historic buildings

1925 The Caretaker's Cottage

This cottage was built after 1925 behind the Mayer family’s bayfront home, Shore Haven. Through the years it served as guest house, bath house, caretakers’ cottage and annex. In the 1950s and 60s Hannah and Isaiah Gavin, after farming and living on Sanibel for decades, stayed there to help widowed Daisy Mayer with housework and gardening. The Gavin grandchildren often visited them there. It was donated and moved to the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village with Shore Haven in 2012 and features an exhibit of Sanibel’s Black History.

1924 Shore Haven

1924 Shore Haven

Shore Haven is the museum’s most recent acquisition. The exterior has been restored to its 1924 look, with the exception of the sun porch, a modern addition. Subsequent owners did so much renovating and updating that it was impossible to bring the interior back to 1924. Some parts remain, though. The walls are the same ones the original owners put up after the Florida heat destroyed the walls provided by Sears.

The Mayer brothers from Erie, Pennsylvania often vacationed on Sanibel and were captivated by the island’s charm. In the early 1920s they d land on the beach fronting San Carlos Bay. Owning land and building a home in this busy and convenient stretch along the bay was considered to be a smart move.

Ross and Martin Mayer had children close to the same age and decided to live side-by-side and share facilities. They both chose Sears Roebuck kit homes. Martin and Ada Mayer purchased the Springwood model, now known as Morning Glories, and completed it in 1926. The two-story Verona model home, now named Shore Haven, was built by Ross and Daisy Mayer. The village is proud to have both homes on its property.

The Sears Roebuck kit homes were available through the Modern Homes catalog of Honor Bilt Homes from 1909 until the 1940s. They were extremely well-built houses, available in three grades. Sanibel’s two examples are of the middle grade.

1896 School House

1896 Sanibel School House for White Children

In 1896, the East Sanibel School for White Children was built on the corner of Bailey Road and Periwinkle Way and then moved farther up Periwinkle in 1903 where it sat for over 100 years. The building, a classic one-room schoolhouse, had a platform in the front where different grades took turns doing lessons with the teacher. In the center was a wood stove used to warm the room in winter as well as to heat soup and cocoa. In 1932, a second room was added, more windows installed, and the schoolhouse was able to house grades one through eight. In the 1960s, after a new school house was built, the building became a theater. In December of 2004, the building was moved to the Historical Village.

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The Rutland House

1913 Rutland House

The Rutland House was the first building moved to the current Historical Museum and Village site in 1984. The house, built in 1913 in a typical "cracker" style (“cracker” being derived from the sound Florida cattlemen made when cracking their whips), is made of hard Florida pine. The house originally stood on Periwinkle Way (where the trailer park is now) above ground on pilings made of concrete and beach sand. This protected the house from floods and allowed the air to circulate.

Eleven-foot ceilings, a wide hallway and the placement of windows and doors opposite each other keep the house cool and are typical attributes of a "cracker house."

Clarence Rutland came to the island with his parents in 1896 at the age of six and was a jack-of-all-trades. In the 1920s he earned seven cents per crate packing tomatoes and peppers for farmers and resided in this house from 1928 to shortly before his death in 1982. “Uncle” Clarence and his wife, Ruth, are fondly remembered by islanders.

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1900 Sanibel Packing House

There were a few packing houses located on Sanibel where vegetables, produce and citrus were delivered to be packed for shipment “up north.” Islanders would help each other harvest their crops and haul them by mule and wagon to the packing house. Seasonal workers were often brought in to pick tomatoes, peppers and citrus. The workers camped out at the work site and then moved on to another islander’s fields. Agriculture was the main commerce for Sanibel settlers from the 1880s to the 1940s. Eventually tidal surges that washed over the island during several hurricanes rendered the soil useless for large-scale farming.

Post Office

1926 Post Office

No visitor can walk by this building, complete with mail drop and old Glory flying out front, without stepping inside. The Sanibel Post Office was chosen as a test site for rural mail in 1895 and permanently established on April 2, 1900. The mail sack was put off the steamer at Will Reed’s dock on San Carlos Bay. The front porch of his house served as the post office. After the hurricane of 1926 washed away Reed’s house, there was enough debris found to build this small post office. Will Reed was postmaster until 1940.

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1898 Burnap Cottage

1898 Burnap Cottage

The Burnap Cottage (1898) was the oldest building in the Village until the Schoolhouse arrived. It was built on Woodring Point on land homesteaded by Sam Woodring. In the early 1900s, a minister by the name of Gatewood used the cottage to hold Sunday services. Upon Sam’s death, Hiram Burnap purchased the cottage and used it as a fishing retreat in the winter. Nellie and James Brewster bought the cottage and added a second story. In 1998, the building was donated to the village and restored to its original state. Some say a ghost still haunts the building.

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1926 Miss Charlotta's Tea Room

Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room is the little building with four lives. It was built but never used as a gas station, then after the 1926 hurricane, it served as a temporary store. Between 1928-35 it became a tea room and lastly, a private residence. 

Before the 1926 hurricane, the Bailey brothers constructed this building as a gas station. The building survived the hurricane, and the Baileys’ made it a temporary store. When the new store was completed, the building was moved and turned over to Charlotta Matthews, the present Bailey brothers’ maiden aunt, who turned it into a tea room across from the ferry landing.

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1927 Old Bailey General Store

Originally situated on a wharf in San Carlos Bay, this second store, also known as the “Sanibel Packing Company,” was rebuilt farther back on land, following the hurricane of 1926. It’s gabled ends were tied down with braces, and between the inside and outside siding, diagonal tongue and groove boards strengthened the walls for better hurricane protection.

The Bailey General Store was the center of activity on the island with telephone and telegraph links, while steamer, ferry and mail boats stopped at the docks. A small miniature golf course stretched out beside the building and allowed islanders to enjoy themselves while waiting for the ferry.

Islanders voted here, sent and received mail and caught up on the latest news.

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1925 Morning Glories Cottage

This house, a Sears & Roebuck prefabrication, is a favorite with visitors. At a cost of $2211, Martin Mayer ordered it delivered in 1925. The building came to the island in 30,000 pieces on a flatbed truck aboard a barge. It was the island event of the year!

Morning Glories was originally located on San Carlos Bay. A few years ago, the house was donated to the Village, and a group of volunteers labored for almost a year to restore the building to its present condition. Its warm and cozy atmosphere seems quite livable to today’s visitor and represents a typical winter home on Sanibel in the 20s and 30s.

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