Remembering The Causeway At The Historical Village

The Sanibel Historical Village’s Luminary event on December 1, from 3:30 to 5:30 will celebrate “A Sanibel ’60s Christmas, Change is on the Way.”

“You can’t look back on Sanibel in the ’60s without focusing on the biggest change the island has ever seen – the causeway,” said executive director Emilie Alfino. “The causeway led Sanibel to another historic change – incorporation as a city in 1974.”

The causeway opened May 26, 1963, and the people of Sanibel said goodbye to the ferries that had been crossing San Carlos Bay for almost 60 years. The Kinzie Brothers, who had operated the ferry since 1904, conducted a farewell ferry cruise, accompanied by other vessels, even yachts. When the flag was lowered on the ferry, another flag was being raised on the bridge at the same time. The sleepy little island saw 1,200 cars cross the bridge in the first two hours.

Today, more than 3 million vehicles cross the causeway each year.

“Change really was on the way in the 1960s on Sanibel,” Alfino said. “When the decade started, the population on Sanibel was just 300 people.” In 2016, Sanibel’s population was 6,591.

Like many old-timers, island icon Francis Bailey was vehemently against building the causeway. “To this day, I would just as soon they blow up that bridge,” Bailey wrote in his memoir, My 92 Years on Sanibel. “They wanted to build that first causeway to land at Bailey Road, and I said no. I don’t think I put ‘Hell, no’ in my letter to the county, but I wanted to.”

Even Bailey acknowledged, though, that some things changed for the good. “Still, to this day, I believe Sanibel could have survived quite well without the causeway,” he wrote.

On December 1, visitors to the Historical Village can see how residents and snowbirds decorated for the holidays and view memorabilia from that exciting decade. To help set the scene, the Historical Village is seeking to borrow 1960s memorabilia for its Christmas display this year. “We want to include as many items as possible in each display so it will truly be a memorable experience for all visitors. To do this, we need the community’s help,” said event co-chair Gayle Pence.

Pence said the Christmas committee is looking for any and all 1960s-era items, including “Chatty Cathy” dolls, Barbie’s Dream House, Easy-Bake Oven, G.I Joe dolls, “Wham-O” Super Balls, Lite Brites, “Operation” & “Life” games, Hot Wheels, Play-Doh, The Slinky, “Mr. Potato Head ,” the “Twister” game, the Sketch-O- Matic, cap guns, roller skates with a key, lunch boxes, hula hoops, cowboy outfits, hop scotch games, men’s fedoras, pill box hats, poodle skirts, bobby socks, saddle shoes, cardigan sweaters, high school letter jackets and sweaters, 45 rpm records, Davy Crockett hats, Sanibel Causeway coupon books, any Sanibel news items pertaining to the causeway and other things that were happening on the island during this decade, aluminum Christmas tree, any household items or decorations pertaining to the 1960s, and 1960s clothing items.

The Historical Village is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The village is located at 950 Dunlop Road (next to BIG ARTS). Admission is $10 for adults 18 and older; those under 18 and members are free. Docent-guided tours are available at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at no extra charge, based upon docent availability. There is handicap access at the village. For information, call 472-4648 during business hours or visit


Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Sanibel Historical Village is located at 950 Dunlop Road (next to BIG ARTS) and there is handicap access to eight of the nine buildings. Admission is FREE for SHMV members and $15 for non-members (adults ages 18 years and up).  For more information, call 472-4648 during museum hours or visit

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