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Through the years: Milestones

By Staff | Jun 13, 2022

Big John shortly after he came to town in 1969. CAPE CORAL BREEZE FILE

Native Americans, settlers and ranchers once walked and worked the land which was to become Cape Coral. The area’s history is packed with key turning points in the community’s development:


Brothers Jacob and Hoge Blackley get 160 acres of land in Cape Coral from federal government near what is now Southwest 20th Avenue. They grew citrus


Leonard and Jack Rosen buy 107 square miles for $678,000 on what is now Cape Coral.


First grocery store, Elmer’s, opens.


First fire district — the Cape Coral Fire District– created in March. Fire station opens on Chester Street. In 1971, newly incorporated city took over the district, with Fire Station No. 1 opening in 1970.


• After 15 months of construction, the two-lane Cape Coral Bridge opens on March 14, thanks to Leonard Rosen who pledged funds. First resident Kenneth Schwartz cut the ribbon, opening the $2 million structure.

• Cape Coral Elementary, the community’s first school, opens at 4519 Vincennes Blvd, with 213 students.


• Cape Coral Art League was incorporated.


Big John’s Foodway opened and Big John statue went up


• On Aug. 18, residents voted to incorporate, with more than 4,000 of the city’s 6,000 eligible voters casting ballots. The vote was 2,249 supporting incorporation and 1,955 opposing it.

• Twenty-two candidates ran for first city council, with seven elected and Paul Fickinger appointed the first mayor.

• Helen Peck was named the first city clerk at $2 an hour.

• Morton Goldberg was named the first city attorney. Unfortunately, he resigned the next week over questions about his position on the Lee County School Board.

• Gulf American Corporation downsized and changed name to GAC Properties Inc.

• Cape Coral Gardens closed.

• GAC Utilities increased rates 64 percent for water and 71 percent for sewer.

• The 15,000th resident moved into city and 10 millionth vehicle drove across Cape Coral Bridge


• Cliff Ryan named first city manager.

• The police department and public works were first departments to open city operations. James White, a former Fort Myers Police Department sergeant, was named first police chief, overseeing seven full-time officers with two police cars.

• Waltzing Waters, closed in 1970 when Cape Coral Gardens closed, reopens on the Bavarian Gardens property of the German-American Club.

• First ordinance passed authorizing the city to collect state cigarette tax revenue. City borrowed maximum $500,000 to get started.


• City gets new City Hall at corner of Nicholas Parkway and Country Club Boulevard

• The first city utility system is born.

• Seawalls required for all waterfront properties.

• Council passes first $3 million budget.


• First hospital – Cape Coral Medical Center – opens.

• GAC signs agreement with state department of environmental regulation to complete development of city.

• First city planning department organized and comprehensive plan started.