|Founded May 13, 1887|
Largest city Cape Coral
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Area 3,139 km²
Unemployment rate 4.8% (Apr 2015)
|Named for Robert E. Lee|
Congressional districts 17th, 19th
Population 661,115 (2013)
County seat Fort Myers
|Destinations Fort Myers, Sanibel, Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach|
Colleges and Universities Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida SouthWestern State Coll, Lee County High Tech Center C, Lee County High Tech Center N, Florida Academy
Points of interest Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Captiva Island, Lakes Regional Park, Imaginarium Hands‑On Museum, Koreshan State Historic S
Lee County is a county in the State of Florida. As of the 2010 census, the population was 618,754. The county seat is Fort Myers, and the largest city is Cape Coral.
- Map of Lee County, FL, USA
- Adjacent counties
- National protected areas
- 2010 Census
- Seaports and marine transport
- Major road bridges
- Mass transportation
- MLB spring training
- Other unincorporated communities
Map of Lee County, FL, USA
Lee County comprises the Cape Coral–Fort Myers, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Lee County was created in 1887 from Monroe County. It was named for Robert E. Lee, Confederate general in the American Civil War.
Incorporated in 1886, Fort Myers is the center of a popular tourist area in Southwest Florida and the seat of Lee County. It is about 120 miles (190 km) south of Tampa at the meeting point of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caloosahatchee River. Fort Myers was the frequent winter home of Thomas Edison, as well as Henry Ford. Lee County has been the host to several Major League Baseball teams for Spring Training, over the past several decades. Currently, it is the spring home of the Boston Red Sox, as well as the Minnesota Twins.
Fort Myers, built in 1850 as a military fort to fend off Seminole Indians, was named after Col. Abraham C. Myers, who was stationed in Florida for seven years and was the son-in-law of the fort’s establisher and commander. In 1858, after years of elusive battle, chief Billy Bowlegs and his warriors were persuaded to surrender and move west, and the fort was abandoned. Billy’s Creek, which flows into the Caloosahatchee River, was named after a temporary camp where Billy Bowlegs and his men awaited ships to take them west.
In 1863, the fort was reoccupied by Federal troops during the Civil War. In 1865 the fort was attacked unsuccessfully by a small group of Confederates. After the war, the fort was again deserted.
The first settlers arrived in 1866, but it was not until 1882 when the city experienced a significant influx of settlers. By 1885, when Fort Myers was incorporated, it was the second largest city only to Tampa on Florida’s west coast south of Cedar Key, even larger than Clearwater and Sarasota, also growing cities at the time.
Fort Myers first became a nationally known winter resort with the building of The Royal Palm Hotel in 1898. But what really sparked the city’s growth was the construction of the Tamiami Trail Bridge built across the Caloosahatchee River in 1924. After the bridge’s construction, the city experienced its first real estate boom and many subdivisions sprouted around the city.
In the 1870s, Tervio Padilla, a wealthy merchant from the Canary Islands, came by way of Key West to Cayo Costa and established trade with natives and “ranchos” that extended northward to Charlotte Harbor. His ships often made port at Cayo Costa at the entrance to the harbor. Enchanted by the tropical island, he eventually decided to settle there. Padilla prospered until the outbreak of the Spanish–American War when his fleet was burned and scuttled. He then turned to another means of livelihood – fishing. When the government claimed his land he was disinclined to set up another ranch so moved with his wife further down the island and as before, simply homesteaded . The Padilla family is one of the first pioneer families of Lee County and many still reside within the county mainly around the Pine Island area.
In 1923, Collier and Hendry Counties were created by splitting these areas from Lee County.
On August 13, 2004, the county was struck by Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 storm, particularly on the northwestern islands of Captiva, Gasparilla and North Captiva.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,212 square miles (3,140 km2), of which 785 square miles (2,030 km2) is land and 428 square miles (1,110 km2) (35.3%) is water. Rivers and streams include the Caloosahatchee River, the Imperial River, the Estero River, Hendry Creek, and Orange River.
Lee County is on the southwest coast of Florida. It is approximately 125 miles (201 km) south of Tampa and 115 miles (185 km) west of Fort Lauderdale via Interstate 75; and approximately 125 miles (201 km) west-northwest of Miami via U.S. Highway 41.
National protected areas
Lee County has a year-round warm, monsoon-influenced climate that is close to the boundary between tropical and subtropical climates (18 °C (64 °F) in the coldest month), and is thus either classified as a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), which is the classification used by NOAA, or a tropical savanna climate (Köppen Aw). Lee County has short, warm winters, and long, hot, humid summers, with most of the year's rainfall falling from June to September. The temperature rarely rises to 100 °F (38 °C) or lowers to the freezing mark. At 89, Lee County leads the nation in the number of days annually in which a thunderstorm is close enough for thunder to be heard. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 64.2 °F (17.9 °C) in January to 83.4 °F (28.6 °C) in August, with the annual mean being 75.1 °F (23.9 °C). Records range from 24 °F (−4 °C) on December 29, 1894 up to 103 °F (39 °C) on June 16–17, 1981.
U.S. Census Bureau 2010 Ethnic/Race Demographics:
In 2010, 11.1% of the population considered themselves to be of only "American" ancestry (regardless of race or ethnicity.)
There were 259,818 households out of which 22.35% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.97% were married couples living together, 10.26% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.17% were non-families. 26.69% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.70% (4.15% male and 8.55% female) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the county, the population was spread out with 19.5% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 22.0% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 23.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45.6 years. For every 100 females there were 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.4 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $50,014, and the median income for a family was $58,950. Males had a median income of $41,619 versus $33,054 for females. The per capita income for the county was $29,445. About 7.8% of families and 12.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.7% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those aged 65 or over.
In 2010, 15.3% of the county's population was foreign born, with 36.9% being naturalized American citizens. Of foreign-born residents, 70.6% were born in Latin America, 14.9% were born in Europe, 8.3% born in Asia, 5.4% in North America, 0.7% born in Africa, and 0.2% were born in Oceania.
As of 2010, 78.99% of all residents spoke English as their first language, while 15.19% spoke Spanish, 1.28% French Creole (mostly Haitian Creole,) 0.88% German, 0.59% Portuguese, and 0.55% of the population spoke French as their mother language. In total, 21.01% of the population spoke languages other than English as their primary language.
There are multiple colleges in Lee County. They include: Florida Gulf Coast University, Barry University, Nova Southeastern University, Florida SouthWestern State College, Cape Coral Technical College, Fort Myers Technical College Hodges University, ITT Technical Institute, Keiser University, Southern Technical College and Rasmussen College.
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is a public university located just south of the Southwest Florida International Airport in South Fort Myers. The university belongs to the 12-campus State University System of Florida. FGCU competes in the Atlantic Sun Conference in NCAA Division I sports. FGCU is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate's, 51 different types of bachelor's, 29 different master's, and 6 types of doctoral degrees.
The Lee County Library System has 13 branches. The town of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, though located in Lee County, maintain their own independent public library entities.
The Lee County Library System was established September 23, 1964, though the first library located in the county was built in 1909 in Alva, Florida. The first library in Fort Myers' was founded thanks to the help of Olive Stout, who also helped run the Fort Myers News Press for 27 years. As of September 2014, the library system turned 50 years old.
The Lakes Regional Branch was erected in 2005 and is currently one of the largest locations of any library in Fort Myers at 50,000 square feet. In December 13, 2013, the most current location of the Library System was built. Fort Myers Regional Library in Downtown was originally built June 18, 1979. The building was relocated in the same area and rebuilt.
The Lee County Library System currently provides more than 294,000 Lee County residents with over 1.5 million items and materials available for use or patron circulation, as well as an online library materials catalog, free wi-fi, public computer access, scan and print capabilities, and many more patron amenities. All library locations and events are open to the public, but in order to qualify for full patron privileges one must live in Lee County for more than 6 months out of the year or own property, own a business, be employed, or be a student in Lee County. Individuals may also become a member of a Lee County Library through the reciprocal borrowing program, as long as they live in a participating county.
The SWFLN (Southwest Florida Library Network) Reciprocal Borrowing Program allows residents of participating southwest Florida counties to register for a free library card and have access to LCLS materials, computers, and online library. The only amenities reciprocal borrowers do not have access to is interlibrary loan materials and remote ability for online resource databases.
The area is represented in the United States House of Representatives by Francis Rooney, 19th district, and by Tom Rooney, 17th district.
Seaports and marine transport
A small port operation continues in Boca Grande, being used as a way-point for oil distribution. However, Port Boca Grande has been in decline for many years as the shipping industry has moved north, especially to the Port of Tampa.
In addition, a private enterprise operates a high-speed passenger-only ferry service between Fort Myers Beach From San Carlos Island and Key West. Another ferry service is offered from Fort Myers to Key West
Major road bridges
Fixed-route bus service is provided by the Lee County Transit Department, operated as "LeeTran". Several routes extend outward from the Downtown Intermodal Transfer Center; in addition, suburb-to-suburb routes are operated, as well as park-and-ride service to and from both Fort Myers Beach and Southwest Florida International Airport.
The Downtown Intermodal Transfer Center in Fort Myers also serves as an intermediate stop on Greyhound Lines bus service.
Newspapers include The News-Press, Florida Weekly and Naples Daily News.
Arbitron standard radio market: Ft Myers-Naples-Marco Island. With an Arbitron-assigned 783,100 listening area population, the metropolitan area ranks 62/299 for the fall of 2006. The metropolitan area is home to 32 radio stations.
Nielsen Media Research designated market area: Ft. Myers-Naples.
Number of TV homes: 479,130
2006–2007 U.S. rank: 64/210
Fort Myers is home to Florida Gulf Coast University. Its teams, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, play in NCAA Division I in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Eagles' men's basketball team had an average attendance of 2,291 in 2013.
MLB spring training
The Boston Red Sox hold their annual spring training at JetBlue Park in the Fort Myers area. A cross-town rivalry has developed with the Minnesota Twins, who conduct their spring training at Hammond Stadium in south Lee County, which has a capacity of 7,500 and opened in 1991.
The Red Sox' lease with Fort Myers runs through 2019, but the Red Sox were considering exercising the early out in their contract that would have allowed them to leave following the 2009 spring season. On October 28, 2008, the Lee County commission voted 3–1 to approve an agreement with the Boston Red Sox to build a new spring-training facility for the team in south Lee County. The new stadium, named JetBlue Park at Fenway South, is located off Daniels Parkway near Southwest Florida International Airport. The stadium opened in time for the 2012 Spring training season.
City of Palms Park had been built in 1992 for the Red Sox' spring training. Former Red Sox left fielder Mike Greenwell is from Fort Myers, and was instrumental in bringing his team to the city for spring training. The deal for JetBlue Park left City of Palms Park without a tenant. County officials have discussed the possibility of securing another team for City of Palms. Terry Park Ballfield (also known as the Park T. Pigott Memorial Stadium) in East Fort Myers is also not currently in use by a Major League Baseball team, though it is the former home of the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.