|Founded||May 13, 1887|
|Named for||Robert E. Lee|
|Largest city||Cape Coral|
|• Total||1,212 sq mi (3,140 km2)|
|• Land||785 sq mi (2,030 km2)|
|• Water||428 sq mi (1,110 km2) 35.3%%|
|• Density||969.2/sq mi (374.2/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
|Congressional districts||17th, 19th|
Lee County is located in Southwest Florida on the Gulf Coast. As of the 2020 census, the population was 760,822. The county seat is Fort Myers (with a 2018 estimated population of 82,254), and the largest city is Cape Coral with an estimated 2020 population of 194,000. Lee County comprises the Cape Coral–Fort Myers, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Lee County was created in 1887 from Monroe County. Today, 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. Currently, Lee County is the spring home of the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins MLB teams for spring training.
The area that is now Lee County has several archaeological sites that show evidence of habitation by peoples belonging to the Caloosahatchee culture (500 A.D. to 1750 A.D.). By the time of European contact, the area was more specifically occupied by the Calusa.
After European contact, fishermen from Cuba and other Spanish colonies set up fishing camps, known as "ranchos," on the southern portion of the Gulf Coast of Florida. These ranchos extended from Charlotte Harbor (estuary) down to San Carlos Bay and the mouth of the Caloosahatchee. These ranchos, likely established in the latter parts of the 1600's, were precursors to the larger European settlements that would be established in the following centuries.
As the 18th century came to an end, the Calusa who had once inhabited the area were replaced with the Seminole. In particular, in 1799, an Indian agent noted the existence of a Seminole town on the "Cull-oo-saw-hat-che" or Caloosahatchee River.
After Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, a number of settlers moved into Florida, causing conflict with the local Seminole Indians. Fort Myers was built in 1850 as a military fort to fend off Seminole Indians during the Seminole Wars. The fort 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, in the Battle of Fort Myers, the fort was attacked by a small group of Confederates. The Union's garrison, led by Captain James Doyle, successfully held the fort and the Confederate forces retreated. After the war, the fort was again deserted. The fort was later disassembled and some of its wood was used to build parts of downtown Fort Myers.
During the Civil War, Fort Myers was occupied by federal troops with the intention of disrupting the Confederate cattle supply from Florida. In February 1865, it was the site of the Battle of Fort Myers. The first settlers in Fort Myers arrived in 1866. 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 1882, the city experienced a significant influx of settlers. In 1885, when Fort Myers was incorporated, its population of 349 residents made it 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.
Lee County was created in 1887 from Monroe County, with Fort Myers serving as the county seat. It was named for Robert E. Lee, Confederate general in the American Civil War.
Fort Myers first became a nationally known winter resort with the opening of the Royal Palm Hotel in 1898, built by New York City department store magnate Hugh O'Neill. Fort Myers was the frequent winter home of Thomas Edison, as well as Henry Ford.
In 1911, Fort Myers was incorporated as a city. In 1923, Collier and Hendry Counties were created by splitting these areas from Lee County. Construction of the Tamiami Trail Bridge, built across the Caloosahatchee River in 1924, sparked the city's growth. After the bridge's construction, the city experienced its first real estate boom and many subdivisions sprouted around the city. In 1927, a property purchased by the City of Fort Myers was turned into an airport eventually called Page Field.
During WWII, Page Field served as an advanced fighter training base and home to the several bomber groups. Following the war, a small terminal was built in the mid-1950's as the airport transitioned to commercial use. Another airfield was constructed in 1942 called Buckingham Army Airfield. The base was closed down in 1945, after which the barracks served as classrooms for Edison College until 1948.
Following the end of World War II, the Royal Palm Hotel was closed permanently, and in 1947, the hotel on the corner of First and Fowler was torn down.
Lee County has been the host to several Major League Baseball teams for spring training over the past several decades. The county received a boost in 1983 when Southwest Florida Regional Airport (now known as Southwest Florida International Airport) opened.
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 about 125 miles (201 km) south of Tampa, 115 miles (185 km) west of Fort Lauderdale via Interstate 75, and roughly 125 miles (201 km) west-northwest of Miami via U.S. Highway 41.
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), thus is 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 occurring 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.
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. On September 10, 2017, Lee County was struck by Hurricane Irma as a Category 2 storm.
|Climate data for Fort Myers, Florida (Page Field), 1981–2010 normals|
|Record high °F (°C)||90
|Average high °F (°C)||74.7
|Average low °F (°C)||53.7
|Record low °F (°C)||27
|Average rainfall inches (mm)||1.89
|Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 in)||5.5||5.2||6.2||4.2||6.8||16.0||17.6||17.9||15.4||6.8||4.4||4.5||110.5|
|Source: NOAA (extremes 1892–present)|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
|Race||Pop 2010||Pop 2020||% 2010||% 2020|
|Black or African American (NH)||47,751||55,958||7.72%||7.35%|
|Native American or Alaska Native (NH)||1,292||1,228||0.21%||0.16%|
|Pacific Islander (NH)||197||244||0.03%||0.03%|
|Some Other Race (NH)||1,581||3,974||0.26%||0.52%|
|Hispanic or Latino||113,308||173,161||18.31%||22.76%|
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 750,822 people, 288,916 households, and 187,877 families residing in the county. 4.6% of that population was under the age of 5 years old, 17.3% was under 18 years old, and 29.2% was 65 years or older. 51.0% was female.
The median household income was $59,608 with a per capita income of $34,818. 10.5% of population below the poverty threshold. The median value of owner-occupied housing-units between 2016-2020 was $235,300 and the median gross rent was $1,225. 94.2$ of the households had a computer and 87.2% of households had a broadband internet subscription.
89.3% of the population that was 25 years or older were High school graduates and 28.5% of those 25 years or older had a Bachelor's degree or higher.
As of 2010, 78.99% of residents spoke English as their first language, and 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 main language. In total, 21.01% of the population spoke languages other than English as their primary language.
Lee County's stronger economic sectors include construction, retail, leisure, and hospitality. Hertz moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Estero in 2016, the first major corporation to relocate to Lee County. The largest employers in Lee County as of 2019 are:
|2||Lee County School District||12,936|
|3||Lee County government||9,038|
|5||Florida Gulf Coast University||3,430|
|7||City of Cape Coral||2,253|
|10||Florida SouthWestern State College||1,441|
Main article: School District of Lee County (Florida)
The several colleges in Lee County include: Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), Barry University, Nova Southeastern University, Florida SouthWestern State College, Cape Coral Technical College, Fort Myers Technical College, Hodges University, Keiser University, Southern Technical College, and Rasmussen College.
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 ASUN Conference in NCAA Division I sports. The school 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 six types of doctoral degrees.
One of the main tourist attractions in Southwest Florida are its beaches. Lee County is home to ten beach parks and an additional seven beach accesses, maintained by Lee County Parks & Recreation.
Main article: Lee County Library System (Florida)
The Lee County Library System has 13 branches. The towns of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island, though located in Lee County, maintain their own independent public library entities.
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.
Lee County is represented in the United States House of Representatives by Byron Donalds of the 19th district and by Greg Steube of the 17th district. Unlike most urban counties, Lee County is a Republican stronghold in presidential elections. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win the county was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944.
As of March 31, 2022.
|Voter registration and party membership|
|Party||Number of voters||Percentage|
|No Party Affiliation||148,725||29.5%|
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
|Interstate 75||The county's only fully controlled-access freeway, and has 10 interchanges within Lee County, linking the area to Naples, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami to the south and east; and Sarasota and Tampa to the north. The freeway is at least six lanes throughout Lee County and is up to eight lanes in some areas.|
|U.S. Route 41
|US 41 runs the length of Lee County, and is the county's main north–south arterial highway. It is a major commercial corridor, running as an elevated highway through the center of downtown Fort Myers, continuing south as a multilane, divided-surface highway through the communities of South Fort Myers, San Carlos Park, Estero, and Bonita Springs. From north-to-south, the highway's name starts as "North Tamiami Trail", changes to "Cleveland Avenue" from the Caloosahatchee River to State Road 884 (Colonial Boulevard) in the City of Fort Myers; then it is called "South Cleveland Avenue" from Colonial Boulevard to County Road 876 (Daniels Parkway), and then changes to South Tamiami Trail until the border with Collier County.|
|State Road 80
Palm Beach Boulevard
|SR 80's western terminus is in downtown Fort Myers. The multilane highway runs east-northeast along the southern banks of the Caloosahatchee River as "Palm Beach Boulevard" within the county, traversing the state of Florida to connect the area with LaBelle, Clewiston, and West Palm Beach.|
|State Road 82
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
|SR 82's western terminus is in downtown Fort Myers. The highway is called "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard" within the incorporated limits of the City of Fort Myers, becoming "Immokalee Road" as it passes through Lehigh Acres and connects the area to Immokalee.|
|State Road 884
Veterans Memorial Parkway
|SR 884 is Lee County's main east–west arterial highway. Its western terminus is in the incorporated limits of the City of Cape Coral and the eastern terminus is in Lehigh Acres. Within Cape Coral, the highway is named "Veterans' Memorial Parkway", and is a multilane, controlled-access highway. Within Fort Myers, it is named "Colonial Boulevard". The road crosses the Caloosahatchee River as an elevated highway across a toll bridge, interchanging with U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 75, then becomes a multilane, divided-surface highway through Lehigh Acres. After it intersects with State Road 82, it is called "Lee Boulevard".|
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 and Florida Weekly.
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
|Florida Everblades||Ice hockey||ECHL||Mid-level||Hertz Arena, Estero (7,181)|
|Fort Myers Mighty Mussels||Baseball||Florida State League||Class A||Hammond Stadium, S. Fort Myers (7,500)|
|Boston Red Sox||Baseball||Major League Baseball||Spring training||JetBlue Park at Fenway South, Fort Myers (11,000)|
|Minnesota Twins||Baseball||Major League Baseball||Spring training||Hammond Stadium, S. Fort Myers (7,500)|
|Florida Gulf Coast Eagles||Basketball||ASUN Conference||Division I (NCAA)||Alico Arena, Fort Myers (4,500)|
Fort Myers is home to Florida Gulf Coast University. Its teams, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, play in NCAA Division I in the ASUN Conference. The Eagles' men's basketball team had an average attendance of 2,291 in 2013.
The Boston Red Sox hold their annual spring training at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in the Fort Myers area. A cross-town rivalry has developed with the Minnesota Twins, which 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. That 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 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.
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