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Fort Myers History, Florida

Fort Myers, FL US - History: Edison’s City of Palms

The areas along the gulf coast of Florida were explored by Ponce De Leon in 1513 and 1521. In 1821, Florida became a territory of the US. Along the Caloosahatchee River, Fort Myer was built as a base for the Seminole Indian War. It was named in honor of Colonel Abraham Myers. In 1858, the Fort was emptied but was re-occupied in 1863 by the federal troops. The southernmost civil war of 1865 is re-enacted annually at the Myers Crack festival.

When the town of Fort Myers was built in 1876, it was occupied by only 10 families. However, situation changed in 1885 when Thomas Alva Edison visited the place and decided to build his laboratory and home. The size of residents increased from 10 to 350. Having a great respect for nature, he started importing royal palms and planted them along the riverside avenue. The city later came to be known as the “City Of Palms.” The Fort Myer’s laboratory, originally built for extensive research on goldenrod rubber, eventually became a store house of most of his inventions. The most widely acknowledged is the incandescent bulb.

Having about 1100 patents to his credit, Edison was regarded as “America’s most prolific inventor.” His achievements include the movie camera, phonograph, projector, ticker tape machine, alkaline storage battery and microphone. He used to spend most of his time at the Fort. Henry Ford was his closest friend. When he met Edison in New York, he was greatly influenced by him and upon his advice, decided to leave his current position and job to fulfill his dream of building a gasoline driven car. His dream had come true by 1903. Finally, the Ford motor company was started with an initial investment of $28,000.

Fort Myers was linked to Miami when the Tamiami Trail was opened. It encouraged growth in all sectors until the Great Depression.

By early 1940s, each province of Florida was having its own air base. The flying weather of Florida was the reason behind it. Since World War II, the city of Fort Myers has grown in all directions. Residential and commercial growth has forced the creation of North Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Lehigh, Sanibel and Captiva Island. The city and the downtown area have succeeded in maintaining their charm. The government has also taken many measures to maintain the same charm over the years to come.

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