Cape Coral Comes of Age — 47 Years Ago

From The News-Press:

In 1970, Cape Coral, now the largest city in Southwest Florida, was not even incorporated as a town, much less a city. In 1957, Jack and Leonard Rosen had purchased 103 square miles of land on the north bank of the Caloosahatchee, named the tract “Cape Coral,” and begun dredging canals to turn a wooded cattle range into a “Waterfront Wonderland.” They sold residential lots as fast as they could plat them, giving no thought to providing services of any kind for the homebuyers. It didn’t take long for the residents of Cape Coral to realize they were on their own.

1. Initially, Cape residents had not so much as a grocery to serve their basic needs. Without a bridge to Fort Myers, they were effectively marooned north of the river.

2. In 1964, Lee County threw them a lifeline, the Cape Coral Bridge. By then, the Cape had a shopping center with Elmer’s Supermarket, a beauty and a barber shop, a cleaners and clothing shops, etc., but the community was far from self-sustaining.

3. How long could they go on with only a community relations director for a government and a “security force” of one police car? They had a medical clinic with a doctor and a dentist, but what about emergency medical care and a fire department?

4. Obviously, they were not going to be able to depend upon Lee County, where they had no representation, anyway. So, who’s going to repair and maintain their roads? Who will regulate commercial vs. residential building? People began to grumble about being nothing but a bedroom community for Fort Myers.

5. By 1969, incorporation seemed urgent. In the past decade, the population had shot up from under 300 to over 11,000 people. They had a lot of realtors and builders, a growing number of fledgling businesses, and already a plethora of civic organizations and clubs, but their society lacked structure. Time to take charge. Time to build a city. Cape Coral incorporated in 1970, and a new chapter in its life began.