Cape Coral’s ‘crown jewel’ turns 60
In August 2015, The Breeze published a history section marking the 45th anniversary of Cape Coral formally becoming a city.
Like most municipalities, Cape Coral was a community long before residents voted for incorporation and the section reached back to the Cape’s development days, the time when the acreage that now is home to more than 200,000 residents was just that — raw land used primarily for hunting, fishing, some cattle grazing and some citrus farming.
Then would-be developers Jack and Leonard Rosen, though, saw in 1957 more than wilderness of the site across the Caloosahatchee from Fort Myers called Redfish Point. The brothers saw a “Waterfront Wonderland” and they built it, carving more than 400 miles of canals, paving roadways and building a dream they could sell to families across the U.S. and beyond.
The first handful of residents moved into their homes in June of ’58 with the community called Cape Coral’s first major amenity, the Cape Coral Yacht & Racquet Club opening just four years later on June 10, 1962.
Social Club, pool, pier, yacht basin and teen club, the $1 million complex pulled the residents of the budding town together.
And together they made the memories upon which a community was built.
That special history section back in ’15 included more than a tracing of how the Cape came to be the biggest city between Tampa and Miami.
It included the memories of some “Cape kids,” the city’s movers and shakers who grew up here among the “pioneer families.”
The Breeze asked them to share their favorite memory.
The Yacht Club on Driftwood Parkway was the primary path down memory lane for those who grew up here.
Wayne Kirkwood, who in 2015 owned one of the city’s oldest businesses, Kirkwood Electric, said his favorite memory was “Swimming at the brand new Yacht Club pool, sailing in the river and the Gulf, playing in and along all the canals without seawalls.”
Helen Skinder Ramey, who still works for the South Cape Community Redevelopment Agency, also said the Yacht Club was a big part of her childhood.
“We moved to Cape Coral in 1968 and my parents bought a house on Riverside Drive, we lived two blocks from the Yacht Club. The pool then was fabulous, the tall fence didn’t exist and it seemed all the kids in Cape Coral were always at the pool. We wore white plastic wristbands that granted us unlimited access to pool. The Teen Club was open next to the pool, and you could get the best basket of french fries for only 25 cents.”
And for Cape Coral Councilmember Gloria Raso Tate?
“The Cape Coral Yacht Club, sitting around the fountain, and the Teen Center – no adults allowed and you got a key to the door when you turned 13,” she said. “Another favorite thing was all the great celebrities we got to meet when Jack and Leonard Rosen promoted the Cape. The grand opening of the Yacht Club was for the entire community free and it was just one big happy family.”
Some may say the crown is tarnished, the glitter of its jewels dimmed.
But the Cape Coral Yacht & Racquet Club is still a much loved, much used reminder of a past that fostered the future we enjoy today.
And it remains a place where memories are made, where something is always happening.
The Cape Coral Museum of History will honor the Cape Coral Yacht Club’s 60th anniversary with a dinner and dance party sponsored by the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation tonight. The event will run from 6-10 p.m. at the Yacht Club and, another blast from the past, the old Waltzing Waters from the Rose Garden will be showcased on the pool deck.
The Yacht Club’s history will be shared by various speakers and it will be highlighted throughout a special history section written by Cape Coral City Councilmember Tom Hayden, a career journalist who spent much of his reporting and editing career in the Cape.
The section, published by the Cape Coral Breeze, is included in today’s paper and is published online at capecoralbreeze.com.
We invite you to read.
— Breeze editorial