Restore FMB Arches
The past met the future in the “Restore The Arches” volunteer group on Saturday, January 12, in their quest to rebuild the historic stone archway that graced the entry to Fort Myers Beach for over a half century!
“Today we hoist the arch pieces that are in a large pile at the former subcontractor’s home at an undisclosed location,” Lawrence Cremia explained. “We hope to reassemble the remaining pieces, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, to see what individual ones remain, with the help of the University of South Florida (USF) History Department students who will accompany us.” “We are in reality raising the arches today for the first time in nearly 40 years,” added Jane Luchi enthusiastically! “Once we determine how much of the original stones remain, we will know what we need to bring the arches back to life!”
The USF students will take the information and conduct as a class project a 3D imaging process on Monday, January 21. “This will not only recreate the arches,” said Lawrence, “but they have historic photographs that show its actual location, including buildings that still exist today for comparison purposes, to determine its exact spot, so we can recreate everything to scale. As for the pieces we will examine today, we don’t actually know what is there, so the 3D imaging will determine that.”
Developer Tom Phillips built the stone arches in 1924 as the intended entrance to a housing subdivision that was never built. They remained until their 1979 demolition for construction of the Matanzas Pass Bridge. For several generations of islanders and visitors, they were the ultimate “Welcome” symbol, as the minute you passed through them, you knew you were on Fort Myers Beach. For decades, children, like Lawrence and Jane, climbed over them as a local ritual! Phillips assembled the arches with such durability that they survived The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 that dug the trench to form Hurricane Pass, creating San Carlos Island.
While they withstood the forces of nature, the arches could not survive man made wrath. The Matanzas Pass Bridge footprint was so large, to make it high enough for boats to sail underneath, that the arches were physically in the way and had to come down. “Restore The Arches” hopes to reconstruct them at San Carlos Boulevard and Main Street on San Carlos Island, near where the original ones stood, but the Florida Department of Transportation may install a new traffic signal there, precluding that spot. The restored arches cannot exactly duplicate the original, as they must be as tall as an Interstate bridge to accommodate modern truck traffic and as wide as the current San Carlos Boulevard.
Ride The Arches
While the USF students are donating their time, it will cost roughly $5,000 for the actual 3D imaging process. To defray this amount, “Restore The Arches” will host the “Ride The Arches” Poker Run for cars and motorcycles on Saturday, January 26. It begins and ends at Indian Creek Plaza at 17284 San Carlos Boulevard, at $20-per-rider and $15-per-passenger. “Registration is from 9 to 10 a.m., and the ride is from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.,” said Jane. “Once we return, there is an open-air party at the Plaza, in a real carnival-type atmosphere, with food trucks, music, 50/50 Raffle and a Silent Auction, with all the stores here offering assorted specials, so it will be super fun and the beginning of an annual event, even after we reconstruct the arches!”
The Poker Run will make stops at Bridgette’s Place, Shark Bar & Grill, Bonita Bill’s Waterfront Café, Lani Kai Island Resort, Castaway’s Bar & Grill, Gulf Coast Motorcycles and The Cigar Bar, where participants will each receive a poker card, and the person with the best hand at the end of the day splits the pot. Sponsors are Bridgette’s Place, Cornerstone Beach Resort Rentals, Gulf Coast Motorcycles, Love Boat Ice Cream, Oyster Bay RV Park, PierSide Grill & Famous Blowfish Bar and Red Coconut RV Park. If you can contribute Silent Auction items or make a monetary contribution, call 239-270-5137 or bring it that morning. For information, see www.restorethearches.com or find them on Facebook.
Lawrence said he feels that it is important to restore the FMB Arches “because when I look at other Florida beach towns, they all seem so modernized, having lost their roots. Recreating the arches will be like returning the soul of Fort Myers Beach.” Jane wants her grandchildren “to be able to have the same thrill of experiencing the arches, just like I did when I was a kid visiting my grandparents. This is important, to pass down from generation to generation, to be a part of history right here on Fort Myers Beach!”
By Gary Mooney