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Gardner's Park is the new Garden Art's District in Downtown Fort Myers!     Original settlers of our beautiful city found this area appealing for many wonderful reasons. It is now home to some of the area's most amazing venues. 


History:

Reverend William P. Gardner and his family arrived in Fort Myers in 1885, one year prior to its incorporation as a city in March 1886. The population of the emerging city was only 332 residents. William was a Methodist Minster and he preformed many marriage in Ft. Myers.


The Gardner family purchased twenty-four acres in the heart of the community in an area presently bounded by Fowler St and Evans Ave. where they established a fruit farm on the land specializing in guava production. Soon thereafter they established the Seminole Canning Company to can guavas and produce fruit conserves, jellies and marmalades.


To provide a cemetery for the public William served on the Fort Myers Cemetery Company that organized the cemetery in which he is buried. The Fort Myers Cemetery Company was organized in 1886 by Capt. F. A. Hendry, W. P. Gardner, W. Hendry, T. E. Langford and J. J. Blount. A, forty-acre tract at the present location was purchased from Major James Evans for $50 and town residents began making burials there.

Stores, Attractions & Accoutrements

Reverend Gardner branched out from business to politics and became the second Mayor of Fort Myers. The city of Key West was hard hit by an epidemic of yellow fever in May, 1887. Hundreds of persons were stricken by the dread disease and many died. In Fort Myers, Acting Mayor W. P. Gardner issued a message of reassurance. "Yellow Jack is a disease that feeds on and revels in filth," he declared, "and since our town is noted for cleanliness and perfect drainage, the scourge· cannot find a lodgment here. Our quarantine regulations. are strict and are being rigidly enforced and we think we have no reason to fear. Keep a brave heart, Jive frugally, and guard your person and premises, and all will be well."


Born in Cleveland, in 1858, Gardner came to Fort Myers in 1888 with his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. William P. Gardner, and his sister, Miranda M. Gardner. The father was a minister and horticulturist and established the first nursery in Fort Myers, importing from New Orleans and Cuba a large stock of orange trees, loquats, Japanese persimmons; tangerines, mangerines, satsumas and many new varieties of roses and other ornamental stock. Becoming one of the town's best boosters, he contributed $600 to induce Stafford C. Cleveland to set up his printing plant in Fort Myers and thereby provide the town with its first newspaper.


In 1888, the Gardners -father, son and daughter-started the Seminole Canning Company. They bought guavas at 25 to 40 cents a bushel and hired people to make them into jellies and preserves. Through 145 aggressive salesmanship they succeeded in selling large quantities of their products to hotels, railroads and wholesale grocers throughout the state. Their concern became one of the town's most flourishing enterprises. It provided a market for all the guavas grown in the locality and at times employed more than fifty persons. Bertie Gardner managed the concern.


Reverend Gardner performed many marriages in their house which stood where the Presbyterian Church is now. The citizens of Fort Myers were among the first in the entire nation to witness the miracle of lights being lit by that mysterious phenomenon known as electricity. That history making event occurred Saturday night, March 27, 1887, when lights were turned on for the first time at Seminole Lodge, the winter home of Thomas A. Edison. At that time the citizens of Fort Myers confidently expected that Edison would provide street lights for the town within another year. But the electrical wizard was unable to return to Fort Myers the following winter, even though he continued to maintain his winter home, and nothing came from the street lighting proposal. But the thought of supplying Fort Myers with electricity kept simmering in the mind of one of the town's most progressive and energetic citizens, Albertus A. Gardner, known to everyone as Bertie Gardner, For many years Gardner mulled over the idea of setting up an electric light plant in conjunction with the canning company.


On October 9, 1897 Gardner was granted a franchise from Fort Myers to provide electric for downtown lighting. It was to last for five years and the councilmen agreed to pay $300 a year for ten 32-candlepower incandescent street lights. Gardner ordered a forty-horsepower boiler and a 500-light dynamo and; when they arrived, installed them in a section of the canning factory.  The lights were turned on in the city at dusk Saturday, January 1, 1898. Reported the Press: "A soft, bright light suddenly appeared in all houses and stores connected with the electric light plant and for the first time electricity was used as a lighting power by the general public in Lee County."


The next day his Father William P Gardner passed away on Jan. 2, 1898 but was able to see the lights on in Fort Myers. Gardner was so encouraged he ordered another 50-horsepower boiler and 640-watt dynamo. The first ten street lights paid for by the town were installed along First Street from the hotel down to the Fort Myers Inn at Citrus. Now, for the first time, people could walk along the town's main thoroughfare after dark without carrying lanterns .


The Gardner family continued to advance the infrastructure of the city with improved fire prevention and municipal water supply systems. Birty's sister Minnie Gardner was one of the first club women in Lee County, she was interested in education and was said to have had wonderful curative powers. She was an active member of the Eastern Star, Pythian Sisters and other clubs. She was a talented artist and musician. In the Fort Myers News paper, the weekly weather report was done by M.M. Gardner.

The necessary machinery for ice was brought to town by the same man who gave Fort Myers its first electric lights, Albertus A. Gardner. The equipment cost
$5,500 and was installed by Gustav Widerquist at the plant of the Seminole Canning Company. The first ice was sold on Wednesday, May 22, 1901. Delivered, it cost a cent a pound; at the factory it was sold for fifty cents a hundred pounds. After the ice plant went into operation Gardner stated that he had invested $18,000 altogether in the canning factory, electric light plant and the ice plant. And he also announced that the official name of the company was the Seminole Power & Ice Company.


Gardner went on to build the third "skyscraper" completed in 1924-the four-story "Pythian" Building on Hendry Street now known as the Richards Building. The structure, which cost $150,000, was erected to serve primarily as a home for Royal Palm Lodge No. 12, Knights of Pythias, in which Gardner had long been active. Gardner was undoubtedly one of the foremost developers of Fort Myers. Albertus "Bertie" A. Gardner died in the Tampa Hospital October 24, 1941 at the age of 83.

Beginning in the early 19th century, the area was platted in city block structure and began developing with single family homes. Elegant multi-story mansions, such as the Murphy- Burroughs Home and Heitman House, lined the riverfront and more modest cottages and "catalog homes" sprung up along Hough St., Third St., and Fourth St.


Today, the neighborhood is characterized as a primarily residential area of modest, cottage-type housing, limited office and commercial uses, and a small industrial/warehouse area. More recently, artisans and small business entrepreneurs have been moving into the area, occupying some of the warehouses and older The conversion of Fowler Street and Evans Avenue (both State roads) into three-lane one-way vehicular roadways isolated Gardner's Park and neighborhoods further east from downtown Fort Myers.


While the community desires independence in their identity and branding, they understand the importance of re-establishing a physical connection to the Downtown River District that will support their revitalization efforts. The community is experiencing a growing interest in protecting its unique character while enhancing opportunities for local merchants to establish successful small businesses. Working with the community, the Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency identified funding to assist the community in preparing a redevelopment plan that would respond to the desires of the community and initiate a redevelopment effort that would identify opportunities to address declining conditions such as property vacancies, industrial use challenges, street pattern, pedestrian connections and beautification.