Woman’s Club Gains Historic Recognition

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Historic Preservation Board

 At their Tuesday, February 12, 2019 meeting the Town’s Historic Preservation Board unanimously approved the Fort Myers Woman’s Club building for CHI2 Historic Recognition. That is the level assigned to buildings or resources that “meet the highest criteria of importance to the cultural, religious, educational, commercial and tourism, historical development and/or archeological resources of the town.”

The wood bungalow, located at 175 Sterling Avenue, Fort Myers Beach, was designed and built as a two-room schoolhouse in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) on land donated by M. R. Pence. The frame bungalow served as the second Beach School from 1938-1948 and then as a Community Center. In 1950 the FMB Woman’s Club was formed, utilizing the Community Center for its activities and in 1964, they purchased the building from the Lee School Board for $12,000. Over its lifetime, in addition to serving as the Beach School for ten years, the historic building has been a hub of civic engagement, from World War II green stamp fundraisers to weekly teen dances in the 1950’s to serving as the social hub of the Island community.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach will provide the FMB Woman’s Club  a plaque noting the building’s Historic Recognition.

Lynn Hall Dune Walkovers

The Historic Preservation Board also functions as the Local Planning Agency. At the Tuesday meeting, the LPA approved variances for width and elevation for four planned dune walkovers in Lynn Hall Park. Lee County is planning to reconstruct the dune at the park, making it wider, but not higher, which will require elevated dune walkovers, which must be ADA compliant. At present the walkways are cut into the dunes at ground level. The Town’s Land Development Code limits dune walkovers to a width of 6 feet and requires that they be 2 feet above the dune. The proposed walkovers are all over 6 feet wide and are elevated just enough to clear the dunes.

Flag raising at the second Beach School. The building would later become a community Center and the FMB Woman’s Club. Photo courtesy of the Estero Island Historic Society.

Mark Kincaid, representing the county, explained the situation as a “catch-22. If we raised it higher, we wouldn’t get permission from the DEP.” The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) limits the length of the ramp into the Environmentally Critical (EC) zone on the beach side. If the walkovers were raised to the Town’s required 2 feet over the dune height, the walkover ramp would need to extend an additional 24 feet into the EC. The extra width is required for heavy beach traffic to and from the beach. The planned walkovers have widths of 6 feet 6 inches to 10 feet 6 inches. The walkway at the far west portion of the park will be constructed to provide beach access for vehicles. The county also plans to replace some dune vegetation and add a bit more, but not so much as to limit beachgoers space on the sand, Kincaid said.

When asked about timing on the construction of the new walkovers Kincaid said that if the Town approves the variances and special exception approved by the LPA last month for the walkovers, the county hopes to begin construction right after season.

The next Local Planning Agency and Historic Preservation Board meeting will be Tuesday, March 12 at 9am at Town Hall.