The arrival of the railroad to Fort Myers not only changed the town’s economy, but also altered its legacy, history, and social makeup, setting the tiny, isolated town on a trajectory to transform all southwest Florida. The Atlantic Coast railway crossed the Caloosahatchee River in 1904, bringing with it a new era of modernity to the sleepy little town. Connecting Fort Myers to destinations north of the river started a great migration to southwest Florida that has transformed the social/ civic fabric of one of the most remote regions of the United States. By 1904 civic pride had developed in Fort Myers scaffolded by the arrival of wealthy winter residents such as Ambrose McGregor, Thomas Edison, and Hugh O’Neil. Not only did these wealthy Northerners bring some credibility to the town, but the Atlantic Coast Railway also inspired improvements to the infrastructure hoping to enhance the experience offered by the beautiful climate and ambiance of the locality. By the end of the roaring twenties, Fort Myers was a formidable option for east coast Florida tourism and remains so today thanks to the arrival of the iron horse.

Join site historian Tim Snyder for this free virtual presentation. Registration is required.