SANIBEL HISTORICAL MUSEUM AND VILLAGE
The city of Sanibel was incorporated in 1974. Two years later, several citizens led by activist and historian Elinore Dormer formed a Historical Preservation Committee (Resolution 75-10). Several goals were set out but at the top of the list was the desire to obtain a typical early Sanibel home and turn it into a historical museum. The Rutland House became that museum when it was donated to the city by the Meunch family. The Rutland House was moved to city-owned land next to BIG ARTS in 1982, restored, and formally opened on November 10, 1984, Sanibel’s 10th birthday.
The chairman of the Historical Preservation Committee, Evelyn Pearson, worked tirelessly, giving her time and knowledge to furnish and organize the “Island Historical Museum,” as it was first called. The museum was dedicated to “pioneers and Native Americans of Sanibel and Captiva.” It was open just one day a week, eight months a year, with volunteers welcoming several thousands of visitors. Within five years, the museum was open four days a week for 10 months a year.
When Sam Bailey was elected chairman of the Historical Preservation Committee, the Museum entered a new phase. The Bailey family generously gave money and buildings to expand the museum into a “village.” In late 1991 and early 1992, the Bailey General Store (1927), Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room (1926), and the Post Office (1926) were moved to the site and carefully rebuilt and restored by “John’s Angels,” a dozen volunteers under the supervision of Historical Preservation Committee Vice Chairman John Veenschoten. These three buildings joined the Rutland House in 1993 and 1994. Then the Burnap Cottage and Morning Glories followed, donated and restored by volunteers who also built the shell of the Packing House and the garage to house the Bailey’s 1926 Model T truck. The Schoolhouse for White Children was next, transformed from the Old Schoolhouse Theater back to its 1920s appearance as Sanibel’s one-room schoolhouse for white children. Most recent additions are Shore Haven, which has not been restored to its original appearance except for parts of the exterior, and the Caretakers’ Cottage. With the Packing House, a replica, it gives us 10 buildings in all.
The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village exists because of the support of the city of Sanibel and its Historical Preservation Committee, the generosity of Sanibel citizens who have given money and volunteered their time and talent, and all those who have donated family treasures and heirlooms for the museum’s exhibits and displays.
It does take many people to make a village.