Lee County, located in Southwest Florida, has a rich and diverse history that dates back over 130 years. From its founding in 1887 to the present day, Lee County has experienced significant events that have shaped its identity and influenced its growth. This timeline highlights some of the major milestones in the county’s history:
May 13, 1887: Lee County is founded.
After gaining independence from Monroe County, Lee County is created by act of the legislature. The county’s first government is established, and plans for its future development are set in motion.
December 1915: Lee County Courthouse opens.
The Lee County Courthouse is built in downtown Fort Myers, becoming the center of government operations and symbolizing the county’s growing importance.
1924: Tamiami Trail Bridge is constructed.
The Tamiami Trail Bridge is built across the Caloosahatchee River, connecting Fort Myers to the east coast of Florida. The bridge stimulates growth in the area and boosts economic development.
1925: Spring training comes to Lee County.
Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics begin spring training at Terry Park, located in downtown Fort Myers. This event marks the beginning of Lee County’s association with Major League Baseball and the start of a longstanding tradition.
April 26, 1928: Tamiami Trail is opened.
The Tamiami Trail, a highway that stretches from Tampa to Miami, is officially opened. The 264-mile-long road provides a vital transportation link for Lee County and helps to connect the region to the rest of the state.
1955: Lehigh Acres is acquired.
Lee Ratner acquires 18,000 acres of land that would become Lehigh Acres. This new development provides housing and commercial opportunities, attracting new residents and businesses to the area.
May 26, 1963: Sanibel Causeway is opened.
The Sanibel Causeway is built, connecting the island of Sanibel to the mainland of Lee County. The causeway provides easy access to the island’s beaches, which become a popular tourist destination.
1996: Conservation 20/20 program is established.
The Conservation 20/20 program is created through a voter referendum, with the goal of conserving 20,000 acres of natural habitat by the year 2020. This initiative helps to protect the county’s natural resources and preserve its ecological diversity.
August 1997: FGCU holds its first classes.
After selecting the site for the college in 1992, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) holds its first classes in the fall of 1997. The university becomes a major educational institution in Lee County, providing opportunities for students and contributing to the area’s economic growth.
January 1, 1997: Lee County becomes a charter county.
Upon the approval of the voters in the election of 1996, Lee County becomes a charter county. This change in status gives the county greater autonomy and allows it to establish its own system of government.
In conclusion, Lee County’s history is rich and diverse, shaped by significant events and the contributions of its residents. From its founding to the present day, the county has undergone tremendous change and growth, reflecting the spirit of Southwest Florida. By honoring its past, celebrating its present, and exploring its future, Lee County can continue to thrive and remain a vital part of the region for years to come.