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Historic Society offers self-guided island tour

December 11, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Estero Island Historic Society is now offering a self-guided historical island tour using QR codes throughout 24 landmark sites.

The history lesson dates back to 3,000 BC when Estero Island was formed as a barrier island when sea levels stabilize. It continues through the time that the Calusa Indians inhabited the island in the 1500s and until present day time. The tour -called "Footprints in Time"- can be accessed by bicycle or by walking.

EIHS Curator A.J. Bassett spoke about the concept of the historic island tour at the most recent Fort Myers Beach Town Council meeting. She stated the historic group began this quest in the summer of 2012.

"It started out with the idea that we needed people to know a little bit about what are historic structures look like," said Bassett. "The reason we call this Footprints in Time is because many people walked this island long before we did."

The 24 destinations (called "vistas") on the island include some structures that no longer exist. In all, one can visit 1) The Arches; 2) Bowditch Point; 3) Snug Harbor; 4) North Bridges; 5) The Pier & Times Square; 6) Silver Sands & 1st Canal; 7) Gulfshore & Netties; 8) Cotton Shop; 9) Historic Cottage & Nature Center; 10) Matanzas Pass Preserve; 11) Beach schools; 12) Beach Library; 13) Chapel by the Sea; 14) Winkler Hotel; 15) Red Coconut & Gulf View Shops; 16) Pelican Hotel; 17) Calusa & Mound House; 18) Newton Home & Park; 19) Sander's Boatyard; 20) Commodore Hotel; 21) Cottage Courts to Condos; 22) The Koreshans; 23) Fisherman's Village; and 24) South Drawbridge.

The timeline on a map (Bassett created) that hangs on a wall on the third floor of the Beach Library (where one may snag QR codes using a smartphone) also shows a census of the Beach population (62 people) starting in the 1930s when pioneers established a fishing village with fish houses, church, school, grocery store and beach cottages. That population grew to 473 in the 1940s with the island community developing with Cottage Court and Hotels after experiencing World War II military exposure and to 711 when Estero Boulevard expanded as shrimp boats and the first high-rise building appears on the beach horizon. The development of sub-divisions on canals and a new south end bridge increased the population to 2,464 when more people were attracted to island living as beach restaurants and shopping centers popped up.

Brochures for the self-guided historical island tour can be picked up at the Beach Library, the Historic Cottage, the Beach Chamber's Mobile Information trailer ("Roxie") and Beach Theater.

"We hope people can pick these up and learn a little more about the island history," said Bassett

Information about each point of the tour can be found at (click on "Historic Island Tour"). The Town website will also provide a link to it.

Besides Bassett, those credited for much work in the program include EIHS board members Russ Carter, Fran Santini, the late Roxie Smith, Penny Brown and Linda Meeder.

In the past, EIHS members have conducted boat charter tours to show island history. They continue to enlisted guest speakers to talk about interesting historical points and references for their meetings at the Beach Library during the second Monday of each month during the busier time of the year.



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