The Town of Fort Myers Beach recently celebrated its fifteenth birthday, but the history of Estero Island spans back over 2,000 years when the Calusa Indians constructed shell mounds along the bayside of our island.
The first American settlements emerged on Fort Myers Beach following the Homestead Act of 1862. By 1911, William Case resided on this same property and developed the first subdivision and cottage rental industry on the island. By 1914, all the island property was homesteaded with little industry beyond fishing, gardening, a sawmill operated by the Koreshan Unity (a communal society based on the mainland in Estero), and a hotel.
Development on Estero Island, then named Crescent Beach, was slow until the 1920s when Florida gained national attention as a vacation destination. A Fort Myers Press headline states “Crescent Beach Center of Most Intense Development in Florida Today” (October 1921). The land boom was short lived as the hurricanes of 1921 and 1926 challenged idyllic notions of southwest Florida’s climate and slowed further development.
The 1950s brought modernization and tourist development to Fort Myers Beach with new hotels including the Rancho del Mar with the first swimming pool and the electrification of the swing bridge to facilitate traffic.