subscribe: Posts | Comments

Pleasure Pier mural


The Fort Myers Mural Society has completed a new mural in downtown Fort Myers. Titled Diversity at the Pier, the mural is located at 2400 First Street (bordering the Fort Myers Regional Library) in the heart of the downtown Fort Myers River District.

Six months in the making, the mural depicts three present-day women gazing at the legendary Pleasure Pier, which was built by the City in 1927, at the tail end of the real estate boom that more than doubled the size of the Fort Myers. Located at the end of Carson Street in Evans Park (now Centennial Park), the 700-foot pier included a public swimming pool and a two-story Moorish-style public auditorium known as the Pleasure Palace that was the site of meetings, lectures, dances and socials for a decade and a half. However, the pier’s wood pilings rotted over time, and it became so rickety that locals derisively nicknamed the structure Fort Myers’ White Elephant. The pier was demolished in 1943, but not before the second floor of the auditorium was detached, barged upriver in two sections and placed in Waterfront Park on Edwards Drive, where it served as a USO Center for air men and gunners being trained at the Buckingham and Page Army Air Fields. In 1965, the Chamber of Commerce converted the facility into a tourist center known as The Hall of 50 States. Today, the building is boarded up, awaiting news of its fate.

The mural was rendered by visual artist Richard Bravo, who received his training in the arts at NYU and the Fashion Institute of Technology. Originally from New York, Bravo relocated to Southwest Florida a decade ago and has watched Fort Myers evolve into an arts and cultural district that rivals cities of similar size throughout the country.

“As I was sitting in the plaza outside the library making my preliminary sketches, I was taken by the diversity of the people who live, work and visit downtown Fort Myers,” says Bravo of his inspiration for the mural. “I was also mindful of the great strides women have taken locally, not only in arts and culture, but in business, health and the leisure and hospitality industry. To pay homage to both, I included three women of different ethnicities to represent our future meeting our past.”

Bravo’s observation serves as a reminder that Fort Myers was born in diversity. Of the eight pioneers who settled the town between February of 1866 and Christmas of 1867, two were Hispanic (Manuel A. Gonzalez (pictured right) and Joe Vivas), one hailed from the Bahamas (Evalina Gonzalez) and a fourth was black (Nelson Tillis). In addition, women would play a pivotal role in helping convert the burg from a rough-and-tumble cow town in the last third of the 1800s into a center of commerce and tourism during the early years of the 20th Century.

The wall space for the new mural was donated to the Fort Myers Mural Society by Florentine Holding Company. A private development and investment company, Florentine has spearheaded entitlement projects in redevelopment zones, and received industry awards for best commercial development projects. Florentine’s involvement in the mural project reflects its recognition of the diversity of the town’s residents and visitors, their collective creativity and Fort Myers’ position as a hub of cultural richness.

Heritage tourism is a vital and growing segment of the nation’s tourism industry, and continues to play an integral role in revitalizing downtown Fort Myers, where many of the buildings built between 1900 and the 1920s are still standing today.

Funds for the Pleasure Pier Mural Project were provided by Pushing DaiZies, a non-profit Floridian cultural collective, and a grant from the Lee County Visitors Bureau, together with donations raised by the Mural Society through its annual Art Stumble event. The Mural Society has been working since 2013 to realize its vision of artistic identity and cultural richness in Fort Myers, relying on corporate sponsors, grant and private funding as well as public participation and community involvement, to celebrate the art, history, environment and cultural richness of Fort Myers while increasing the charm and character of our city for residents and visitors alike.

Diversity at the Pier is the Mural Society’s second mural.

A ribbon cutting ceremony has been planned for the week of Fourth of July, with guests including Fort Myers City Council members, the Public Art Committee, Joe Florentine, representatives from the Lee County Visitors Bureau, and staff from Visit Florida.

June 7, 2018.

Comments are closed.