Although Sanibel Island covers just 33 square miles, it packs a great deal of attractions into its winding lanes. One of the oldest attractions is the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village which was founded in 1984.
The aim of the museum was to preserve some of Sanibel’s history before the island became swamped with development and important buildings were lost forever. The museum follows Sanibel’s history from when it was settled by the Calusa Indians around 2500 years ago through the Spanish era. Stories abound of life on Sanibel including when the island was home to a legendary pirate!
In the 1800s Sanibel was settled by pioneers and their families who became fishermen, farmers and business proprietors. Seven of the oldest and most interesting buildings from this era of Sanibel’s past have been saved from destruction and were moved to the museum site to create a true historical village.
What to See at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village
The collection of restored buildings that make up the historic village on Sanibel include the 1896 Sanibel Schoolhouse for White Children. It was built on the corner of Bailey Road but moved further along Periwinkle Way where it operated as a one-room schoolhouse. In 1932 the schoolhouse was extended with a second room and it then educated children from first to eighth grade. When the new school was built in the 1960s, the old schoolhouse was used as a theater and was moved to its final resting place at the museum in 2004.
The cracker-style Rutland House was the first building to be moved to the historical museum and village in 1984. Clarence Rutland was a crate packer of tomatoes and peppers that were grown on Sanibel and he lived in the house from 1928 to 1982, along with his wife Ruth.
Next stop on your tour should be the 1900 Packing House where locally grown produce was packed for export before tidal surges made the soil on Sanibel too salty for farming.
Sanibel’s First Post Office and Tea Room
The 1926 Post Office was built from debris after the 1926 hurricane and this tiny building has a fascinating history. The 1898 Burnap Cottage once stood on Woodring Point. It has been home to a minister, used as a fishing retreat and winter home before becoming part of the museum.
The 1926 Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room was built as a gas station, used as a store and operated as a tea room from 1928 to 1935. Other fascinating buildings include the 1927 Old Bailey General Store, and the pretty blue 1925 Morning Glories Cottage which was moved from San Carlos Bay.
The Old Village gift shop completes this unique museum of living history, making this a delightful place to spend an hour or two.
When to Visit Sanibel Historical Museum and Village
In the busy winter season (November to April) the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is open from Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm. In summer (May through August) the museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 1pm.
The museum is closed in September and October. Admission is $10 for adults (18+) and children of all ages are free.