Destination Main Streets

Fort Myers, Florida

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The city of Fort Myers gets its name from a fort that once occupied the area. Originally, the fort was used by the U.S. in the Seminole Wars in the 1850s. It was later reactivated by the Union during the Civil War. After the wars, growth came to the area. The fort itself was dismantled for building supplies. The Atlantic Coast Railroad came to Fort Myers, speeding up the growth. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford built winter estates in the city. As the years went on, a bustling downtown area grew. But in the middle of the twentieth century, the downtown's fortunes began to change. When Edison Mall and other shopping centers were built in the suburbs, the urban core began to die out. There were many vacancies in the 1980s. Eventually, things began to look up. The historic downtown area known as the River District found investors. Asphalt was removed from the streets to reveal the original brick. Buildings were repainted with fresh colors. Today the River District, named for its proximity to the Caloosahatchee River, is a vibrant downtown area full of shops, restaurants, and nightlife.

Fort Myers, Florida is located 125 miles south of Tampa and about 160 miles northwest of Miami. The city is located in Lee County on Florida's southwest coast. The River District itself is located in the heart of downtown Fort Myers. First Street is the Main Street through the area and the majority of the businesses are located between Monroe Street on the southwest side and the intersection of First Street, Royal Palm Avenue, and Bay Street on the northeast side. Other businesses can be found along Bay Street and Hendry Street. There is a large parking garage at the corner of First Street and Monroe Street. Other nearby Main Streets include Fort Myers Beach, which is a few miles away and Naples, Florida.

Photo Gallery Tour

Now let's take a tour of historic downtown Fort Myers. The area is also known as the River District due to its proximity to the Caloosahatchee River. We'll start our tour at the intersection of First Street and Bay Street (which turns into Royal Palm Avenue as it crosses over First).
Now let's take a tour of historic downtown Fort Myers. The area is also known as the River District due to its proximity to the Caloosahatchee River. We'll start our tour at the intersection of First Street and Bay Street (which turns into Royal Palm Avenue as it crosses over First).
Here's a view looking southwest down First Street. First Street serves as the Main Street for this area. There is an actual Main Street a few blocks away, but the majority of the action is on First Street. We'll tour First Street starting on the northeast side of the district and head in a southwest direction.
Here's a view looking southwest down First Street. First Street serves as the Main Street for this area. There is an actual Main Street a few blocks away, but the majority of the action is on First Street. We'll tour First Street starting on the northeast side of the district and head in a southwest direction.
Here we see the Fort Myers Regional Library and Cornog Plaza. Both are relatively new additions to the area with Cornog Plaza being built in 2015. The Fort Myers River District has undergone a massive renaissance in just a few short years. Projects like this have helped that transformation.
Here we see the Fort Myers Regional Library and Cornog Plaza. Both are relatively new additions to the area with Cornog Plaza being built in 2015. The Fort Myers River District has undergone a massive renaissance in just a few short years. Projects like this have helped that transformation.
This is the Franklin Arms Building. Built in 1915, the front part is an office building and the section behind it is apartments. At seven stories tall it was considered Fort Myers' first tall building.
This is the Franklin Arms Building. Built in 1915, the front part is an office building and the section behind it is apartments. At seven stories tall it was considered Fort Myers' first tall building.
Here we see some colorful shops along First Street. Fort Myers suffered the same fate as other cities. When Edison Mall and other shopping centers were built in the suburbs, the urban core began to die out. There were many vacancies in the 1980s. However, in recent years investment came to the area along with shops, restaurants, and nightlife.
Here we see some colorful shops along First Street. Fort Myers suffered the same fate as other cities. When Edison Mall and other shopping centers were built in the suburbs, the urban core began to die out. There were many vacancies in the 1980s. However, in recent years investment came to the area along with shops, restaurants, and nightlife.
Here is an example of one of the beautification efforts in Fort Myers, celebrating the city's proximity to the Caloosahatchee River waterfront only a few blocks away.
Here is an example of one of the beautification efforts in Fort Myers, celebrating the city's proximity to the Caloosahatchee River waterfront only a few blocks away.
Fort Myers was named for a fort, which once occupied the area. The fort was first used by the U.S. during the Seminole Wars in the 1850s. Later the fort was reactivated by the Union army during the Civil War.
Fort Myers was named for a fort, which once occupied the area. The fort was first used by the U.S. during the Seminole Wars in the 1850s. Later the fort was reactivated by the Union army during the Civil War.
Next we see the Sidney & Berne Davis Arts Center. First opened in 1933 as a U.S. Post Office, the building is made from Florida Keys limestone. The Post Office vacated the building in the 1990s, but eventually the building found a new purpose as a thriving Arts center.
Next we see the Sidney & Berne Davis Arts Center. First opened in 1933 as a U.S. Post Office, the building is made from Florida Keys limestone. The Post Office vacated the building in the 1990s, but eventually the building found a new purpose as a thriving Arts center.
Here we see a row of well-preserved historic buildings. In recent years, many new themed restaurants have moved into downtown. The red building on the right is the Langford Building and when it first opened it was the Grand Theatre, the first movie theatre downtown.
Here we see a row of well-preserved historic buildings. In recent years, many new themed restaurants have moved into downtown. The red building on the right is the Langford Building and when it first opened it was the Grand Theatre, the first movie theatre downtown.
Here is a closer look at the Langford. Today, it is occupied by The Lodge restaurant and also apartments. Notice the wide sidewalks perfect for outdoor seating.
Here is a closer look at the Langford. Today, it is occupied by The Lodge restaurant and also apartments. Notice the wide sidewalks perfect for outdoor seating.
Further down, we see more shops, restaurants and those wide sidewalks that are great for outdoor cafes. Also notice all the palm trees throughout the city. Fort Myers' nickname is "City of Palms."
Further down, we see more shops, restaurants and those wide sidewalks that are great for outdoor cafes. Also notice all the palm trees throughout the city. Fort Myers' nickname is "City of Palms."
Across the street we see more shops. In the distance we see a sign for the Arcade Theatre. It was built in 1915 as a vauldville house but turned to showing movies in 1917. In 1938, it was rebuilt. Over the years, as the downtown area around it began to go downhill, so too did the theatre's forturnes.
Across the street we see more shops. In the distance we see a sign for the Arcade Theatre. It was built in 1915 as a vauldville house but turned to showing movies in 1917. In 1938, it was rebuilt. Over the years, as the downtown area around it began to go downhill, so too did the theatre's forturnes.
However that all changed in recent years. In the 1990s, Mikhail Baryishnikov starred in a benefit to help restore the Arcade Theatre. Today it is home to the Florida Repertory Theatre. Notice how brightly painted the building is, like many of the buildings in the River District.
However that all changed in recent years. In the 1990s, Mikhail Baryishnikov starred in a benefit to help restore the Arcade Theatre. Today it is home to the Florida Repertory Theatre. Notice how brightly painted the building is, like many of the buildings in the River District.
Here's another view in front of the Arcade. These are statues created by sculptor Edgardo Carmona. The artwork was originally unveiled in 2016 to promote nearby luxury condos. There has been talk of moving these out of downtown and dispursing them throughout the city of Fort Myers.
Here's another view in front of the Arcade. These are statues created by sculptor Edgardo Carmona. The artwork was originally unveiled in 2016 to promote nearby luxury condos. There has been talk of moving these out of downtown and dispursing them throughout the city of Fort Myers.
We continue further down First Street where we find more gift shops and even an ice cream shop. These are located in the Earnhardt Building, built in 1915. Notice most of these buildings were constructed in the 1910s.
We continue further down First Street where we find more gift shops and even an ice cream shop. These are located in the Earnhardt Building, built in 1915. Notice most of these buildings were constructed in the 1910s.
Now we are at the intersection of First Street and Hendry Street. On the left, we can see part of the Earnhardt Building. On the corner is the First National Bank Building, completed in 1914. It's the only granite building in Fort Myers.
Now we are at the intersection of First Street and Hendry Street. On the left, we can see part of the Earnhardt Building. On the corner is the First National Bank Building, completed in 1914. It's the only granite building in Fort Myers.
Here's another historic building at the corner of First and Hendry. Notice the brick streets. To help bring about the resurgence of Fort Myers, the asphalt was pulled up to reveal the brick. Also, sidewalks were widened to slow down traffic and provide more space for pedestrians and outdoor seating for restaurants.
Here's another historic building at the corner of First and Hendry. Notice the brick streets. To help bring about the resurgence of Fort Myers, the asphalt was pulled up to reveal the brick. Also, sidewalks were widened to slow down traffic and provide more space for pedestrians and outdoor seating for restaurants.
Here is a close up of the building we saw in the previous photo. This restaurant has a UK theme and also bills itself as one the oldest restaurants in downtown Fort Myers.
Here is a close up of the building we saw in the previous photo. This restaurant has a UK theme and also bills itself as one the oldest restaurants in downtown Fort Myers.
Next, we'll take a detour and head south on Hendry Street. Here at the corner of Hendry Street and Main Street (see there is a Main Street) we come to the Edison Theatre. The Edison opened around 1941 and today is home to a bank and offices. The building is named after Thomas Edison one of the city's most famous residents.
Next, we'll take a detour and head south on Hendry Street. Here at the corner of Hendry Street and Main Street (see there is a Main Street) we come to the Edison Theatre. The Edison opened around 1941 and today is home to a bank and offices. The building is named after Thomas Edison one of the city's most famous residents.
Across the street, we have the Lee County Bank Building. Originally built in 1911, this two-story stucco brick Neo-Classical Revival has undergone many renovations since then. Today, the ground floor contains an antique shop.
Across the street, we have the Lee County Bank Building. Originally built in 1911, this two-story stucco brick Neo-Classical Revival has undergone many renovations since then. Today, the ground floor contains an antique shop.
We continue down Hendry Street to find a few more historic buildings. The one in the middle is the Richards Building, built in 1923, this was originally home to a pharmacy. To the right is the Robb & Stucky Building. Built in 1924, this four-story Neo Classical structure started its life as a furniture store.
We continue down Hendry Street to find a few more historic buildings. The one in the middle is the Richards Building, built in 1923, this was originally home to a pharmacy. To the right is the Robb & Stucky Building. Built in 1924, this four-story Neo Classical structure started its life as a furniture store.
Here is a view of some of the shops and businesses on the ground floor of the Richards Building, fronting Hendry Street.
Here is a view of some of the shops and businesses on the ground floor of the Richards Building, fronting Hendry Street.
Fort Myers is also the Lee County Seat. Here we can see from Hendry Street a Lee County Administration Building.
Fort Myers is also the Lee County Seat. Here we can see from Hendry Street a Lee County Administration Building.
We return to First Street in time to see a Lee Tran River District trolley that circulates around the downtown area. It has two lines, a blue line and a gold line.
We return to First Street in time to see a Lee Tran River District trolley that circulates around the downtown area. It has two lines, a blue line and a gold line.
With the revival of downtown Fort Myers came brick streets and brightly colored buildings. Check out the wrought iron. The River District features a wide array of architectural types, including Mediterranean Revival.
With the revival of downtown Fort Myers came brick streets and brightly colored buildings. Check out the wrought iron. The River District features a wide array of architectural types, including Mediterranean Revival.
Here's another view along First Street. We can see everything that makes the River District what it is, including a themed restaurant in a wonderfully restored historic building. You also have the brick paved streets and the palm trees that make Fort Myers famous.
Here's another view along First Street. We can see everything that makes the River District what it is, including a themed restaurant in a wonderfully restored historic building. You also have the brick paved streets and the palm trees that make Fort Myers famous.
More of that Mediterranean Revival feel along First Street in the Fort Myers River District.
More of that Mediterranean Revival feel along First Street in the Fort Myers River District.
Here's another view of the building, shops, and restaurants we saw in the previous photo, all bustling with activity.
Here's another view of the building, shops, and restaurants we saw in the previous photo, all bustling with activity.
We now approach the Patio de Leon mixed-use development. It was built in 1913 and is made up of multiple buildings, including an inner courtyard area.
We now approach the Patio de Leon mixed-use development. It was built in 1913 and is made up of multiple buildings, including an inner courtyard area.
Heading towards the center of Patio de Leon, we pass by several more shops and restaurants.
Heading towards the center of Patio de Leon, we pass by several more shops and restaurants.
This is the center of Patio de Leon. The area provides nightlife for the town, including a concert series.
This is the center of Patio de Leon. The area provides nightlife for the town, including a concert series.
Here is another view of Patio de Leon. As you can see, there's a gastropub with roof top seating. Even in the middle of the day, it's bustling.
Here is another view of Patio de Leon. As you can see, there's a gastropub with roof top seating. Even in the middle of the day, it's bustling.
We head back out to First Street to see a row of businesses, including stores and a barber shop.
We head back out to First Street to see a row of businesses, including stores and a barber shop.
This is The Dean. It originally opened in 1924 as The Morgan Hotel named for the owner and local developer John Morgan Dean. Today, it is a restored mixed-use building that features a themed restaurant, Ford's Garage. This is the restaurant's first location and is named for local resident Henry Ford, who wintered in the area. He lived next door to his friend Thomas Edison.
This is The Dean. It originally opened in 1924 as The Morgan Hotel named for the owner and local developer John Morgan Dean. Today, it is a restored mixed-use building that features a themed restaurant, Ford's Garage. This is the restaurant's first location and is named for local resident Henry Ford, who wintered in the area. He lived next door to his friend Thomas Edison.
The building on the left was orignally constructed in 1937 as the Franklin Hardware Store. It was one of the few art deco influenced buildings downtown. Today Franklin Shops is a two story emporium boasting hundreds of shops in one destination.
The building on the left was orignally constructed in 1937 as the Franklin Hardware Store. It was one of the few art deco influenced buildings downtown. Today Franklin Shops is a two story emporium boasting hundreds of shops in one destination.
Here is an interior view of Franklin Shops along First Street in Fort Myers.
Here is an interior view of Franklin Shops along First Street in Fort Myers.
Across the street is Dean Street, a side street off of First Street, featuring more shops and historic architecture. If you continue down this road, you'll reach Bay Street, which also features a few businesses.
Across the street is Dean Street, a side street off of First Street, featuring more shops and historic architecture. If you continue down this road, you'll reach Bay Street, which also features a few businesses.
Next, we continue down First Street to its intersection with Broadway. Here we see the Kress Building, which was built in 1928 as the S. H. Kress & Company Store, one of many locations for the once popular chain. Today, it houses restaurants and a Starbucks.
Next, we continue down First Street to its intersection with Broadway. Here we see the Kress Building, which was built in 1928 as the S. H. Kress & Company Store, one of many locations for the once popular chain. Today, it houses restaurants and a Starbucks.
If we continue down Broadway, we see the Hotel Indigo, a boutique hotel with a lobby that interconnects with the historic Post Office Arcade, which itself contains several restaurants and shops.
If we continue down Broadway, we see the Hotel Indigo, a boutique hotel with a lobby that interconnects with the historic Post Office Arcade, which itself contains several restaurants and shops.
If we head back to First Street, we see the United States Courthouse. On the left is a mural depicting Fort Myers' early history.
If we head back to First Street, we see the United States Courthouse. On the left is a mural depicting Fort Myers' early history.
Across the street is a parking garage. Keeping up with other buildings in the area, it too is brightly painted. On the ground floor are various businesses, including a bank named for one of the city's most famous residents.
Across the street is a parking garage. Keeping up with other buildings in the area, it too is brightly painted. On the ground floor are various businesses, including a bank named for one of the city's most famous residents.
This ends our tour. In the distance you can see First Street continuting for a ways. High-rise residential towers dominate the skyline. One of the most famous attractions is just a few miles ahead. You can visit the estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, both right next to each other.
This ends our tour. In the distance you can see First Street continuting for a ways. High-rise residential towers dominate the skyline. One of the most famous attractions is just a few miles ahead. You can visit the estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, both right next to each other.

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