On this day in 1915, Fort Myers suffered its fifth catastrophic fire in 13 months when a fire started near the exit of the Grand Theatre in the Langford Building. Although the town had experienced many fires in its brief history, it had never seen anything like 1914 before or since.
The first of these fires occurred on January 30, 1914. On that date, the fruit packing plant at the end of the Fort Myers’ third pier (where Harborside is today) caught fire and burned to the waterline, along with the Thomas A. Edison, costing $150,000 in losses (or $3.5 million in today’s dollars). The 130 x 250’ two-story structure was reputed to be the largest fruit-packing plant in the world, and immediately following, Harvie Heitman erected a temporary plant at a cost of $20,000 which was replaced the following summer by a plant even larger than the first one.
On June 18, 1914, the sidewheel steamer Planter owned by the Towles Line burned to the water’s edge while anchored 300 feet off the dock.
On September 18, 1914, the Heitman warehouse on the pier was also destroyed by fire.
On November 18, 1914, eight frame buildings at Hendry and Oak occupied by stores, rooming houses and the fire department were gutted, causing $32,000 in damage ($750,000 in today’s dollars) and threatening the entire downtown business district. It appears that Hotel Michigan (rebuilt and renamed the Greystone Hotel) was one of the buildings that was lost.
The latter close call led the city council to buy a modern, motor-driven fire engine with a pumping capacity of 750 gallons per minute and 500 hoses. But before the fire engine arrived, a fire started on February 26, 1915 near the exit of the Grand Theatre in the Langford Building, which spread to the theatre and nearby stores before it could be extinguished, causing $11,000 ($255,000 in today’s money) in damages.