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Wes Nott Statue

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Located in the northeast corner of the campus of Lee Memorial Hospital is Wes Nott Park, a broad concrete courtyard dominated by wide circular fountain punctuated at the far end by a V-shaped balustrade against which leans a life-size statue of legendary Fort Myers High swim coach Wes Nott. The park appropriately sits on the site of what was once the Wes Nott swimming pool. Today, Coach Nott presides over the space, standing against a railing that abuts the southbound lanes of Cleveland Avenue (U.S. 41).

The cold cast aluminum sculpture was commissioned by the Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board in accordance with its long-standing program of honoring local people. It was cast by North Fort Myers sculptor D.J. Wilkins and dedicated by the City of Fort Myers on July 14, 2000 to the Lee Memorial Auxillary for their generous contribution to the beautification of Wes Nott Park.

“The railing he is leaning against is a duplication of the one that was around the pool,” notes Wilkins, who also “bent [the coach’s] right leg and placed his foot on the bottom of the rail” to signify that Nott walked with a limp in his right leg as a result of polio (see below).

Since its inception in 1950, the Lee Memorial Auxiliary has donated over $4.8 million to Lee Memorial Health System. It supports Lee Memorial Health System through buying new equipment and funding major projects that are not being funded through the capital budget. The City of Fort Myers Beautification Project had a budget of $165,000.

 

A Word about Wes Nott

Wes Nott touched the lives of an estimated 8,000 children who fondly remember him for helping them achieve their best both in and out of the water by emphasizing hard work and good sportsmanship. Nott was state diving champion in Ann Arbor, Michigan and lettered all four years on his college swim team. In so doing, he overcame difficulties associated with having polio when he was 18 months old and which left him with a limp for the rest of his life.

Nott joined the staff of Fort Myers High School as an assistant football coach following the end of the 1945 swim season. He essentially started with a clean slate as only one girl returned from the 1945 team while the boys’ team was a completely inexperienced crew. They began intensive training early the ensuing February. “Held back the past years for various reasons, the swimmers blossomed forth into a first-rate team which came through in competition,” reported the Caloosahatchian (the name given to Fort Myers High’s yearbook). “Under the supervision of Wesley Nott, both boys’ and girls’ teams completed a successful season,” which saw the boys win a South Florida Conference title and place fifth in the state championships, while the Wavettes ran a close second to Punta Gorda in the SFC.

From there, Nott quickly proved himself one of the best swim coaches in Florida. He retired in 1974. He died in 1984 at the age of 78.

Nott is one of the people included by local historian Gerri Reaves in her 2012 book, Legendary Locals of Fort Myers. The book showcases the contributions, antics, and lives of Fort Myers residents from the days of the Seminole Wars to the present. Featuring approximately 150 photographs, most of them historic, the book focuses on the people who built and inhabited historical places as well as beloved figures such as swim coach Wes Nott, pioneer teacher Nell Gould, author and controversial mayor Florence Fritz, and music legend Billy Nalle.

 

Location, Measurements and Materials.

  • The Wes Nott Memorial is located in the Wes Nott Park in the northeast quadrant of the Lee Memorial campus near downtown Fort Myers.
  • The memorial’s street address is 2610 S. Cleveland Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33901.
  • It is located at longitude 37d 52′ 85.14″ N and latitude 81d 52′ 24.1635″ W.
  • The sculpture is made from cold cast aluminum.
  • The balustrade was cast in concrete.

 

Conservation

The sculpture, pool and fountain have fallen into disrepair in recent years, but the City of Fort Myers is scheduled to begin restoration of the memorial in 2018 under the supervision of local contractor Chris-Tel Construction. Conservation of the sculpture itself will be handled by Rosa Lowinger & Associates, which has previously cleaned, repaired and restored two other works in the City’s collection, Lorelei and The Spirit of Fort Myers.

 

A Note About the Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board

The Wes Nott Memorial was commissioned by the Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board pursuant to its long-standing program of recognizing local people who made important contributions to the history and culture of the city. Prior to establishment of a formal Public Art Committee in 2004, the Beautification Advisory Board was responsible for commissioning public artworks, sponsoring 21 during a 20-year span.

The Board’s public art activities date back to 1982, when it engaged local sculptor D.J. Wilkins to restore The Spirit of Fort Myers (Rachel at the Well) in the entrance to Edison Park. Shortly after came the Bust of Henry Ford directly across from the Edison Park entrance and then the restoration of The Tootie McGregor Fountain in 1983. In 1984, the Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board approved the ‘Sunset Plaza’ at Centennial park and Uncommon Friends and The Great Turtle Chase by sculptor D.J. Wilkins in 1988 and 1990 respectively.

The Beautification Advisory Board followed the two Centennial Park installations with a commission of busts of seven of Fort Myers’ most influential civic leaders, Captain Francis Asbury Hendry, Paul L. Dunbar, Connie Mack Sr., Tootie McGregor Terry, Thomas Edison and James D. Newton, along with Chief Billy Bowlegs. Referred to collectively as “The Harborside Collection,” they are on display today in the long promenade that runs along the north side of the Harborside Event Center.

In 2000, the Board commissioned Clayton, a memorial to the soldiers of Companies D & I of the 2nd Regiment of the United States Colored Troops and the rest of the 179,000 African Americans who fought in the Union Army and 19,000 who served in the Navy during the Civil War.

The memorial to Coach Wes Nott f0llowed later that same year.

The Board’s last commission was The Patrons of The City of Palms Memorial in the heart of the city. It is designed to ensconce the names of those who care for their history and their families’ part in it.

 

D.J. Wilkins’ Other Public Artworks

Besides the Wes Nott statue, Wilkins’ resume includes Uncommon Friends, a sculpture depicting Fort Myers’ iconic winter residents Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone gathered around a campfire on a tiny island in the middle of a reflection pool and fountain. Long regarded as the sculptural symbol of Fort Myers, the installation resides at the Monroe Street entrance to Centennial Park and within eye shot of three more of Wilkins’ outdoor sculptures, The Great Turtle Chase, Clayton and The Florida Panther on Monroe Street. Wilkins also cast the busts of Captain Francis Asbury Hendry, Paul L. Dunbar, Connie Mack Sr., Tootie McGregor Terry, Thomas Edison, James D. Newton and Chief Billy Bowlegs that collectively form “The Harborside Collection,” a bust of Henry Ford and heroic size statues of Thomas Edison, Mina Edison and Henry Ford at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates (known as the Edison Ford Estates Collection), as well as sculptures of Thomas Edison for both the Lee and Collier campuses of Edison State College.

Wilkins has also played an instrumental role in restoring several of Southwest Florida’s public sculptures including The Spirit of Fort Myers at the entrance to Edison Park, the Tootie McGregor Fountain in front of the Edison Restaurant at the Fort Myers Country Club and the Iwo Jima Memorial in Eco Park on Veteran’s Parkway in Cape Coral.

 

Fast Facts

  • Wes Nott had tremendous upper body strength and served as a stand-in for Johnny Wiesmiller in Tarzan movie scenes that required great swimming endurance.
  • D.J. Wilkins worked in heating, ventilation and air conditioning when he first arrived here in 1975 from Breckinridge, Kentucky, where he was teaching students skills like welding as part of a stint in the Job Corps.
  • He credits his mother with his choice of Fort Myers. “’Fort Myers is the prettiest place I’d ever seen,’ she told me once,” DJ recalls.
  • The seeds of his sculpting career were planted after he “escaped here” when a “hippie friend” on Fort Myers Beach showed him art he’d created out of cypress wood. They rode in a 1960 GMC pickup truck to a Naples art gallery where Wilkins saw sculptures that inspired him.

 

Last update: July 8, 2018.

 

  1. Juyd (Roberts) Childers says:

    Coach Knott was my first swim instructor in the beginners class in the Wes Knott pool in Ft. Myers many years ago. My Mom would take my siblings and me every summer for lessons and I remember him sitting on the pool deck at the head of the pool road-side to Cleveland Avenue saying, ‘kick-kick-kick!”, waving his hands in an up and down motion. He always wore an elevated shoe due to polio when he was young. There were four levels offered each summer and at the end of completing Level 4, I went on to compete in what was know as AAU Swimming, now known as USA Swimming. I continued competing through out high school at Cypress Lake High and let it go to the wayside until four years ago when I joined USMS, the league for adults. I attribute my love and respect for the water to Coach Knott. I’m now an Aquatic Supervisor in NMB, SC and am passionate about teaching both kids and adults to swim. Thanks Coach Knott for sparking the love of swimming in me!

  2. Cheryl OMailia says:

    The public pool with the ornate balustrade was actually downtown (Fort Myers) along the river on First Street near the Edison Bridge. I’m told it was a raised swimming pool with locker rooms underneath and was built around 1920s and torn down in 1950s. It was replaced with a modern public pool facility in front of Lee Memorial Hospital along Cleveland Ave. Coach Nott taught at both locations, particularly the students of Fort Myers High School, which was coveniently kitty-corner from the hospital (ie, it was now a quick walk for swim practice!) The 2nd pool, named for Coach Nott, fell to disrepair after 30+ years and was demolished in the 1990s. The Beautification Committee decided to bring the age-old balustrade to the modern-day Wes Nott Park design to represent the earlier downtown pool of Coach Nott’s tenure. Sculptor J.D. Wilkins brought this concept to life.

  3. Coach Knott and my father, Berry C. Williams, were good friends. He actually came to our new home at 1331 Almeria Avenue, Fort Myers, in 1958 to teach me and my sisters to swim in our family pool. Any pride I have ever taken in my swimming skill, I owe to him.

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