like Punta Gorda, I’m going to the outer limits to the east first. In fact, so far out you might consider coming from the other direction. I have, via LaBelle once and Arcadia another time.

This next several miles will be educational in more ways than one, since you’ll see four old schools. All are still in use, but not all are schools now.

We’ll start in Alva. Don’t know if the name of the town has anything to do with one of the most famous winter residents of the area, Thomas Edison. Bit of a coincidence if it didn’t. On the north side of Okeechobee Waterway are the Alva Consolidated Schools. They remind me of the old Clewiston Schools, in that they are two different styled buildings next to each other. Cross the Waterway and visit the Eden Vineyards & Winery. No, not been there yet, but hope to. Next are the Olga School and the Buckingham School, both of which are now community centers.

After that, you’re out of the suburbs and in Fort Myers, or close to. You’ll pass the old Merge-Hansen Marina, the last old school (Tice Grammer), and the Terry Park Ballfield. Which was full up when I stopped there. (see Google map)

Further in are some historical houses and museums. Oh, and a couple more historic schools. I think Lee County may have more schools on the NRHP than any other county, now that I think of it. (see Google map)

Next are a number of older homes, some of specific interest. My favorite is the Murphy-Burroughs House. It’s somehow palatial and casual at the same time. Plus behind it you can get an amazing view of the two US 41 bridges. (see Google map)

Finally back in the historic district. It’s roughly a square mile, so it’s very walkable. If you can park in the middle, that’s ideal. But if the streets are filled up, you should park at two of the opposite sides, which works almost as well. It seems like most of the buildings here are historic, but they may have building codes set so new construction has to blend in. However they did it, they did it right.

Just outside the district limits is the Towles House, which looks like it was built a year ago. Another great job of upkeep. If only more cities had the resources to do the same, or the will. (see Google map)

  • Fort Myers Downtown Commercial District (Roughly bounded by Bay and Lee Streets, Anderson Avenue and Monroe Street) (NRHP)
  • Earnhardt Building (2258 1st St) (AGFHA)
  • First National Bank (2248 1st St) (AGFHA)
  • Old Lee County Bank (1534 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Richards Building (1615 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Robby and Stucky Building (1625 Hendry St) (AGFHA)
  • Lee County Courthouse (2120 Main Street) (NRHP)
  • US Courthouse and Federal Building (2110 1st Street ) (NRHP)
  • William H. Towles House (2050 McGregor Boulevard) (NRHP)

Last but perhaps most are three houses, all in a row. Well, two of them. The third, Casa Rio, is nice, from what I could see through the gate. But next to it are the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Didja know they both lived here and were neighbors, back in the day? I did, thanks to my NRHP obsession. It’ll cost you twenty bucks to get past the fence and see the houses up close. I didn’t feel like laying that much out the last time I was there, so I took shots from the sidewalk. Easy, since it’s a low picket fence. Next time I’m there, I think I’ll actually go in. Hmm, I’m putting together an itinerary to revisit down there, ain’t I? (see Google map)

The next two locales I’d suggest going to on the weekend, ’cause the road (CR 869) that gets to both is busy, especially during weekday rush hours.

Firstly, Fort Myers Beach. It’s a 30-35 mph speed limit through the developed area, so don’t expect to zoom through. The old school and the Mound House are pretty close together, the state park about five miles down. It has two entrances. If you want a park passport stamp, go to the southern one. You can also see Mound Key to the north from here. If you have a boat, this is one of the places to get there. (see Google map)

Return to CR 869 and head west to Sanibel. I’d heard about the place, but wasn’t prepared for how wildly popular it was. The downswing in the economy doesn’t seem to have hurt them much, if the massive traffic when I visited is any indication. There’s just one land route, which has a toll bridge. Six dollars later and you’ll be on the island.

A good part of the island is a National Wildlife Refuge, but the rest is developed and then some. The high rises are closer to the beach, with the small touristy buildings near the bridge. I like the old lighthouse on the east end of the island, even with the two dollar parking fee. There’s a very new NRHP there, the ‘Tween Waters Inn. I hadn’t planned on going back, but I guess I’ll have to brave a return visit. Still, if I go on a weekend next time, perhaps I’ll enjoy it more. (see Google map)

There are a few bits left around the edges. Like the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, which appears to be surrounded by a golf course. And the Railroad Museum of South Florida, not to be confused with the Southwest Florida Museum of History housed in an old railroad depot. (see Google map)

Time to go to Naples. But along the way is a state park that made me break my 30 minute rule. One of my top ten favorites, Koreshan Unity Settlement Historic District. It was the home of an odd cult (yep, Florida). They’re not around anymore, since celibacy was part of their religion, and they didn’t get that many converts. There’s a shocker. But most of the wooden buildings they constructed remain, after over 100 years. It’s right on US 41, so it’s easy to find and not a diversion at all.

Oh, the 30 minute rule? Well, I wanted to visit all 150+ state parks in a reasonable amount of time. Especially since I was trying to visit all 1600 or so NRHPs as well. So I decided early on to only spend a half hour in each state park. If I liked what I saw, I could always come back in the future and spend more time. There were only a few state parks that tempted me into staying longer during the first visit, like Koreshan. That it’s on the NRHP as well was a factor, but I’m also a sucker for the bizarre. And Koreshanity? Pretty bizarre. (see Google map)

There you are, southwest Florida. I shan’t be doing a Naples post for a few weeks, unless there’s a-clamoring. So many places, doncha know. See you on the road!

Route length: 230 miles

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Mom’s E.T. in the hotel bed, again


Looking out the hotel window, towards Tamiami Trail

Fort Myers. The final day.

It’s funny, I didn’t set an alarm the whole trip, and I get up nearly the same time every morning. Like this day, once again, 7:30. They had the whole setup to make coffee in the room, so I had some nice fresh-brewed before I stepped out the door. As can be seen in the photo above I took out the window, it was another lovely day, great weather to end the trip.

I had breakfast at the very same Holiday Inn in which I stayed. I was the only one in the dining room, and it took longer than I expected for my order to get done. Maybe it was just me being impatient to get going. Wait, I just realized I had slow service at about half the places I ate this trip. Weird. Still, worth the wait. I got a fresh veggie omelet (even had broccoli) on taters, like a veggie Asher. But healthier, as I got it with Egg Beaters and whole wheat toast. I knew it would hold me for a good long time.

I’ll have to wax eloquent about Ashers some other time, and how much I miss Skeeters, and their big biscuits, and great Chinese food.

So I got going by 9, and it was cool and comfortable again. First stop was Edison Park Elementary School (photos). It was closed, so spring break must be the whole week. There wasn’t fencing around the buildings, so I could get some nice shots.
The school was only a few blocks from my next stop, the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates. I met one of the groundskeepers and had a nice chat. He rides a motorcycle in his spare time, and told me about a nice restaurant in Okeechobee, ironically. It’s called the Cowboys BBQ and Steak Co., and I’ll have to try it when I go back to look for the Battlefield. As far as the Estates, he said it’s 20 bucks to get in. To me, it wasn’t worth spending that much with the small amount of time I planned to spend there, so I took photos from outside the low fence around the grounds. Which was good enough. There was another house on my list next to the estates, Casa Rio. It was completely gated, though, so I had to settle for some so-so shots with the zoom. Can’t always get ideal pictures of every place I’d like, doncha know.

Across from the street from the estates is where you got tickets to get in and other information. Speaking of which, they were able to confirm my suspicion that Anderson Avenue is now Martin Luther King Boulevard. It was the one boundary line of the downtown historic district that I didn’t have. With that, I knew the area I had to cover. The information area was also part of the botanical segment of the Edison Estate. There was a large stand of ficus trees there, which Edison had planted to experiment with for rubber production. I remember what a problem those trees were in Miami, ‘cause their roots can enter pinholes in underground water pipes and clog them. And the roots can grow a really long distance from the tree itself. Could those damn trees be his fault?

I was going to save the district for last. The next place was the William H. Towles House. What a weird address. It’s 2050 MacGregor Boulevard. Not so weird. But next to it was 2036, and next to that was 2052. So 2050, then 2036, then 2052? The house is now office space, which at least means it’s being used and kept up well.

Headed east, and got shots of the old Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Station (now the Southwest Florida Museum of History), then the Imaginarium Hands-On Museum. The latter was very… blue. Didn’t go in to either, ‘cause of time constraints. And I’m not much of a museum guy.

Next, another school, the Paul Lawrence Dunbar School. Closed. Large grounds, so did a bit of walking to get shots from all sides.

Then it was back west towards downtown. I got shots of the Gilmer Heitman House and Alderman House, even though the addresses were slightly different. Thank you, Guide to Florida’s Historic Architecture.


Murphy-Burroughs House

Drove a few more blocks and parked behind the Langford-Kingston Home, which was being reno’d. it’s also across from the Murphy-Burroughs House, which to me is almost as nice as Lapham-Patterson House in Thomasville, Georgia. Took lots of shots, front, back and sides. Also got photos of the US 41 bridges (street view) behind the house that go over the Caloosahatchee River. They’re quite a sight.

Last but most, the downtown historic district (photos and street view). I found a parking spot with almost 2 hours still on meter, hurrah! Don’t hate me because I’m lucky. I feel like I earned that spot, ‘cause I walked that whole dang district in just over half an hour. OK, most of it. I got decent pictures of everything I wanted. Well, except the Lee County Courthouse, because there was construction going on in front, so got best I could. I was done and going north over one of the bridges by 12:40.

Overall, I like Fort Myers. I’ll have to come back eventually, since there’s a few spots I missed around the edges of the city. Maybe I’ll even tour the Edison and Ford Estates when I return.

Guess what’s next? Yes, another school! The J. Colin English School (photos and street view), to exact. Closed. It’s odd to see so many elementary and middle schools closed on weekdays. I’m not complaining, it let me get clear pictures without hordes of kids running around.

Back to US 41, there was a BP, thank goodness, ‘cause I needed a fill-up. While doing that, I chatted with a couple in a car with Hawaii plates. They live there a few months out of the year, and bring the license plate with them, for amusement value, mostly. After I filled up, I called Richard for my check-up call of the day. Went back into the store and got some snack stuff, and departed by 1:30.

I like this section of US 41 (street view). It reminds me of US 441 between ocala and gainesville, but a bit bleaker and with more coastal vegetation. Liking the 65 mph speed limit, too.

Which was over too soon, once I entered Punta Gorda. An OK place, with a generic Florida mid-sized city look. More on that in the next post.

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The Planetary Court, at Koreshan State Historic Site

I could’ve gone to Lovers Key State Park, but it was really out of the way, especially this late in the day. Plus I wasn’t thrilled to see another beach. So I decided to skip it this time around and go onward.

Which was a great decision, ‘cause it meant I could spend more time at Koreshan State Historic Site) (photos and street view). The history of the place is amazing, and many of the buildings of the people who settled here are still preserved. Several are over a hundred years old. With Florida’s climate, it always astounds me to find these old wooden buildings still in great shape. They really did know how to build ‘em back then. I spent nearly an hour there, take shots all over the place. I could see stopping here again, and spending some time just soaking in the atmosphere.

Another great thing about this park is that they’re one of the management centers. The state park system is divided into regions, and each region has one of the parks as the headquarters. Koreshan is the one for the southwest. What’s great is that they’ll have passport stamps for the other parks in the region that don’t have rangers. I was able to get 8 stamps all at once! Mind you, I only actually visited the one, but I do plan on visiting the others, and now I have the stamps for them. Yippee!

Once I left, it was up Tamiami Trail to Fort Myers Beach. I had to head west on CR 865, and ran into, yes, construction. Several miles of it. By now it was around 4, and the traffic was getting like it does in a larger city at rush hour. This is why I prefer travel on the weekends. I saw that there was backup in the direction I was heading, and not a small amount. I decided to skip Fort Myers Beach and U-turned. What was Sanibel Island going to be like? Knowing how popular it was, I feared the worst.

It turned out to be not that bad. There was a toll plaza on the mainland end of the causeway to get onto the island. You have to pay to go to Sanibel, but not to leave. The traffic was horrendous, but all heading towards Fort Myers. The traffic going to the island was relatively minor. So I suppose there’s a lot of people who work there, but who support those that actually live there.

Once on the island, I headed for my first stop, an old school that’s now an art gallery. All the way there, there was solid traffic heading the other way. I decided to take a circuitous route to my next stop, which was on the other end of the island. Before I got to the residential area, I drove by one of the entrances to the J. N. “Ding” Darling NWR. I figured I’d check it out, but there wasn’t much to see from the parking lot, so I took a shot of the sign and continued. Once I hit where the folks lived, speed limits decreased, but there was little traffic, so I was moving the whole way.

I reached the tip of the island and the Sanibel Lighthouse (photos). Underwhelming. Oh well, they can’t all be like the St. Augustine or St. George ones. The parking was 2 dollars an hour, which sucks if you’re not gonna be there that long. I guess most folks who go there are going for a while, so it works for most. The beach around the lighthouse was nice, though, and lots of folks there. Again, what are these people doing, not being at work on a Monday?

There’s a museum on the island that was on my list, but I can live without seeing it. So as far as I’m concerned, Sanibel Island is done. I’d also taken long enough so that the worst of the traffic was over. It was a bit slow on the bridge off the island, but not less than 35 mph.

Found MacGregor Boulevard (above), which is one of the main Fort Myers thoroughfares, and headed north. There are palm trees all along, which makes it very stately. I turned off to get pictures of a couple of houses, one on the NRHP (the Jewett-Thompson House) and one not (the Burdette-Roberts House).

It was now 6, and my watch started beeping. I’d reset it yesterday, because I figured this would be a good time to start hotel searching, wherever I was. I drove by the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates, so I knew where they’d be for next day’s running around. I found US 41, and knew there had to be hotels along there. Sure enough, I spied a Holiday Inn after a couple minutes. Inside, I found the rooms were $100. Pricier than I liked, but I had to sleep somewhere, and at the moment could afford it. Turned out to be another 3rd floor room, which was kinda neat.

After finishing checking in, I asked about food. The front desk recommended a couple of places. What appealed to me was Joe’s Crab Shack. The directions got me somewhat lost, but I found it. Right on the water, as a crab shack should be.

But it was a crab shack in name only. Really, it was a regular seafood restaurant. Nothing wrong with that, but not the rustic place I was hoping for. Very popular, though, at least halfway full, which is good for a Monday night. Lots of waitresses, but I got one of the only waiters. Lucked out there with Alex.

Oh, he was fine. Late 20s/early 30s, cute glasses, a bit of grey in the hair. He looked like he’d stepped out of an old cigarette or aftershave advertisement. Without the cheesy porn ‘stache. Wish he hadn’t been wearing saggy jeans, though. He had a nice athletic build, and it’s a shame the rear view wasn’t as good as it could have been. I wonder if he might be an actor/model in his spare time? The whole “the worse the economy, the more attractive the wait staff” thing. Very personable, too. He wrote his first name on a paper towel, I suppose because he didn’t have a name tag. Yes, I saved it. You take your mementoes where you find them.

The food? That’s right, I did go there to eat, didn’t I? The place specializes in buckets o’ seafood. Actual buckets. Filled with crab legs, clams, or whatever you’d like. Pricy, as large quantities of seafood can get. But I don’t like that kind of seafood. My tastes are simpler.

I got a bowl of New England Clam Chowder. Very good, very creamy, clammy and bacony, with bits of orange bell pepper and celery. Then it was the classic fish and chips, which when I asked, Alex recommended, saying he ate it often. It was also very good, with all those lovely crunchy batter bits, which is the best part of fish and chips. All told it was about 20 bucks, but way better than Long John Silver’s. Nothing against them, I like Silver’s. But this was several steps up the cuisine ladder from them.

I got back to the hotel after 8, so I missed some of Dancing with the Stars. I had all the intentions in the world of going to bed early, but for some ungodly reason got caught up watching the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It was nowhere near as good as the original, and to me more overtly preachy. I didn’t get to sleep until after 1. I figured if worse came to worse, I could take a nap the next day to recharge if I needed it.

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