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The Unexpected Fort Myers

What’s the story?

If you consult a Florida guidebook, you’re likely to find the following passage or something close to it:

“Fort Myers, known for its nature and historical estates, serves as a gateway to a stretch of islands including the Sanibel area, famous for its shelling beaches.”

In short, if you were coming to Fort Myers, you were merely passing through to enjoy its beaches, their collectible shells and views of the Gulf of Mexico.  The exception to this, since 1947, has been the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, which is unquestionably a world-class attraction with its historic homes, botanical gardens, research laboratory and expansive museum.  Thomas Edison is rightfully celebrated throughout the city, but there’s no venue that tells the story more faithfully, or beautifully, than the Winter Estates.

To successfully establish a lifestyle boutique hotel in downtown Fort Myers, we were tasked with discovering a unique story to which no other destination could lay claim.  And Edison was off the table.  The Winter Estates are the rightful stewards to that legacy, and no one could do it better.

During a “brand immersion” trip, which is a fancy term for a “visit-punctuated-by-non-stop-eating-and-touring-with-very-little-rest-or-sleep,” we explored the flora and fauna while consulting with city officials, community leaders and hospitality industry representatives who were delighted to share their comprehensive knowledge on what they thought made their town tick.  Overwhelmed by facts gleaned from a walking expedition, a cruise on the Caloosahatchee, a private tour through the winter homes and the countless advocacy group discussions, we took refuge in the archives of the Southwest Florida Museum of History, which was actually closed to the public, awaiting its relocation and merger with what would become the IMAG History & Science Center.

It was there amongst the quiet stacks, overseen by knowledgeable docents, that it began to make sense.  Fort Myers was more than a sleepy beach town.  It was a progressive community whose heritage consisted of a wonderfully diverse array of luminaries, past and present, whose spirit and energy propel the city today in a direction all its own.

For the moment, we found our name:

LUMINARY: a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere.

Situated in the center of Fort Myers, our vision was to be more than a hotel.  We aspired to be a hub where countless stories of bright characters come together to enlighten locals and travelers alike.  So, who are these “luminaries,” and what are their stories?

We invite you to follow us!