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Old packinghouse outside of Ft.Myers

Old packinghouse outside of Ft.Myers

Posted: 1256761035000
Classification: Query
I am looking for any information on a old packinghouse somewhere out side of Ft Myers. It may have been in the Iona area, but I am not sure. I do not know what was packed there when it was a packing house or what years it was used as a packing house. (maybe 1950-1960-ish) Later it was made into a skating rink/pool hall/tavern. I believe it was owned by Ernest Smith. It was closed by the mid 1970's and sold in the late 70's. Any information, especially exact location, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much

Re: Old packinghouse outside of Ft.Myers

Posted: 1301691264000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1301695434000
There were a couple of packing houses that I know of in that general area. Bert Draughon had a business called Caroline Flower Farms that operated half a year in Fort Myers and half a year in Hendersonville, NC, in the 50s. Rex Beach Farms, going back to the 1930s and operated by Fred Wiesmeyer for Mr. Beach, was also in the general area. Both were gladiolus growers. But I was a small child when I went to those places and I cannot recall anything resembling an exact location. The best I can say is that I believe Caroline Flower Farms packing house was located on the south side of the last road before you got to the back bay area across from Estero Island. The Rex Beach Farms packing house was closer to Fort Myers on the east side of a road that ran to or near Harlem Heights. Both were somewhat east of Iona, with Caroline Flower Farms being further east, possibly fairly near U.S. 41. There may have been others, but those are the ones that come to mind. Povia Brothers had a packing house, but it was in the Page Park area. At one time or another going back to the 1930s, my dad was packing house foreman for all of these, plus he later worked for Ruth Messmer's cut and potted "pom-pom" (chrysanthemum) and Easter lily farm west of Iona.

Hmmm. I just looked at Google maps and that may or may not have helped. I believe that the road Rex Beach Farms was on was the A&W Bulb Road and that A&W was a business of another name that was also used by Rex Beach Farms when selling bulbs instead of cut flowers. Don't take that as gospel. I was a child, and that was a long time ago. Caroline Flower Farms had a sharp curve just east of it and I believe it was located just west of the sharp curve on Gladiolus Drive... a bit west of U.S. 41.

As best I recall those road names actually existed back in the '50s but I'm not certain of that. I don't recall any of them having signs till the '60s. In the '50s (and earlier) what is now Colonial Boulevard was known as Toad Town Road and no matter how slowly you drove down it at night in rainy season you couldn't move 10 feet without crushing at least one toad, which made a very loud popping sound when flattened. The headlight beams were crisscrossed by toads jumping in every conceivable direction, and the pavement was liberally covered with flattened toad carcasses. My dad owned 20 acres or so just south of the corner of what is now called Cypress Lake Drive. Back then it was known as Radio Beam Road, so called because there was a high radio tower with a red flashing light atop it just a bit past the drainage canal that ran across Radio Beam Road and the back of dad's land, about 1/4(or 1/8?) mile east of McGregor Blvd. The Voglers, from Ohio, owned a mom and pop motel on the NE corner, some Puerto Rican farm workers lived in houses with no interior walls and exterior walls of vertically placed, undressed 12 inch heart pine boards without battens... so there were cracks you could see through between the boards, down a dirt rut that extended from the dead end of Radio Beam Road at McGregor, towards the Caloosahatchee. I remember those houses well because the kids who lived there were my closest neighbors in my age group. They were, I believe, mostly named Alvarez or Rivera, but it's been a long time and my memory ain't perfect. I am clear though, that one was named Dominica, and she dearly loved to "pick" on me, mostly pinching with a few pushes and kicks thrown for good measure. Also, the one I got along with best was named Tony Alvarez. I also helped my dad demolish and recover the wood from those houses in the late 50s. The canal was approximately 1/8 mile to the east down Radio Beam Road and the pavement ended just past the canal. There was a dirt rut road that ran northwards to a handful of 1920s frame houses built in a cluster that were probably the remains of a planned subdivision that folded when the Florida Bust hit in 1928. Some of those had not been maintained and had been partly scavenged for building materials, but some were intact and inhabited. My 1st cousin once removed and schoolmate "Little Joe", Joseph Paul Johnson lived in one of those for awhile. And last but not least a welder named Weimer built a metal shed for his welding business and lived in a "trailer" (what mobile homes were called back then) next to it near the radio tower, that was just a bit further down Radio Beam Road on its south side. At that time Radio Beam Road from just across the canal to U.S. 41 was a graded marl (white clay/limestone) unpaved road, and it ended at U.S. 41. From Mr. Weimer's shop to U.S. 41 there was not a single building of any sort whatsoever. A lot of folks used the scrub palmetto/pine area near U.S. 41 as an unauthorized dump. In those days there was no plastic or aluminum used for food or beverage containers, so the piles were mostly steel cans and a few glass bottles, and a small amount of paper... BUT there were also very large piles of gopher tortoise shells, dumped by folks who ate them in large quantities.

In the late '50s dad cleared land and built cattle grates (I believe their purpose was to help prevent deer from being able to eat the tender young gladiolus shoots) across newly dug canals in an area just south of Radio Beam Road near its eastern end, using railroad iron taken from the WWII rail sidings in Page Park, cut to length at a welding shop near downtown Fort Myers. Unfortunately the iron was soft and insufficiently supported so with just a few farm trucks traversing them the rails bent down badly... but that didn't much matter because that land went from cypress swamp to flower farm to housing development in about 5 years. Dad grew sweet potatoes on that land one Summer and managed to get 3 big John Deere tractors stuck in a pond... then after he ran out of tractors dad had me at about age 10 trying to use a WWII surplus Studebaker 5-ton Army truck in low-range reverse pulling on a short chain to help him pull out one of the tractors. That didn't work (I knew how to operate a clutch but a 5 ton military vehicle's clutch was a bit much for me at that age). I don't know how dad got them out. But I do know that by 1965 I was a student at the brand new Edison Junior College approximately across the road, the road had been renamed (it was paved end-to end before dad sold the farm and we moved to town... about 1958 or 1959) and that most of the area was developed or about to be developed.

Re: Old packinghouse outside of Ft.Myers

Posted: 1521916305000
Classification: Query
Hi
I just read your question. Came upon it by researching gladiolus in Fort Myers area.
The packing house you describe is on the corner of Iona rd and Thornton rd.
It was a gladioulus packing house. It has been in a remodeling stage for a long time and I don't think it's occupied right now.hope this information helps.

Re: Old packinghouse outside of Ft.Myers

Posted: 1522068081000
Classification: Query
Hi Karen,
I was delighted to read your reply, thank you so much for your response! Thanks to you, I was able to get the legal description of the location you mentioned and also the legal description on the property I was inquiring about and they are indeed one and the same, the packing house I was looking for is most certainly the structure on the corner of Iona Rd and Thornton Rd, although it looks quite different now. I was afraid that no one would remember it or that it had long been demolished, but I'm happy to see that isn't the case. Thank you again!
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