River_and_Road_RGB.jpg“A fascinating tour of the historic neighborhoods along McGregor Boulevard, blending local history and documenting Fort Myers’s architectural legacy with lavish photographs.”—Gerri Reaves, author of Legendary Locals of Fort Myers

“With its striking photographs and engaging stories of past and contemporary characters, this book captures the architectural and historical significance of houses in Fort Myers.”—Linda Stevenson, principal architect, Stevenson Architects, Inc.

“Covers a unique historical precedent by using architecture as snapshots of time during Fort Myers’s growth and development to show how it has become the dynamic and successful city it is today.”—Guy W. Peterson, FAIA

River and Road is a visual and narrative history of the architectural evolution and urban development of Southwest Florida as shown in Fort Myers, Florida. A top tourist destination to this day, the Gulf Coast city has been home to the winter estates of the rich and famous, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and oil tycoon Ambrose McGregor. The city’s famed McGregor Boulevard continues to draw visitors with its eclectic blend of houses and unique histories dating back to the nineteenth century.

As the twentieth century dawned, the reputation of Fort Myers as a haven for health cures, business opportunities, and tarpon fishing lured adventurers and opportunists. Hundreds of attractive homes of varied styles were designed for millionaires and magnates during the boom of the Roaring Twenties and beyond, and today houses representing every significant architectural period—including the Spanish, Mediterranean, Italian Renaissance, Greek, and Colonial Revivals—line the roadway along the Caloosahatchee River.

Jared Beck and Pamela Miner share stories about the creators and owners of these one-of-a-kind properties, accompanied by striking photographs. Historic places have been carefully preserved and creatively renovated according to the visions of their owners, and modern designers have been drawn to the neighborhood to build masterpieces of their own. These dream homes showcase the work of nationally renowned and local architects, including Henry Van Ryn, Gerrit de Gelleke, Nat Gaillard Walker, William Frizzell, Robert Matts, Bruce Gora, Kathryn Kelly, and Jeff Mudgett.

With privileged access into many of the private residences, Beck and Miner unveil the historically and culturally vibrant neighborhoods at the heart of Fort Myer’s past and present.

Miner_AuthorPhoto
Pamela Miner
Beck_AuthorPhoto
Jared Beck

Jared Beck is an urban planner with a focused background including urban redevelopment, historic preservation, and community development. Pamela Miner is a historian with experience in historic preservation, museums, and education and is the former curator of collections and interpretation for the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.

In this interview, Jared Beck and Pamela Miner tell us about their new book and the architecture of Fort Myers. 
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Why did you decide to tell the cultural heritage of Fort Myers through homes and architecture?

JB: To give insight into the vision and dedication of those who built South Florida, its communities, and its homes, which are endlessly fascinating. Fort Myers has a rich heritage of residents, tales, and roles in the development of South Florida that have never been so uniquely displayed.
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PM: These are tangible elements which directly reflect cultural heritage.
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Did you learn anything surprising about Fort Myers history while doing research for this book?

JB: The national appeal that Fort Myers had with early 19th century business magnates is largely unknown within the region.
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PM: It solidified the experiences of the 1920s boom and bust period. Fort
Myers is as good an example as any across the country.
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JB: The interconnected bonds between those who built the community and
their spirit of togetherness and vision of the future town is much deeper than
generally understood.
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PM: Yes, the connections of the people, both past and present, who live in the
river and road area were surprising, as was how the owners truly love their
homes and neighborhoods. They would be hard-pressed to live anywhere
else in the Fort Myers area.
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You share with readers never before published views of Fort Myers homes, the owners’ lives, and the stories they have to share. What was it like being granted access to these historic sights?

PM: It was genuinely an honor and a privilege. The experience of being led
through the homes and outdoor spaces was awe-inspiring. Seeing individual
details, furnishings, personal treasures, and everything else come together to
create homes for family and friends was an amazing journey.
.
JB: It was an inspiring peak into the treasure chest of Southwest Florida
history.
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Jared, you’re an urban planner and community planner, while Pam, you’re a historian, educator, and museum professional. How did your different backgrounds contribute to the development of this book?

PM: As a historian with a master’s degree in historic preservation, I have
studied architecture, material culture, and what they tell us about lifeways.
My passion is to research ways to interpret homes and educate others about
them and the “stuff” within them.
.
My museum experience, especially with historic sites, helps me to share the
value of historic homes. A home does not need to have been lived in by
someone famous to tell a significant story. Fort Myers is lucky to have the
Edison and Ford Estates as anchors to an area filled with historic homes. Once
visitors leave the Estates, I hope they take the time to explore the surrounding
neighborhoods.
.
JB: My background in design and development lets me easily interpret various building styles and the functional design intent based on the era. As urban design today is based on centuries-old principles while incorporating elements
developed over the decades, I understand how development periods link to
previous national trends in those periods.
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Did you find yourself attracted to any specific architectural style or house while writing your book?

PM: I previously owned a 1930s Craftsman Bungalow, and I still have a soft
heart for that style. But, the Mid-Century Modern has grown on me. Jeff
Mudgett’s new creation is a gorgeous home.
.
JB: I believe that regardless of the style, homes are meant to be adapted to
our own personalities and liking. The homes in River and Road reflect both an
architectural period and the taste infused by the owners. I generally like all of
them, but if I had to pick, the Van Tyne and the Shadow Lane houses are my
favorites.
.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?

PM: I hope they’ll see that Fort Myers has many stories to share that most
people mistakenly believe are only textbook lessons. Life happens around us,
influencing our everyday experiences. Take the time to have a Sunday walk
or drive around Fort Myers and beyond to see. Be inspired to live in historic
neighborhoods and to save older homes.
.
JB: I hope people will have a greater appreciation for the dedication those
before us made to develop our community with far less convenience than we
have today.
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How did you manage such amazing photographs?

PM: Photographer Andrew West’s eye and talent made the homes come alive
more than only words could have ever done.

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