Cutting Original Coquina Limestone from Historic Fort Myers Beach Arches

June 14, 2023 Services

Bringing Back An Island Treasure

During the week of June 26th-30th John Robinson and his crew from Accu-Cut Concrete Services out of Clearwater will be in Buckingham at the home where the original 1924-1979 Fort Myers Beach Arch stone has been stored since 2019, to cut and prepare the stone. This is a significant milestone for our project and historic event in Fort Myers Beach history.

Built by Tom Phillips (one of the 1st developers in the Fort Myers Beach Area) in 1924 the Arches served as the entrance to a sales pavilion for his San Carlos on the Golf Development.  After, the 1926 hurricane washed away the original Matanzas Pass wooden bridge in 1924. The swing bridge was aligned to the Arches and Tom Phillips gave right of way to the Arches to planners for the construction of a shorter way to the beach via San Carlos Blvd.

The Arches were to be destroyed when the new sky bridge over the pass replaced the swing bridge in 1979.  Citizens, the FMB Jaycees, Lee County Commissioners and the bridge contractor agreed to relocate the Arches to a county park instead of destroying them. Nobody told the wrecking ball sub-contractor.

It was always an idea to rebuild the Arches. This was included in the first Town of Fort Myers Beach Comp plan. It never happened. Instead the Town commissioned a mural by local artist Jan Ellen Atkielski in town council chambers. This mural was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. There is a plan to have it repainted in the new Town Hall at some point.

The remains of the Arches were stored in a yard in Tip Top Isles for over 40 years. The grandson of Frank Hemelgarn (who first transported them after the Arches were destroyed), worked with our group so we could reuse them. Our group removed them from over burden, had them 3-D imaged by a USF Archeologist, and transported them to Buckingham.

The Coquina Limestone surfaces of the original arches that are aesthetically pleasing will be cut into 3 inch thick slabs using a wire saw and palleted awaiting our projects contract award by Lee County Parks sometime in the future. Where possible we will reuse the original stone and hundred year old concrete in the Commemorative Arch on Bowditch Point.  In some way our beloved Arches that stood for over a half century as the entrance to Fort Myers Beach will be back.  Our marketing strategy for the new Commemorative Arch includes this message: “Take a picture under the Arch, and you will return to Fort Myer Beach, just like the Arches did.”

In April of 2024 we hope the 4th Annual Rock The Arches Music Festival finishes our fundraising efforts started 6 years ago and our project can be funded 100% and turned over to Lee County.

Etched Brick Fundraiser

We have a fundraiser for people to donate an etched brick to the Commemorative Arch walkway. The name of a business, a family brick, and/or a loved one, are all good subject matter. It is a legacy in stone. It will be in front of tourists for a long time. The brick donations will help us fund the Arch construction. Get details here.

General Donations

As you consider the many worthy and charitable choices you might want to support, we hope YOU will also make a donation to HELP BUILD the “Gateway to Fort Myers Beach Commemorative Arch”. DONATE ONLINE HERE.