Picture yourself driving west along Pine Island Road and you come to our four-way stop sign at Stringfellow Road. If you look right, it is toward Pineland and Bokeelia. If you look left, it is toward Flamingo Bay and St. James City. If you get out of your vehicle and look around, it will result in a lot of angry motorist honking at you. So drive through the intersection and park safely along the side of the road in the park. Now look around. Do you see Tom's Town?
In the late 1930, a real estate developer by the name of Tom Phillips came to Pine Island and started purchasing land. Phillips bought a sizable portion of property in the center of the island where the dirt roads from Matlacha, Bokeelia and St. James City converged. Here he laid out the streets and platted the building lots for the community that he would call Tom's Town. Lots were offered for sale for as little as $10 down and $10 per month.
In the mid 1950s the name Tom's Town was officially changed to Pine Island Center. Today there are approximately 750 households in Pine Island Center with approximately 20 percent of the island's population. The "Center" is the home of the Pine Island Shopping Center, a Lee County Public Library, the Museum of the Islands, the pool and various businesses.
The shopping center was built in 1980 and that same year the Winn-Dixie opened. The current library was dedicated Dec. 19, 1986. The museum was dedicated Feb. 4, 1990. The office of the Pine Island Eagle, which started circulation on April 21, 1976, is located in Pine Island Center.
After Tom Phillips' death, Lucille Warren, his daughter, donated a large tract of land north of the four-way stop to Lee County. Today the park, library and museum are located there. The park was named Phillips Park, in honor of Tom Phillips.
Lee County Park & Recreation's first public pool opened in Phillips Park in 1973. The pool holds 183,500 gallons of water. With the installation of heaters in 1986, the pool became the first public heated one in Lee County. According to the extremely helpful pool manager, Sandy, the pool was converted to salt water around 2006. Our Pine Island pool is the only salt water one in the Lee County Parks system out of its nine pools.
The tennis courts were added to Phillips Park in 1976. The park is also home to the Greater Pine Island Little League. Its first baseball season was held in 1981. A second ball field with 60-foot base paths was added in 1998. A family pavilion was added to the park in 2006. A new playground was added in 2012. The total park size is 8 acres.
Tom Phillips would later dig the canals and develop St. James City, and assist in the development of Flamingo Bay. But he got his start on Pine Island at Tom's Town.
For more history of Pine Island, visit the Museum of the Islands, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
The museum is conveniently located next to the Pine Island Library at 5728 Sesame Drive off Stringfellow Road. Call 239-283-1525.
Tim Knox is museum historian at the Museum of the Islands.