Rhode Island Avenue Houses

2673 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Vernon G. Widerquist & Johnette O. Widerquist – 1926

This bungalow is a classic example of the Craftsman style, with massive tapered porch columns, a gracious front porch, roof brackets under broad eaves and a pergola that extends the horizontal lines of the house. 

It was built in 1920 for Vernon G. Widerquist, who purchased the property for $2,000 in 1925 from Dean Development Company, subject to restriction that any house constructed there cost at least $3,000. 

Mr. Widerquist was a World War I veteran and lumberman.  He served as an early Commissioner and mayor of Fort Myers in 1923-24.  He also played a key role in the adoption of the City’s first building code.  Mr. Widerquist and his wife, Johnette, occupied this house for the remainder of their lives, with Mr. Widerquist passing away in 1942 and Mrs. Widerquist in 1987.  The home was sold by the Widerquist children as personal representatives of Mrs. Widerquist’s estate.

Earlier addresses:  1041 Rhode Island until 1926, 110 Rhode Island until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision, Block E, Lot 9.

2685 Rhode Island Avenue –  Winter Home of William A. McCallum Home – 1924

This two-story home and its neighbor at 2721 Rhode Island Avenue, the Robb House, feature architectural details that reflect the English origins of the Craftsman style.  In this home, they include the contrasting exterior finishes and Tudor revival details.  Inside, the living spaces feature ornate molding, custom French doors, an oak balustrade at the central stair and imported tiles on the hearth. 

In 1920, the Dean Development Company sold this parcel for $1,000 to Frank C. Alderman, subject to a restriction that any house built in this lot should cost at least $3,500.  In 1924, Mr. Alderman, who was secretary of Dean Development Company, conveyed the vacant lot to William A. McCallum for $4,500.

Mr. McCallum exceeded that $3,500 figure by far.  A newspaper story on May 27, 1924, reported that contractor O.J. Darwin “has erected a tool shed for his operations on a large residence for William A. McCallum of Cinncinati to be made of brick and stucco at an approximate cost of $16,000.”

Born in Ohio in 1852, Mr. McCallum was general manager of the Electric Railway Equipment Company of Cincinnati.  He was a bachelor and began spending the winters in Dean Park at age 72.  The News-Press reported periodic visits from his brother, Neil McCallum, another bachelor.  Mr. McCallum died at his home in Dean Park at age 94 and was buried in his native Cincinatti.

Earlier address:  102 Rhode Island Avenue until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision, Block E, Lot 10.

 2706 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Samuel A. Graham & Susan H. Graham – 1955

This spacious lot, located next to Dean Park’s “Triangle,” was one of several lots that was still owned by Dean Development Company after the death of John Morgan Dean in 1938.  Annie F. Dean, John Dean’s last wife and acting as the sole surviving trustee of the company, finally sold this vacant parcel in 1951. 

After three more intervening owners, the lot was sold for $17,500 in 1955 to Samuel A. Graham and Susan H. Graham, who elected to build this 1635-square-foot ranch on the parcel.  Its horizontal lines, low-slung roof, the absence of any porch and the inconspicuous front door are all hallmarks of the ranch style.

Samuel Allison Graham was born in Pennsylvania in 1888 and spent most of his career as an engineer on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  He and his first wife, Roxie, raised their family in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Three years after Roxie’s death in 1945, he married Susan Hicks Day, a shop manager from West Virginia.  Upon Mr. Graham’s retirement from the railroad, the couple moved to Fort Myers and lived in their new ranch home in Dean Park from 1955 to 1959.

Earlier address:  41 Rhode Island Avenue; Dean’s Subdivision, Block H, Lot 8.

2720 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Dr. William H. Grace & Annie L. Grace – 1926

This two-story traditional home was completed in 1926 for Dr. William H. Grace, his wife Annie Lee Grace, and their three children.  The Grace family lived here until they moved to 71 First Street in 1934.

Dr. Grace was one of nine children who grew up in Jackson County, Florida.  He first was a physician in general practice in Chipley, Florida, as shown in the 1920 census.  On September 29, 1925, he purchased this lot for $4,000 from Ralph and Christine Sauer, who had purchased the parcel in 1922 from Dean Development Company.

When Dr. Grace passed away in 1961, the News-Press mentioned that he was survived by his wife and three children, two of whom were also physicians, Dr. W. Walter Grace and Dr. Angus D. Grace.

See the “Photos” page of this website to see a picture of the rear of this home after the devastation caused by the Hurricane of 1926, which toppled most of the Australian pines that previously lined the streets of Dean Park.

Earlier addresses:  1120 Rhode Island until 1926, 37 Rhode Island until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision, Block H, Lot 7.

2721 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Virgil C. Robb & Ellen S. Robb – 1920

Comfortably centered on three lots, the Robb home is in the Arts and Crafts style, with an “eyebrow” roof over the front door reminiscent of English cottages.  A high-pitched metal roof and imposing front chimney hint at the large interior spaces.  The large living room opens into a sunroom on the right where Virgil Robb cultivated his well-known collection of orchids.  High ceilings and heart pine floors are found throughout the house.

On the Cranford Avenue side of the house, garden trellises, supported by massive columns, overlook an outdoor patio.  There are several outbuildings of interest, including a cistern along the rear alley.

This three-lot parcel was put together as follows:  In April 1920, Mr. Robb purchased the center lot (Lot 10) from Dean Development Company for $1,500.  In May 1920, Dean’s  company sold Lot 11 to Don C. Pollock for $1600, and this parcel was later sold to Mr. Robb.  Finally, in February 1921, Dean’s company sold Lot 9 to Walter O. Sheppard for $2,500, and this parcel was later sold to Mr. Robb. 

Virgil Robb was co-owner of the Robb & Stucky furniture company in Fort Myers, and his skills as an interior decorator were sought after by wealthy homeowners as far away as Maine.  Robb also served on the City Council for numerous years and was mayor of Fort Myers in 1921-22.  He was also instrumental in securing funding for the new Lee Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Robb was born in 1889 in Mays Lick, a small unincorporated community on the northern Kentucky border.  He came to Fort Myers in 1912 to take a position as a clerk in the post office.  In 1915, at age 26, Mr. Robb and W.R. Lee organized the Lee & Robb Furniture Company and opened a store on Main Street.  In 1916, he married Ellen Fitzgerald Shankin, also of Mays Lick, Kentucky. 

In 1925, he and his new business partner, Harry C. Stucky, opened their store in a new building on Hendry Street.  Mrs. Robb was active in Fort Myers community affairs and was a founding member of the Southwest Florida Historical Society and a member of the Library Board, among other things.  Mr. Robb died in 1964 at age 74, and Mrs. Robb continued to live at the house until her death in 1970 at age 81. 

Earlier addresses:  1107 Rhode Island until 1925, 36 Rhode Island until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision, Block D, Lots 9, 10 & 11.

.2730 Rhode Island Avenue – Summer Home of Reynolds W. & Irene E. Vredenburgh – 1925

This Spanish revival style home is almost identical in design to the house at 2716 Providence Street.  Its asymmetrical design is dominated by a projected porch, and its entry court includes a low, curvilinear wall.  The house has mission-inspired, multi-level flat roofs with parapet walls of varying heights.  It features terra cotta, barrel-tile shed roofs over bay windows and entryways.

Inside, the home features a pecky cypress ceiling, textured plaster walls, wood and concrete floors and unique cast concrete elements.

On January 22, 1924, Dean Development Company sold this parcel to H.H. Johnson and Mary M. Johnson of Lee County for $1,500, subject to a restriction that a house costing at least $4,000 be built there.  On June 16, 1925, the Johnsons sold the parcels to Henry P. Sicks and Ora Sicks, two brothers who invested in several Dean Park properties, and granted the Sicks brothers two mortgages ($4,500 and $2,720 respectively) to fund construction of a house on the property.    

On March 8, 1929, the Sicks sold the property and its newly constructed Spanish revival home to an Illinois couple, Reynolds and Irene Vredenburgh, who assumed the two mortgages on the property.  Unhappily, Mrs. Vredenburgh had divorced and remarried by 1936, when she sold the property on December 22, 1936, to C.W. DeWitt, who gave his address on the deed as the Friars Club in New York City.  Mr. DeWitt “flipped” the house a few days later by selling it on December 29, 1936, to Henry A. Waite and Kathryn L. Waite, who owned this home until 1950.

Earlier addresses:  31 Rhode Island Avenue until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision:  Block H, Lot 6.

2740 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of J. Rescoe Parker & Daisy Parker – 1922

After this two-story bungalow was substantially damaged by fire several years ago, it was elevated approximately four feet on the site and enlarged by an addition on each side of the original bungalow footprint. 

The original home was a more modest bungalow constructed by John Dean’s United Construction Company.  Although the City’s tax records state this home was built in 1915, it is more likely that the home was constructed shortly after December 1, 1920, when John Dean’s Dean Development Corporation transferred the property to his construction company, United Construction Company – a step that Dean customarily took when he intended to construct a house on the parcel.  The 1921 Fort Myers city directory does not show this house to be in existence in that year, and the dwelling appears for the first time on the 1922 Sanborn Insurance Company map. 

The 1923 and 1925 city directories show “JR Parker” living at this address.  This was J. Rescoe Parker, apparently the first tenant.  However, he didn’t actually own the home until it was conveyed to him by United Construction Company on December 16, 1925, for a sales price of $8,000.   Mr. Parker then “flipped” the house and sold it on August 19, 1925, to Dr. Henry Elliott Parnell, who practiced as a physician and general surgeon in Fort Myers from 1915 through 1929.

Joseph Rescoe Parker and his wife Daisy came from Savannah, Georgia, to Fort Myers in the early 1920’s during the Florida building boom, and Mr. Parker promptly set up J.R. Parker Company, Inc. at 2122 Hendry Street to sell “Sporting Goods, Hardware and Builders’ Supplies,” according to the 1927 city directory.  By that date, the Parkers had also moved to a larger home on Riverside Drive.  With the collapse of the Florida building boom, the Parkers returned to Atlanta, Georgia, as shown in the 1932 directory for that city.

Dr. Henry E. Parnell was born in 1882 in Lake City in Columbia County, Florida.  In 1914, he married Ruby Louise Hendry, a Fort Myers native and the granddaughter of cattleman Francis A. Hendry, one of the early settlers of Fort Myers.

In 1917, Dr. Parnell enlisted in the Army and rose to the rank of captain in the Army Medical Corps.  In 1919, he returned to Fort Myers and resumed his medical practices, with offices in the Earnhardt Building, then in the Langford Building. Dr. Parnell also served on the City Commission from April 1924 through April 1927, then was elected as mayor.  He resigned abruptly as mayor in August 1927 after local banks refused to grant the City $75,000 in warrants to help with City with its financial shortfall at that time. 

By 1929, the Parnells had moved to Everglades City, where Dr. Parnell continued his practice as a community physician.  On February 10, 1931, the News-Press reported that Dr. Parnell had accidentally shot himself in the hand during a hunting accident, requiring his left hand to be amputated.  Miami city directories show Dr. and Mrs. Parnell living in Miami in 1933 and thereafter, probably to be near their son, James E. Parnell, who also lived in Miami.  In 1952, at age 70, Dr. Parnell died and was buried in his native Lake City, and Mrs. Parnell died at age 74 in Miami.

Earlier addresses:  1122 Rhode Island until 1926; 25 Rhode Island until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision, Block H, Lot 5.

2750 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Charles P. Staley & Alice Staley – 1924

This eclectic home has a dramatic, windowed façade with many Craftsman details.  The large living room features high ceilings and exposed wooden beams that suggest the Spanish revival style.  The house is said to have been bequeathed by two elderly sisters to their postman, in thanks for his care and assistance for many years.

On November 26, 1923, the property was purchased by John M. Boring from the Dean Development Company for $1581.63, subject to a building restriction that any house built there must cost a minimum of $4,000.  Mr. Boring was both the Lee County tax assessor and a real estate investor for many years.

On August 9, 1924, Boring sold the house to Charles E. and Alice S. Staley for stated consideration of $10.  In late 1925, the Staleys decided to sell this home and purchase the smaller home next door at 2760 Rhode Island Avenue, a home they had leased during 1923.

Mr. Staley was born in Missouri in 1862, and Mrs. Staley had immigrated from England in 1867.  They raised their family in Indianapolis, where the 1910 city directory shows Mr. Staley to be “manager – automobiles.”  By 1921, the Staleys had relocated to Fort Myers, and the city directory of that years shows they initially resided at the Riverview Hotel.  Mr. Staley had also plunged into local civic activities and was serving as Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, Secretary-Treasurer of the Fort Myers Merchants Association and Secretary-Treasurer of the Lee County Fair Association.  By 1923, Mr. Staley is City Manager, a position he held until 1928.

In 1925, the proposed construction of the Seaboard Railroad Terminal immediately to the east of Dean Park caused Mr. Staley, then City Manager, to speak in favor of the project in a half-page newspaper ad run December 3, 1925:  He stated he “sold his home in Dean Park without sacrificing it on account of the location of Seaboard terminals” and that he “called the attention of the buyer to the fact that the railroad was seeking to condemn the swamp property to the east of Dean Park, and the purchaser said he did not think the home would be damaged, and closed for it.”

Mr. and Mrs. Staley continued to live in Dean Park in their bungalow next door at 2760 Rhode Island Avenue until Mr. Staley’s death in 1942 at age 80 and until shortly before Mrs. Staley’s death in 1955 at age 87.

Earlier addresses:  Other addresses:  19 Rhode Island until 1955;  Dean’s Subdivision, Block H, Lot 4.

2751 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Prof. Thomas H. Jones & Bessie Jones Home – 1920

This one-story bungalow is among the earliest homes to be constructed in Dean Park.  Some of the home’s original features include a pressed tin roof and the front roof gable with four small adjacent windows.  Other aspects of the house have been extensively remodeled over the years:  the original porch (8 feet deep) on the left side of the house has been enclosed and now has stucco siding, the centered front door has been shifted to the side of the house, and original windows have been replaced with more modern windows. 

On April 30, 1920, this parcel was the very first parcel conveyed by John Dean’s Dean Development Company to his construction company, United Construction Company – a step that Dean customarily took when he intended to construct a house on the parcel.  On October 22, 1920, United Construction Company sold the house to Prof. Thomas H. Jones and his wife, Bessie Jones, for $7,150. 

Prof. Jones and his wife, Bessie, had come to Fort Myers from Homestead, Pennsylvania, where the couple had met and married in 1899.  Prof. Jones, whose family had immigrated from Wales in 1892, was a music teacher.  Upon arriving in Fort Myers, he taught music first from his office in the Earnhardt Building and then at Edison Park School.  He was also a key participant and organizer of numerous concerts and events In Fort Myers throughout his life here and, for example, the director of the Fort Myers Society Orchestra when it launched the 1922 winter season by playing at the Bradford Hotel on New Year’s Day.

Prof. Jones occupied this house at 2751 Rhode Island until his death in 1953.  His first wife, Bessie, had died in 1944 after the couple had been married 45 years.  The next year, Prof. Jones married Isabelle Wagus, who also came from Homestead, Pennsylvania.  The second Mrs. Jones continued to live in this house until she sold it 1973.

Earlier addresses:  1129 Rhode Island until 1926, 20 Rhode Island until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision, Block D, Lot 13.

.2760 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Charles P. Staley & Alice Haley – 1921

In 1996, as shown in the photo above, this bungalow includes classic Craftsman-style features:  an expansive front porch with tapered columns, a center second-floor gable tucked into the pressed metal tine roof.  The original door, at left, has been replaced by dual stained glass doors at the center of the porch.

On December 1, 1920, this lot was conveyed from Dean Development Company to United Construction Company – a procedure usually followed by John Dean when he intended to have his own United Construction Company build the home on the premises.  And this seems to be what occurred, since City tax records show the house was constructed in 1921. Further, the house appears on the 1922 Sanborn Insurance Company map.

The 1923 Fort Myers city directory shows this home to be occupied by C.P. Staley (Charles Plummer Staley), who served as City Manager until 1928.  He appears to have leased this property during the beginning of his tenure as City Manager, then purchased the house next door at 2750 Rhode Island Avenue on August 9, 1924.  However, in 1925, Mr. and Mrs. Staley sold the 2750 Rhode Island property and moved back to this home, which they purchased on January 15, 1926, from United Construction Company for $7,500. 

Mr. Staley was born in Missouri in 1862, and Mrs. Staley had immigrated from England in 1867.  They raised their family in Indianapolis, where the 1910 city directory shows Mr. Staley to be “manager – automobiles.”  By 1921, the Staleys had relocated to Fort Myers, and the city directory of that years shows they initially resided at the Riverview Hotel.  Mr. Staley had also plunged into local civic activities and was serving as Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, Secretary-Treasurer of the Fort Myers Merchants Association and Secretary-Treasurer of the Lee County Fair Association.  By 1923, Mr. Staley is City Manager, a position he held until he retired in 1928 at age 66.  Mr. Staley remained active in local political and business affairs; and the Staleys also continued live at this home until Mr. Staley’s death in 1942 at age 80 and until shortly before Mrs. Staley’s death in 1955 at age 87.

Earlier addresses:  1134 Rhode Island until 1926, 15 Rhode Island until 1955; Dean’s Subdivision, Block H, Lot 3.

2761 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Herman J. Burks & Velma R. Burks – 1955

On March 13, 1922, Dean Development Company sold this parcel to Fort Myers developer Henry C. Case by for $1,350, subject to a restriction that any house built there cost at least $3,500.  However, this lot remained vacant until 1955, when it was sold to Herman J. Burks and Velma R. Burks.  The house still remains in the family.  It was transferred in 1980 to the Burks’ son, Rex Dene Burks and is still owned by his widow, Ruth M. Burks, today.

Dean’s Subdivision, Block D, Lot 14.

 2770 Rhode Island Avenue – Cottage of Annie D. Allred – circa 1930 

 This small, 942-square-foot cottage faces Palm Avenue, but its legal address is 2770 Rhode Island Avenue and its large side yard extends all the way to that street.

On September 17, 1923, the lot was sold by Dean Development Company to Annie L. Allred of Lee County for $1,600, subject to a building restriction that any house built there cost at least $4,000.  Mrs. Allred was then the widow of Jerry Fielding Allred, a prominent Fort Myers jeweler.  She had an extensive career in real estate after Mr. Fielding’s death in 1927, and lived on Hendry Street for most of her life, rather than in this cottage. 

The origin of the cottage is something of a mystery.  Although city tax records indicate the cottage was built in 1942, the 1930 Sanborn Insurance Company map show the existence of this dwelling at its current location near the rear alley.  And to complicate matters, the current owner has heard a story that the cottage was brought to its current location from Fort Myers Beach.  Moreover, Fort Myers city directories through the 1950’s do not reflect the existence of this cottage at a Rhode Island address or at a Palm Avenue address. 

Ownership of the property was retained by Mrs. Allred until 1977, when her son and attorney-in-fact, James F. Allred, transferred it to her daughter Lorraine Allred Stephens for consideration of “love and affection.”  Mrs. Allred died on March 2, 1980, at age 93 and was buried in Fort Myers Cemetery.

Dean’s Subdivision, Block H, Lot 2.

2771 Rhode Island Avenue – Home of Bard L. Hendry & Mary B. Hendry – 1922

This bungalow was constructed by John Dean’s construction company, United Construction Company.  Its classic Craftsman style includes tapered pediments at each corner of the front porch.

Although the City’s tax records state this home was built in 1915, it is more likely that the home was constructed shortly after December 1, 1920, when John Dean’s Dean Development Corporation transferred the property to his construction company, United Construction Company – a step that Dean customarily took when he intended to construct a house on the parcel.  The 1921 Fort Myers city directory does not show this house to be in existence in that year, and the dwelling appears for the first time on the 1922 Sanborn Insurance Company map.  The 1923 Fort Myers city directory shows that “MM Milford” lives at this address (then 1141 Rhode Island Avenue).

On May 8, 1924, United Construction formally sold the home to Morton M. Milford for $8,500. Mr. Milford and his wife, Florence M. Milford, of Dade County.  The Milfords owned the home for another eleven months, then sold it on February 2, 1925, to Bard L. Hendry and Mary B. Hendry, who lived there until 1929.

Bard L. Hendry, Sr. (1876-1946) was the grandson of Francis A. Hendry (1833-1917) a cattleman and one of the first settlers of Fort Myers.  According to a story in the News-Press, Bard and his brother bought $40,000 of cattle using funds loaned from their father, James E. Hendry (1854-1915).  The two brothers raised and sold the cattle, repaid their father, then bought a drug store business in Fort Myers – all before they were old enough to vote.  Bard’s later business career included a real estate development business, the Bard L. Henry Organization, Hendry Machine & Engineering Company, and The Bard L. Hendry Marine Ways and Machine Shop.  By 1940, Bard and Mary had retired to Fort Myers Beach.

Earlier addresses:  1141 Rhode Island, 10 Rhode Island Avenue; Dean’s Subdivision, Block D, Lot 15.

 2781 Rhode Island Avenue – Henry & Jennie L. Colquitt Home – 1926

This outstanding Craftsman home is one of the few homes in Dean Park built of brick.  Its style is known as the “Airplane” style because of the recessed second floor that appears to “fly” under its broad roof eaves.  It is almost identical to the other “Airplane” Craftsman home located nearby at 1511 Rhode Island Avenue.

On March 8, 1923, Dean Development Company sold this parcel to Henry and Jennie Colquitt for $2,000, subject to a restriction that any house built there cost at least $4,000.  The Colquitts resided here until Mr. Colquitt’s death in 1935 and Mrs. Colquitt’s death in 1936, after which the home was sold by the Colquitt estate in 1942.

Mr. and Mrs. Colquitt were both Michigan natives, and they raised their family in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where Mr. Colquitt was a successful real estate agent and developer.  Mr. Colquitt continued his real estate career in Fort Myers from the Colquitt Real Estate office at the corner of Main Street and Broadway.  His projects in Fort Myers included opening Broadway between First and Main Streets, where he built the Colquitt Building in 1925.

Earlier addresses:  4 Rhode Island Avenue; Dean’s Subdivision, Block D, Lot 16.