Because History Matters:
Self-Guided Historic Island Tours
When you stop to admire the sweeping elevation of the Matanzas Pass Bridge, you see the brilliant turquoise paint that adorns it, and boats sailing serenely on sparkling waters beneath its arch. What you can’t see are the ghosts of bridges past: the original structures that once joined Fort Myers Beach to San Carlos Island.
Now, thanks to the Estero Island Historic Society (EIHS), you can view those vanished åwere part of our barrier island’s earlier days. A new self-guided walking or bike tour is available to visitors and residents alike through the Footprints in Time Historic island Tour. Simply scan a series of QR (quick response) codes with your smart-phone to open history’s portal. Code #4, "North Bridges”, provides images of the 1921-built original wooden drawbridge, the swing bridge that replaced it after a hurricane in 1926, and the modern bridge – while under construction in 1978 as well as in final form today – along with explanatory text.
Learn Our History – On Site, at the Library, or from Your Living Room
Footprints in Time QR codes, each linked to one of 24 landmark vistas, are springing up all over the island. They can be viewed and scanned at the Fort Myers Beach Public Library (2755 Estero Blvd., just south of School Street), on a large wall map outside the 3rd floor Bookstore. The map includes an era timeline and charts population growth on the island.
The entire Historic Island Tour – featuring detailed descriptions and nearly 100 photos – is also posted on the EIHS website at http://www.esteroislandhistoricsociety.org/3.html.
The EIHS has created brochures bearing 25 QR codes (24 sites and an introduction), showing the corresponding locations on a map of Fort Myers Beach. Brochures will be available at:
• Fort Myers Beach Public
• The Historic Cottage, 161 Bay
Road (at the entrance to
Matanzas Pass Preserve),
open 10 a.m. to 12 noon on
Wednesdays and Saturdays;
• "Roxie” information trailer of
the FMB Chamber of
Commerce, which can be
found on Old San Carlos Blvd
or at Santini Marina Plaza; and
• The Beach Theater at 6425
• The Island Sand Paper at
1661 Estero Boulevard.
With the cooperation of local businesses and individuals, posters bearing individual QR codes will soon be in place across the island, at historic sites shown on the map. Some locations have no remaining structure on which to affix a poster, so you may choose to take the full tour by settling back with a brochure or the EIHS website. Travel back in time – in the comfort of your own home or hotel room. If you spot a Footprints in Time poster while roaming around the island, take the time to stop, scan, and learn about the history of that space.
Keeping Our History Alive
To inform the Town of Fort Myers Beach of this new initiative, A.J. Bassett – Curator and long-time Board member of the Estero Island Historic Society – made a presentation to Town Council about the Footprints in Time Historic Island Tour on Monday, December 2, 2013.
"The Historic Society has for years organized public awareness events, because our island’s history is so fascinating and important to understand,” A.J. stated. "We are much more than a lovely beach and a tourist destination. We have a heritage and a history like no other place.”
The EIHS in past years organized trolley tours, then boat tours in Estero Bay, with knowledgeable local guides pointing out historic sites and talking about preservation of the island’s natural resources and habitat. The new self-guided Footprints in Time Historic island Tour enables everyone to "visit” and learn about Fort Myers Beach history at their own pace, time, and location.
Members of the EIHS have worked for years with the Town’s Local Planning Agency (LPA) on the Historic Preservation Committee. "The Town of Fort Myers Beach Comprehensive Plan mandates that we designate and mark historic structures,” said A.J., so a historic plaque program was developed. Several structures – including the Historic Cottage that houses the EIHS – received the handsome, informative plaques, and more are waiting in the wings.
What does A.J. Bassett ask readers of this article to do? "Please enjoy and learn from the Footprints in Time Historic island Tour. To help us keep up the momentum of preserving and celebrating our island’s history, contact the Town of Fort Myers Beach and encourage them to continue posting the plaques we have created, on both significant and historic designated structures. Because history matters.”
Historic sites with QR codes that link to photos and descriptions:
1. The Arches
2. Bowditch Point
3. Snug Harbor
4. North Bridges
5. The Pier & Times Square
6. Silver Sands Cottages and First
7. Gulf Shore & Nettie’s
8. Cotton Shop
9. Historic Cottage and Nature
10. Matanzas Pass Preserve
11. Beach Schools
12. Beach Library
13. Chapel By The Sea
14. WinklerHotel and Pier
15. Red Coconutand Gulf View
16. Pelican Hotel
17. The Calusa and Mound House
18. Newton Home and Park
19. Sanders' Boatyard
20. The Commodore Hotel
21. Cottage Courts to Condos
22. The Koreshans
23. Fisherman's Village
24. South Drawbridge
Historic site #21, Cottage Courts to Condos, says the following about the intensive development of Fort Myers Beach:
It is encouraging to know this still leaves small pockets of cottages, homes and favorite small businesses which are the small town flavor of Ft. Myers Beach; as new, larger, Mediterranean stylehomes are now required to build higher with FEMA and code restrictions.This is perhaps a window of opportunity to restore and refurbish the small, old Florida style cottage charm of Estero Island.This is our heritage, and Fort Myers Beach today is one of the last Florida beaches that hasa healthy flavor ofthe "Then and Now".Let's preserve it for all generations.