A History of Whiskey Creek


Imagine if you will the area near Winkler Road and Gladiolas in south Lee County where tomato fields and nurseries are present. This would be similar to the view one would have had in the 1960s prior to the development of the present day Whiskey Creek residential area.
To begin, it is formative to look at the what and why this area became an attractive residential area. One must situate the young and growing city of Fort Myers and the established port of Punta Rassa as economic engines separated by largely agricultural expanse.

Looking back, the Federal Government seized the south Florida lands and expelled the Seminole Native Americans to lands in Arkansas and Oklahoma in 1832 (Trail of Tears). After defining the area, the Feds in 1841 decreed that the money from any land sold would be deposited into an “Internal Improvements Fund” to be used to improve upon the habitability such as roads, facilities, schools, etc.

An act of Congress in 1850 allowed for use of the funds to reclaim swamp lands by means of “levees or drains”. This was important as one of the main deterrents to habitability was, in fact, mosquitoes. Mosquito Control predated the more extensive drainage canals we now use to benefit transportation and agriculture.

From 1883 to 1910, trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund deeded 32, 219 acres to the Florida Land Improvement Company for 25 cents per acres. Several significant land purchases were noted between 1909 and 1925 of that area we now call Whiskey Creek. In 1932, the Iona Drainage District issued bonds to the Lowell Bank of St. Louis in the amount of $19,623 to pay total tax upon their lands.

Previously, prior to Prohibition, the creek we now know as Whiskey Creek was known as Myomee, a Seminole name. Prohibition spawned many start-up businesses between 1920 and 1933, the most notable being bootlegging. Rumor has it that the creek, as it was remote yet navigable, became home to several stills; hence, the name became popularly known as “Whiskey” Creek.

We noted a deed exchange between Harriet Lander Greenway of Fairfield, CT and M. Hauk and George Hauk of Plant City, Florida in 1941 that encompasses the large extent of property now covered by the Tanglewood and Whiskey Creek subdivisions.

Reverting back, the movers and shakers of Fort Myers became interested in not only improving the commercial-economic prospects but also the transportation which would induce more visitors and commerce to that city. As all roads and streets were dirt or crushed shell, it was important to improve these routes particularly in the rainy seasons.

Ambrose McGregor, a wealthy Standard Oil executive, and his wife Tootie were active socially and economically in Fort Myers as they maintained a winter home there. Ambrose benefitted several businesses such as the Heitman store and the Bradford Hotel with concrete masonry construction to replace the original frame structures.

Both the Edisons and McGregors were active in promoting civic endeavors. Ambrose McGregor died of cancer in 1900 and left Tootie, his widow, one of the wealthiest women in the world. She remained active and interested in improvements of the area.

In February 1912 Tootie proposed that the town and county construct a hard surface road from Monroe Street to Whiskey Creek. Her enticement was that if they would agree, she would pay for the road from Whiskey Creek to Punta Rassa. Her one proviso was that it be named McGregor Boulevard.

After the death of Mr. McGregor, Tootie married Dr. Marshal Terry. Six month later on August 17, 1912, Tootie died at her summer home in New York. Four months after Tootie’s death, Dr. Terry asked the Town council and the Lee County Board of Commissioners to proceed with the boulevard project and to establish the name of McGregor. It was completed in 1915.

The benefit of this to Fort Myers and the channeling of transportation between the Caloosahatchee and the Gulf, including the Whiskey Creek area, was immeasurable.
A deed date August 1, 1960 transferred ownership of the Hauk property to M & O Building Co. (origin of Michigan Homes) which began the action of development of the Tanglewood area. In 1963 the first addition to Tanglewood plat was filed in Lee County. 1964 saw a second section registered now to Michigan Sales & Development Corp., and they built a total of 391 homes until 1968. Both Iona McGregor and South Trail Fire Districts were formed in 1965 from volunteer efforts. An irregular line designated the border between the two districts evidently to accommodate some established residential areas. Today this line strangely divides portions of Whiskey Creek. Good fire departments were instrumental for the developers to be able to build and attract buyers for more development.

In 1970, a Sarasota firm, First Development Corp. of American (later U. S. Homes) bought land from the Hauk family and registered the first plats for Unit 1, Blocks A and B of the Whiskey Creek Country Club Estates. Progressive development of Blocks 1 through 11 and Z-1 continued until 1980.

Construction began shortly after, abutting Summerlin Blvd. which then was a two lane dirt road. The single entry to Whiskey Creek was from McGregor Blvd. Model homes was located at the McGregor entrance. Shortly after, as lots were being sold, it became evident that adjacent lots to Summerlin were not attractive as Lee County intended to widen and improve the roadway there. Consequently the original five foot high buffer wall was constructed by U. S. Homes along the property lines of the homeowners’ lots. Summerlin was completed in the early 1980s. Rebuild of sections of the wall with six foot high panels occurred in 2010 with private money.

Originally planned as a gated community with a gate house, plans changed as the area matured with Tanglewood School being built in 1970 along with the opening of the southern entrance via College Parkway with a bridge.

During construction of the subdivision by U. S. Homes, much of the fill required for landscaping, elevation of property and contouring of the golf course was dredged from an area now known as “The Lake”. Lee County required that two weirs be built to control back water migration from the river into the lake area. The reason for this was because the river and some of the original Whiskey Creek is estuary and therefore is subject to tidal action and salt water. Today the weirs yet separate this area and as such has limited navigation (motor boats are restricted) but does give adjacent homeowners additional ambience. The lake serves as a retention area and receives drainage from the canal system.

The McGregor arch bridge replaced the original level bridge in 1967. It was noted that with high tide, one could not get a canoe under the original level bridge. The bridge was then upgraded again in 1997 as McGregor became State Highway 867. The opening to the south via Whiskey Creek Drive helped improve access to developing commercial areas and Edison Junior College (now FSW) which was established in 1962 and building by 1965.

On April 23, 1972, an official ribbon cutting was held to open the golf course. In November 1973, a committee was formed to study the purchase of the golf club from U. S. Homes. In May of 1974, the non-profit corporation received their Florida charter, and then signed a lease-purchase agreement taking over the club on June 1, 1974.

Today with the build-out of the subdivision, the original developer has turned over responsibility for deed restrictions and certain non-buildable parcels to the volunteer Whiskey Creek Civic Association. The maintenance of areas such as the entrances, the Whiskey Creek Drive medians and McGregor wall is undertaken by a quasi-governmental entity know as the Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) which derives its income from a portion of the property tax collection process.

In all, the present day Whiskey Creek subdivision enjoys the past and present efforts of many people, volunteer groups and governmental entities to provide an area of great livability, appearance and access to venues for entertainment, activity, education, business and churches. 

Time Line

1850 – Mosquito Control District
1932 – Iona Drainage District
1965 – Iona McGregor Fire District and South Trail
1961-1968 – Tanglewood – Michigan Homes purchased land from George Hauk (potato farmer)
1967 – McGregor Arch Bridge (originally built 1912 and upgraded in 1997)
1970 – Tanglewood School (previously Riverside School), additions in 1987 and 1991
1970 – First Development Corp. (later U. S. Homes) purchases land from Hauk


Whiskey Creek

1970 – Whiskey Creek Drive foot bridge rebuilt to accommodate autos (built 1920 as a foot bridge)
1970 Unit 1
            Unit I, Block A (February)
            Unit 1, Block B (February)
1972 – Whiskey Creek Country Club opened.
1974 – Whiskey Creek Country Club sold to equity members
1974 – Unit 5
1976 – Unit 2
1977 – Unit 3
            Unit 4
1977 – Unit 6
            Unit 7
1977 – Unit 9
1978 – Unit 8
1978 – MSTU Formed in October
1979 – Unit A
1979 – Z – 1
1980 – Unit 10
1980 – Unit 11
1980 – MSTU added Adult Condos
1987 – Original College Parkway entry sign erected, replaced 2011
1992 – MSTU Tax levy increased ½ mil to 1 mil
2005 – Common lands deeded to Whiskey Creek Civic Association

Many thanks to those who contributed to this history:

Sarah Clarke, Lee DOT; Jeanne Iwinski Miller, Lee County C & R; Gay E. Looney; Mark White, SFWMD; Barry Willmyer; David Camps; Betty Gale; Walter Idlette, Jr., Lee APP. Map Tech; Steve Hartsell