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31 Aug 2018
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Sanibel History

Like everything on Sanibel, our historical village is non-intrusive, non-sprawling and chock-full of interesting things.  It is an icon of preservation and stored memories.

Just driving up to the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village makes one think of taking a trip back in time. The historic village is tucked away neatly down a winding island road and nestled within the protection of surrounding native trees and vegetation. The entrance to the property gives a feel for what life must have been like a hundred years ago on Sanibel. The atmosphere outside is quiet and pristine — the type of quiet that will cause hushed voices simply out of respect for the peaceful feeling of the place.
Upon entering the site, the first historical building that visitors encounter is the Shore Haven house. Originally built in 1924, but the building has been updated too much to allow for a historic restoration. “We can’t use it as a historic house except for the outside,” museum manager Emilie Alfino said, “which is being restored to its original look.” It is the most recent building donation. 

The Rutland House was built in 1913. It was the first building to be relocated to the village, which happened in 1984 at the founding of the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village. The Rutland House contains a small visitor center where guests meet the volunteer docents, sign a guestbook and pay their entrance fee before continuing their journey into the Island’s past. Once inside the village, visitors can explore eight historical buildings that range in date from 1896 to 1927.

“Everything here is from the 1890s to the 1940s,” said Alfino, “or we don’t accept it. The oldest building is the schoolhouse, which was built in 1896.”

Used for many years as a local theater, the old school building was eventually donated and brought to the village where volunteers restored it. “When they brought it here and started taking off the sheetrock,” Alfino said, “they found the original blackboard.” The original school bell was also returned to the building to finish off the return to authenticity.

The next oldest building in the village is the Burnap Cottage, which was built in 1898. It was first used as a homestead and later as a church, fishing retreat, and cottage. The building was donated in 1998 and soon restored to its original look and feel. Like the other buildings in the village, the Burnap Cottage has maintained its historical charm and warmness. Restoration has been carefully done to ensure that visitors will experience a realistic return to a simpler era.

Another visitor favorite in the village is the Morning Glories Cottage. This house was originally shipped to the Island as a prefabricated home in 1925. Over 30,000 pieces had to be put together, but the result was a cozy little home that 89 years later still makes visitors want to spend the night. Recently, Morning Glories received a necessary update. Morning Glories has a brand new porch because the supports were no longer safe, but we kept the original floor. With period furniture and décor, Morning Glories Cottage is truly a visit to the past. As history buffs so often say, “You can just feel the history.”

No village is complete without a general store, and the Old Bailey General Store, built in 1927, has just as much to offer today’s customer as it did in its heyday. Aside from the antiques that are only for display, the store sells various modern treasures in its Old Village Gift Shop, where visitors can peruse and buy handmade gifts to take back home.