Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library closing in Cape Coral

Charles Runnells
| Fort Myers News-Press

After 11 years, the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library will close its doors Wednesday in Cape Coral.

“It’s just the end of the road,” said founder and CEO Ralph Santillo. “That’s it.”

The closure comes after a financial dispute with the museum’s former business partner, which owns the building and had wanted the museum to pay $5,000 a month in rent, which would go up to $8,000 next year. Until recently, the museum wasn’t required to pay rent at all.

The other option: Buy the building for $1.8 million — money the museum’s leaders say they don’t have.

Santillo and the museum’s board of directors tried raising the money earlier this year, but only received about $6,500 through a GoFundMe page and other donations.

“It was never enough to really make a dent,” Santillo said. “We had to really face reality that we’re throwing good money after bad that we don’t have.

“We had until June 2021 to raise $1.8 million. But we realized that, after 11 years, if we haven’t started to reach that, that’s not gonna happen.”

Read more: Cape Coral military museum could lose its home and the veterans services it runs there

Now Santillo and his board of directors are figuring out what’s next for the museum, including loaning out its military artifacts to other museums and restarting its popular museum bus with traveling exhibits.

“That would keep the museum in business, so to speak,” Santillo said.

Meanwhile, the Cape Coral Parkway building is in the process of being sold to a new owner, he says. The museum’s landlord recently bought out the museum’s lease in exchange for two months’ free rent and a $50,000 bonus once the place sells.

Santillo says he doesn’t know who’s buying the property.

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