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Beautifying history
April 11, 2018

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A old piece of San Carlos Island history is getting a facelift.

The supporters of the Restore the Fort Myers Beach Arches group are undertaking a beautification project to rejuvenate the stone monument on Main Street on San Carlos Island.

The monument is a remnant from San Carlos on the Gulf, one of the island's first developments. It was built by Tom Phillips, who also built the canal on Crescent Street and installed the 1921 bridge for the nine property owners living on Fort Myers Beach.

"Tom Phillips... shaped the island to what it is today," said Steve "Ray" McDonald.

McDonald is spearheading the group, Restore the Arches, in a movement to reestablish the historic and once-iconic stone arches that spanned San Carlos Boulevard and provided a gateway onto Fort Myers Beach. The arches were built in 1924 - at the same time as the stone monument for Phillip's housing development.

The monument now sits on the edge of the LeeTran park and ride lot at the base of the bridge, and is largely neglected.

McDonald and the group has recruited the Future Farmers of America club from South Fort Myers High School to help beautify the old stones with native plantings and mulch. The two groups will be working on the project Thursday, April 19 beginning at 10:30 a.m., and anyone who'd like to help out is welcome, McDonald said.

Jasmine bushes and red vinca flowers will bring some color to the monument.

"The plants we've selected were plants people might recognize, the same kind as those planted in front of the arches," McDonald said.

There was also a eucalyptus tree at the arches, but it's not a native Florida plant, so instead they'll plant a fig tree.

The monument also has a crack the group hopes to have repaired professionally to keep the stone from crumbling.

A sign maker in Punta Gorda donated a placard for the group to install near the stone, which will explain its historic significance and give a brief history of Tom Phillips.

The beautification project is partly an awareness builder for the group's main goal: convincing Lee County and the Florida Department of Transportation to allow the arches to be rebuilt over the road.

On May 5, the group is hosting a fundraising music event: Rock the Arches. Three local artists will play from 4 to 9:30 p.m.at Bonita Bill's Waterfront Cafe, and raffles and prizes will help the group raise money to do a 3D modeling design of what the arches could look like today.

"We'll take that information and create some mark-ups," McDonald said. "This is going to be neat for us."

The arches stood watch over those entering and leaving Fort Myers Beach for 55 years. In 1979, the arches were torn down to make way for the Matanzas Pass Bridge and have since been missed by many.

The monument is in need of TLC, and the group is more than happy to oblige.

"It was some of Fort Myers Beach's earliest history," McDonald said.

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