Pity the city of Fort Myers, Fla.
Like the state of North Carolina, long known as a vale of humility between two mountains of conceit (Virginia and South Carolina), Fort Myers sits squarely between the resort towns of Naples to its south and Sarasota to its north.
“Naples and Sarasota are hoity-toity,” says Jared Beck, co-author with Pamela Miner of “River & Road: Fort Myers from Craftsman to Modern.” “They have lush landscapes and overdone design standards.”
Fort Myers on the other hand, grew up as a real city from the 1900s on. It has a real downtown with real neighborhoods – and a spirited procession of architectural development.
“It’s one of the oldest parts of South Florida and especially in the older parts of town, there’s a wonderful sense of community and pride and love that goes into it,” he says. “It has a small town feel, with festivals, pageants, and parades.”
Alas, its reputation has been marred somewhat by the industrial areas that ring its urban core. “When this city was built there was no interstate, so now you drive through the middle of nowhere, and you don’t come in with a good impression,” he says. “There are junkyards, industrial buildings, and warehouses.”
Which gives the residents of Naples and Sarasota cause to look down their noses at Fort Myers. But it also gave Beck and Miner two good reasons to develop their book.
“First, we wanted to put something out that no one can argue with – something that’s a positive reflection on the city, and for those outside the area, to show some of the great qualities they’ve never seen,” he says. “And one thing Fort Myers doesn’t have is the proper coffee table book – it should have it, it needs it, and it’s something we could give back to the city.”
Within the book’s 196 pages are homes built in nearly every style prevalent from 1900 until today, including Craftsman, Italian Renaissance, Spanish Revival, Mediterranean and Midcentury Modern. “What I like about Fort Myers is that it’s an eclectic community,” he says. “We go back to early in the city’s history, up to some of the French-inspired manor homes completed in 2015.”
So, with the publication of “River & Road,” the residents of Fort Myers now have some snob appeal they can call their own.
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From River and Road: Fort Myers Architecture from Craftsman to Modern by Jared Beck and Pamela Miner. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017. Photograph by Andrew West.