The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is dedicated to early settlers of the island. Farmers and fishermen, clergy and teachers, they shared hardships and dreams. The ten retored buildings that make up the Village offer a glimpse into their lives.
The Rutland House, built in 1913, typifies the Florida “Cracker” style, designed to maximize comfort in a very warm climate. Visitors discover pre-electric cooking, at least four ways to combat mosquitoes, and a country kitchen with gadgets to confound.
A walk past a small garden much like the ones the pioneers planted leads to the Old Bailey Store, a typical general store of the early 1900s. It served islanders until 1966, when the store moved into a more modern building, where it still operates today. Often parked in front of the store by the twin Red Crown gas pumps (gravity-fed) is a restored 1926 Model T Ford delivery truck.
Farther on is a charming 1925 Sears Roebuck catalog cottage showcasing all the built-ins one could order with a home. A favorite with visitors, the cottage called “Morning Glories” is period-furnished in vintage white wicker.
The 1926 Post Office indicates the size of the community and the resourcefulness of islanders. The tiny structure was built with scrap lumber salvaged from the mangrove swamps after a hurricane.
Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room was originally designed to be a gas station, briefly served as a store, then as the Tea Room, then a home for island workers. The Tea Room has been restored to its late 1920s/early 1930s appearance, when Charlotta Matthews served light fare to the ferry crowd.
Burnap Cottage dates back to 1898. Once a fishing cottage and site of a traveling preacher’s Sunday sermons, the little house holds an abundance of Sanibel Lighthouse memorabilia, including an authentic lens mounted on a replica turntable.
The island’s original one-room School for White Children dates back to 1896 and served the island until the 1960s when a new, integrated school was built.
Recent arrivals in 2013 included Shore Haven, a 1924 two-story Sears kit home, and its two-room Caretaker’s Cottage. Shore Haven now serves as a welcome center and home to special exhibits, while the cottage houses a display honoring black history on the island.
The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is open from 10am to 4pm Tuesday through Saturday from mid-October through April. From May through July, the hours are 10am to 1pm. The village is closed for the off-season from mid-August until mid-October. Find the museum at 950 Dunlop Road, Sanibel, FL 33957. Admission is $10 for those over 18, free for children and members. Tour groups are welcome but advance notice is appreciated. For more information, call 239-472-4648 or visit www.sanibelmuseum.org; email firstname.lastname@example.org.