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Ted Thayer is the man behind repairing a few of the Beach’s iconic landmarks

June 26, 2019
By LEAH SANKEY (lsankey@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Ted Thayer mended the old coral stone monument on Main Street that was riddled with cracks and has now volunteered to be the head stone mason for the Restore the Arches nonprofit group.

In 1929, Tom Phillips built the Fort Myers Beach Arches - a cement structure filled with shells and coquinas that was then the landmark entrance to Fort Myers Beach. The arches were torn down in 1979 by developers. The 1924 Tom Phillips monument on Main Street that Thayer repaired is made of the same material, and the new arches will be as well.

Thayer has been a stone mason for about 40 years, and he taught woodshop and bricklaying for 27. All of his stone masonry is now on a volunteer basis; he's retired.

Article Photos

Ted Thayer has volunteered his time and expertise to repair the 1924 Tom Phillips monument on Main Street and will now be the head stone mason for the Restore the Arches nonprofit group.

LEAH SANKEY

Thayer went to vocational school in Lee County to become a stone mason in 1979. He's been in the area since the early '70s and remembers the arches.

"I moved here with my parents at 15, in 1973. We drove under those arches all the time," said Thayer. "Of course, I didn't appreciate them at the time because I was 15."

The president of Restore the Arches, Ray McDonald, said that Thayer approached the group about being their stone mason via Facebook.

"This was Ted's first communication to our founder, Paul Sessions: 'I'm an old-time local stone mason with licensed old-time local stone mason friends. Keep pushing this. We are totally interested!'"

Although Thayer planned to volunteer his work and time, McDonald is adamant about compensating him in some way.

"He is our guy to lead the project," said McDonald. "Even if he has to volunteer to be a non-paid Lee County volunteer to do it we will find a way to compensate him."

Last year, Thayer was approached about fixing the stone monument on Main Street. He said that he came down with a bucket of coral rock and a barrel of mud that very weekend. Thayer's favorite part of the renewed monument is a brain coral that he added to the front, right side. Thayer said that the repair took him a mere five hours.

"The most amazing thing about Ted is what he went through to fix the stone monument on Main Street on his own nickel," said McDonald. Thayer was modest about this and didn't mention anything about spending his own money to restore the Main Street monument.

Restore the Arches is now just grappling with the decision of where to put the arches, and then, they must get approval.

They have a poll regarding proposed locations on the Observer website that's currently at 50/50. They will either put the arches in their original spot, where beachgoers can drive underneath them, or they will put them on Crescent Beach Park where beachgoers can pose and snap pictures with the monument.

"No matter where they put it, I'm excited to be a part of it," said Thayer.

The group is hoping to break ground on the landmark arches by 2020.

 
 

 

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