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Cape Coral: A look back — and a look forward

Commemorative 50th anniversary section inside today’s Breeze

By Staff | Sep 17, 2020

In August 1970, nearly 4,000 Cape Coral voters went to the polls with one key issue on their mind — to approve incorporation, or not. While the vote was close, Cape Coral was to become a city. The final tally was 2,067 to 1,798 on election night; 2,249-1,955 after the absentee ballots were in.

Fifty years ago, as compared today, there were few residences, few businesses, few “finished” streets and vacant lots as far as the eye could see.

Much has changed in the last five decades, though, and Cape Coral has become a thriving, expansive city, home to approximately 200,000 residents.

As Cape Coral continues to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that resident-initiated, resident-approved decision to become a city, The Breeze is pleased to present a golden anniversary package, a 40-page special commemorative section included in today’s paper, and a 128-page hard-cover pictorial book, “From Impossible Dream to Reality, the city of Cape Coral turns 50,” which will be available for purchase next Friday.

Both offer a look at how our community was born out of — literally — the purchase of a cattle and hunting tract known as Redfish Point by the Rosen brothers, its rapid growth as a community called Cape Coral, its incorporation in 1970, and the path taken to the Cape we call home today.

The celebration package comes at the cusp of nearly 60 years of Breeze reporting.

“The Breeze has been Cape Coral’s paper since, well, before the Cape was a city,” said Executive Editor Valarie Harring, who has been an editor at The Breeze for more than a third of its tenure. “There has been a Breeze since 1961 and we’ve been in our Del Prado Boulevard office since 1975, when our office, and printing plant, were surrounded by vacant properties. The Breeze heavily covered, and supported, the incorporation of Cape Coral and we take pride in having reported all the milestones both before and since.”

Included in today’s special section commemorating — and celebrating — the 50th Anniversary of the city of Cape Coral:

Section one:

* The city celebrates 50 years since its incorporation.

* Meet the “Cape kids” who have grown up to become Cape leaders. Elmer Tabor, Gloria Raso Tate, Connie Mack III, Brian Hamman, Donna Schuman Germain, Chris Schroder, Jessica Cosden, Joe Mazurkiewicz, Eric Feichthaler and Dana Alvarez share their stories of Cape Coral then and now.

* Utility infrastructure helped build a city — Cape Coral Utilities and LCEC made it happen.

* Into the future — Cape Coral’s history has only begun.

Section two:

* Incorporation assured

* Today’s Cape Coral City Council. Mayor Joe Coviello and Council members John Gunter, John Carioscia, Marilyn Stout, Jennifer Nelson, Lois Welsh, Rick Williams and Jessica Cosden share their visions of where we are — and where we, as a city, are going.

* Policing the Cape. From a handful of officers to a force that keeps Cape Coral one of the safest cities in the state.

* Cape business leaders look back on the early years. Wonderland Realty, Zak’s Jewelry, Fuller Metz Funeral Home and Ken’s Auto Repair share some memories.

* On the Road again with Hal Burchinal and Hal’s Angels.

* Pilot Ed Wilson provides a bird’s eye view of Cape Coral’s growth as a city.

* And lots from The Breeze archives — Leonard Rosen, incorporation stories, interviews with officials past, headlines, editorials and more.

“From Impossible Dream to Reality, the City of Cape Coral turns 50,” provides highlights many of the same milestones and events via pictures interlaced with contributions from the Cape leaders who remember the city’s various “eras.”

Chapter highlights in the hardcover pictorial complied by Breeze photo editor and page designer Michael Pistella include:

* 1957-1970 In the Beginning

* 1970-1983 The Formative years

* 1983-1995 A Shift to Growth

* 1995-2008 Boom Years

* 2007-2012 Bust Years

* 2012-2020 Back on Track

* 2020 and beyond Into the Future

Community contributions made the book possible, Harring said.

“‘From Impossible Dream to Reality,’ is a community effort made possible through the contributions of a number of individuals and organizations to whom we are very grateful,” she said. “From the reader-contributed title, to the era overviews provided by Cape officials, business leaders and residents who lived through them, to many of the photos collected from various sources, our anniversary book is truly our book, the Cape’s book.”

The Breeze Newspapers thanks all those whose efforts made the book possible with much gratitude to the Cape Coral Museum of History, the city of Cape Coral, Wendy Schroder, Angelo Cario and his Historical Photos of Cape Coral Facebook page and all of the “Era” contributors — Linda Rosen-Sterling, Elmer Tabor, Mike Geml, Joe Mazurkiewicz, Gloria Tate, Dr. Derrick Donnell and John Szerlag.

“From Impossible Dream to Reality, the city of Cape Coral turns 50” has already generated a lot of interest, for which The Breeze is also grateful

“We’ve gotten so much positive feedback since we announced this project, and we’re excited to get this book into people’s hands, beginning over the counter sales here at The Breeze and at the historical museum on Sept. 25,” said Breeze Newspapers Publisher Ray Eckenrode.

The book is $20 for in-person purchase or $25 for mail delivery.

Books can be purchased at The Breeze offices, 2510 Del Prado Blvd. S., or the Cape Coral Museum of History — formerly the Cape Coral Historical Museum — at 544 Cultural Park Blvd. Masks are required.

Phone orders can be placed by calling 239-574-1110 and online orders can be placed now at www.capecoralbreeze.com/store and the book will be mailed when it arrives.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will benefit the Cape Coral Historical Society & Museum.