In 1957, brothers Leonard & Jack Rosen purchased the peninsula known as Redfish Point for $678,000. Clearing the land involved a lot of chopping through the mangroves, pine trees, and vegetation with machetes. The heat was brutal ……… there were salt marshes, muddy pools, and thick, hard limestone to cut through. The men slept in tents and had to battle rattlesnakes, panthers, and gators.
But first, let’s start with early Cape Coral and the Native Americans who lived here, the Calusas. The Calusas, a fierce and warring tribe of native Americans, that all but disappeared by the time the United States gained control of the area.
Florida had been discovered by Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon, in 1513.
In 1821, Spain deeded the land of Redfish Point to the United States. In return, the United States forgave the $5 million debt that Spain owed our country.
In 1822, Florida became an organized territory and settlers poured in along with runaway slaves who were harbored by Seminoles. Inevitably, there were clashes between Seminoles and whites.
The Harney Point Massacre became part of Cape Coral History during one of the Seminole Wars, where Seminoles fought against new settlers and the military, to try to keep their land. The Seminoles lost and were moved to reservations.
Later on, the land was patented to Florida, when Florida became a state in 1845. The state sold much of its land to railroad companies which in turn sold the land to various companies, such as the Matlacha Cattle Company, and to individuals.
One of these individuals was Franklin Miles of Miles Laboratories and of Alka Seltzer fame, who bought some of the land in 1910.
He used it mainly for hunting and the hunting quite good. There were plenty of wild hogs, deer, wild turkeys and ducks; which were usually hunted on horseback with dogs.
At that time, Cape Coral was known as the “other side of the river” or “Hungryland”. It was populated by homesteaders, loggers, cattlemen, rustlers and fishermen. It was a hard place to live, wild and desolate.
That was the land the Rosens bought for $678,000 from Franklin Miles, Ogden Phipps, and Granville Keller; with their newly formed company, Gulf Guaranty Land & Title Company, later known as Gulf American Land Corporation, and Cape Coral history was about to change. The first building, the Rosen’s sales office, was built on what is now Cape Coral and Coronado Pkwys, right at the spot where George’s Auto now stands.
Canals were dug out with dredges and the earth was used to build up the land to the required elevation of 5’6″ above sea level. So many canals and lakes were put in that Gulf American never had to buy fill dirt.
A crack team of hotshot salesmen used a fleet of planes for free rides as a very effective selling method. Sacks of flour were dropped over the lots that customers bought from the air!
At the beginning, landing strips were made for sales flights on SE 47th Terrace, Cape Coral Pkwy, and Coronado Pkwy. Then, they were moved to a small airport near what is now Del Prado and SE 21st Street. The airport was shut down in 1965 and flights were moved over to Page Field in Fort Myers once the Cape Coral Bridge was built.
Free planes rides where sacks of flour were dropped on buyers lots
The Calusa Indians inhabited much of South Florida