LEE County, FL
Lee County is located in Southwest Florida on the Gulf Coast. As of the 2020 census, the population was 750,822. The county seat is Fort Myers (with a 2018 estimated population of 82,254), and the largest city is Cape Coral with an estimated 2018 population of 189,343.
Lee County comprises the Cape Coral–Fort Myers, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Lee County was created in 1887 from Monroe County. Today, Fort Myers is the center of a popular tourist area in Southwest Florida and the seat of Lee County. It is about south of Tampa at the meeting point of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caloosahatchee River. Currently, Lee County is the spring home of the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins MLB teams for spring training.
Fort established (1850s–1860s)
After Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, a number of settlers moved into Florida, causing conflict with the local Seminole Indians. Fort Myers was built in 1850 as a military fort to fend off Seminole Indians during the Seminole Wars. The fort was named after Col. Abraham C. Myers, who was stationed in Florida for seven years and was the son-in-law of the fort's establisher and commander. In 1858, after years of elusive battle, Chief Billy Bowlegs and his warriors were persuaded to surrender and move west, and the fort was abandoned. Billy's Creek, which flows into the Caloosahatchee River, was named after a temporary camp where Billy Bowlegs and his men awaited ships to take them west.
In 1863, the fort was reoccupied by federal troops during the Civil War. In 1865, in the Battle of Fort Myers, the fort was attacked by a small group of Confederates. The Union's garrison, led by Captain James Doyle, successfully held the fort and the Confederate forces retreated. After the war, the fort was again deserted. The fort was later disassembled and some of its wood was used to build parts of downtown Fort Myers.
Settlement and early growth (1860s–1920s)
The first settlers in Fort Myers arrived in 1866.
In the 1870s, Tervio Padilla, a wealthy merchant from the Canary Islands, came by way of Key West to Cayo Costa and established trade with natives and "ranchos" that extended northward to Charlotte Harbor. His ships often made port at Cayo Costa at the entrance to the harbor. Enchanted by the tropical island, he eventually decided to settle there. Padilla prospered until the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, when his fleet was burned and scuttled. He then turned to another means of livelihood – fishing. When the government claimed his land, he was disinclined to set up another ranch, so moved with his wife further down the island and as before, simply homesteaded . The Padilla family is one of the first pioneer families of Lee County and many still reside within the county mainly around the Pine Island area.
In 1882, the city experienced a significant influx of settlers. In 1885, when Fort Myers was incorporated, its population of 349 residents made it the second-largest city only to Tampa on Florida's west coast south of Cedar Key, even larger than Clearwater and Sarasota, also growing cities at the time.
Lee County was created in 1887 from Monroe County, with Fort Myers serving as the county seat. It was named for Robert E. Lee, Confederate general in the American Civil War.
Fort Myers first became a nationally known winter resort with the opening of the Royal Palm Hotel in 1898, built by New York City department store magnate Hugh O'Neill.
Fort Myers was the frequent winter home of Thomas Edison, as well as Henry Ford.
In 1911, Fort Myers was incorporated as a city. Construction of the Tamiami Trail Bridge, built across the Caloosahatchee River in 1924, sparked the city's growth. After the bridge's construction, the city experienced its first real estate boom and many subdivisions sprouted around the city. In 1923, Collier and Hendry Counties were created by splitting these areas from Lee County.
Modern growth (1940s–present)
Following the end of World War II, the Royal Palm Hotel was closed permanently, and in 1947, the hotel on the corner of First and Fowler was torn down.
Lee County has been the host to several Major League Baseball teams for spring training over the past several decades.
The county received a boost in 1983 when Southwest Florida Regional Airport (now known as Southwest Florida International Airport) opened.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of , of which is land and (35.3%) is water. Rivers and streams include the Caloosahatchee River, the Imperial River, the Estero River, Hendry Creek, and Orange River.
Lee County is on the southwest coast of Florida. It is about south of Tampa, west of Fort Lauderdale via Interstate 75, and roughly west-northwest of Miami via U.S. Highway 41.
National protected areas
Lee County has a year-round warm, monsoon-influenced climate that is close to the boundary between tropical and subtropical climates ( in the coldest month), thus is either classified as a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), which is the classification used by NOAA, or a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw). Lee County has short, warm winters, and long, hot, humid summers, with most of the year's rainfall occurring from June to September. The temperature rarely rises to or lowers to the freezing mark. At 89, Lee County leads the nation in the number of days annually in which a thunderstorm is close enough for thunder to be heard. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from in January to in August, with the annual mean being . Records range from on December 29, 1894 up to on June 16–17, 1981.
On August 13, 2004, the county was struck by Hurricane Charley, a category 4 storm, particularly on the northwestern islands of Captiva, Gasparilla, and North Captiva.
On September 10, 2017, Lee County was struck by Hurricane Irma as a Category 2 storm.
U.S. Census Bureau 2010 Ethnic/Race Demographics:
In 2010, 11.1% of the population considered themselves to be of only "American" ancestry (regardless of race or ethnicity).
Of the 259,818 households, 22.35% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.97% were married couples living together, 10.26% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.17% were not families. About 26.69% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.70% (4.15% male and 8.55% female) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the county, the population was distributed as 19.5% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 22.0% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 23.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.4 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $50,014, and for a family was $58,950. Males had a median income of $41,619 versus $33,054 for females. The per capita income for the county was $29,445. About 7.8% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those aged 65 or over.
In 2010, 15.3% of the county's population was foreign born, with 36.9% being naturalized American citizens. Of foreign-born residents, 70.6% were born in Latin America, 14.9% were born in Europe, 8.3% were born in Asia, 5.4% were born in North America, 0.7% were born in Africa, and 0.2% were born in Oceania.
As of 2010, 78.99% of residents spoke English as their first language, and 15.19% spoke Spanish, 1.28% French Creole (mostly Haitian Creole,) 0.88% German, 0.59% Portuguese, and 0.55% of the population spoke French as their main language. In total, 21.01% of the population spoke languages other than English as their primary language.
Lee County's stronger economic sectors include construction, retail, leisure, and hospitality. Hertz moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Estero in 2016, the first major corporation to relocate to Lee County.
The largest employers in Lee County as of 2019 are:
Law enforcement and crime
The several colleges in Lee County include: Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), Barry University, Nova Southeastern University, Florida SouthWestern State College, Cape Coral Technical College, Fort Myers Technical College, Hodges University, Keiser University, Southern Technical College, and Rasmussen College.
FGCU is a public university located just south of the Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers. The university belongs to the 12-campus State University System of Florida. FGCU competes in the ASUN Conference in NCAA Division I sports. The school is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate's, 51 different types of bachelor's, 29 different master's, and six types of doctoral degrees.
Parks and recreation
Lee County Parks & Recreation was organized in the early 1970s, and has since grown to manage over 3,500 acres of developed land where nearly 40 parks are now located. In addition to 6 regional parks, 22 community parks, and 11 neighborhood parks, Lee County Parks & Recreation also oversees 4 recreation centers, 10 community centers, Conservation 20/20 land, 6 off-leash dog parks, and the Boston Red Sox' and Minnesota Twins' spring training facilities.
One of the main tourist attractions in Southwest Florida are its beaches. Lee County is home to ten beach parks and an additional seven beach accesses, maintained by Lee County Parks & Recreation.
The Lee County Library System has 13 branches. The towns of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, though located in Lee County, maintain their own independent public library entities.
The Lee County Library System currently provides more than 294,000 Lee County residents with over 1.5 million items and materials available for use or patron circulation, as well as an online library materials catalog, free wi-fi, public computer access, scan and print capabilities, and many more patron amenities.
Lee County is represented in the United States House of Representatives by Byron Donalds of the 19th district and by Greg Steube of the 17th district. Unlike most urban counties, Lee County is a Republican stronghold in presidential elections. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win the county was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.
As of November 14, 2020.
:*Southwest Florida International Airport (IATA airport code - RSW), in South Fort Myers, serves over 8.37 million passengers annually. Currently, the airport offers international non-stop flights to Cancun, Mexico; Düsseldorf, Germany; Nassau, Bahamas; and Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto in Canada. In addition, nine airlines operate flights to 29 domestic nonstop destinations. On September 9, 2005, the airport opened a new terminal.
:*Page Field (IATA airport code - FMY), also in South Fort Myers, just south of the incorporated limits of the City of Fort Myers, is the county's general aviation airport. Prior to the opening of Southwest Florida Regional Airport in 1983 (now Southwest Florida International Airport), Page Field was the county's commercial airport.
Seaports and marine transport
A small port operation continues in Boca Grande, being used as a way-point for oil distribution. However, Port Boca Grande has been in decline for many years as the shipping industry has moved north, especially to the Port of Tampa.
In addition, a private enterprise operates a high-speed, passenger-only ferry service between Fort Myers Beach from San Carlos Island and Key West. Another ferry service is offered from Fort Myers to Key West
Major road bridges
:*Caloosahatchee Bridge (U.S. Highway 41): 4-travel-lane single-span bridge connects North Fort Myers with Fort Myers, over the Caloosahatchee River.
:*Cape Coral Bridge (College Parkway/Cape Coral Parkway): 4-travel-lane single-span bridge (two eastbound, two westbound) connect Cape Coral with Cypress Lake, over the Caloosahatchee River.
:*Edison Bridge (State Road 739): Two 3-travel-lane spans (one northbound, one southbound) connect North Fort Myers with Fort Myers, over the Caloosahatchee River.
:*Interstate 75: Two 4-travel-lane spans (one northbound, one southbound) between the State Road 78 ("Bayshore Road") and State Road 80 ("Palm Beach Boulevard") interchanges, over the Caloosahatchee River.
:*Matanzas Pass Bridge (State Road 865): 3-travel-lane single-span bridge crosses Hurricane Bay and Matanzas Pass within the incorporated limits of the Town of Fort Myers Beach, connecting the mainland to the barrier islands.
:*Matlacha Bridge (State Road 78): a small single-leaf drawbridge connecting Cape Coral to Matlacha and Pine Island
:*Midpoint Memorial Bridge (State Road 884): 4-lane single-span bridge that connects Cape Coral with Fort Myers, over the Caloosahatchee River.
:*Sanibel Causeway (State Road 867): series of three 2-travel-lane single-span bridges and two 3-travel-lane island causeways crossing the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River at the Gulf of Mexico. The causeway connects Punta Rassa with Sanibel.
:*Wilson Pigott Bridge (State Road 31): 2-travel-lane single-span drawbridge between State Road 78 ("Bayshore Road") and State Road 80, over the Caloosahatchee River.
Fixed-route bus service is provided by the Lee County Transit Department, operated as "LeeTran". Several routes extend outward from the Downtown Intermodal Transfer Center; in addition, suburb-to-suburb routes are operated, as well as park-and-ride service to and from both Fort Myers Beach and Southwest Florida International Airport.
The Downtown Intermodal Transfer Center in Fort Myers also serves as an intermediate stop on Greyhound Lines bus service.
Newspapers include The News-Press and Florida Weekly.
Arbitron standard radio market: Ft Myers-Naples-Marco Island With an Arbitron-assigned 783,100 listening area population, the metropolitan area ranks 62/299 for the fall of 2006. The metropolitan area is home to 32 radio stations.
Nielsen Media Research designated market area: Ft. Myers-Naples
Number of TV homes: 479,130
2006–2007 U.S. rank: 64/210
Fort Myers is home to Florida Gulf Coast University. Its teams, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, play in NCAA Division I in the ASUN Conference. The Eagles' men's basketball team had an average attendance of 2,291 in 2013.
MLB spring training
thumb|right|Red Sox logo on the fence outside the City of Palms Park
The Boston Red Sox hold their annual spring training at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in the Fort Myers area. A cross-town rivalry has developed with the Minnesota Twins, which conduct their spring training at Hammond Stadium in south Lee County, which has a capacity of 7,500 and opened in 1991.
The Red Sox' lease with Fort Myers runs through 2019, but the Red Sox were considering exercising the early out in their contract that would have allowed them to leave following the 2009 spring season. On October 28, 2008, the Lee County commission voted 3–1 to approve an agreement with the Boston Red Sox to build a new spring-training facility for the team in south Lee County. That stadium, named JetBlue Park at Fenway South, is located off Daniels Parkway near Southwest Florida International Airport. The stadium opened in time for the 2012 season.
City of Palms Park had been built in 1992 for the Red Sox' spring training. Former Red Sox left fielder Mike Greenwell is from Fort Myers, and was instrumental in bringing his team to the city for spring training. The deal for JetBlue Park left City of Palms Park without a tenant. County officials have discussed the possibility of securing another team for City of Palms. Terry Park Ballfield (also known as the Park T. Pigott Memorial Stadium) in East Fort Myers is also not currently in use by a Major League Baseball team, though it is the former home of the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Kansas City Royals.
Other unincorporated communities
This page uses material from the Wikipedia article Lee County, FL, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 4.0.