by SC Reporter Teresa Vazquez
Sanibel is no stranger to historic preservation sites, but potential historical items can be found on the historic preservation committee’s resource list, which ranges from accommodations and restaurants to private homes and trees.
“[The list] was started about three years ago as the members realized a building, place or object could be historic yet not ready for placement on the historic register,” Historic Preservation Committee Chairperson Deborah Gleason said. “We felt they still needed to be noted and not forgotten.”
Becoming a part of the historic register is not an instantaneous process. The place, building, or object must meet certain guideposts if they are to be considered for future designation.
That is where the real work begins — conducting research to find those necessary guideposts.
To do so, volunteers from the historic preservation committee will dig through old newspapers, videos recorded by the library, and books.
“(You’ve) got some kind of a guideline, you know, usually it’s quite obvious,” Gleason said. “It’s most often been a building that was here prior to the causeway, but there may be some changes in that simply because time marches on.”
Nonetheless, research will usually take quite a while due to the lack of information on the item, Gleason explained.
Beyond being established before the Sanibel Causeway, a common guidepost is a building must have most of its original architecture, and what Gleason calls its “island character.” Once on the register, these places must maintain the island character — including the private homes on the register.
Nonetheless, buildings aren’t the only thing on the resource list. Take for example the foundation of the submarine spotting tower.
Built during World War II, the spotting tower was used to spot German submarines entering the Gulf of Mexico. Since people could not stand up in the lighthouse for more time than what it took to maintain the light, the wooden tower was made.
Others like it were made scattered up the panhandle where submarines were spotted, Gleason explained.
The tower survived for about 20 years before being demolished in 1960. It could not be saved from the damages caused by Hurricane Donna and many years of erosion. However, it’s foundation can still be seen off the Point, by the picnic tables, during low tide.
Gleason explained that this site, like others already on the register, can teach us lessons of our past and remind us of our mistakes. Hence, why historical preservation sites are significant.
On the same token, is a utility pole on Bailey Road with early inner-workings. Although Gleason says the utility pole itself may not make the register, it could one day be moved to the historic village to be observed by people.
“It helps us remember what early utilities were,” Gleason said. “It’s a totally different system than what we have today. Things like that disappear very quickly.”
If an item on the list meets the guideposts, a report is drafted by the committee for nomination. The report is presented to the Sanibel Planning Commission and then Sanibel City Council, which ultimately approve it as a historic preservation.
Historical preservation sites have allowed the Sanibel community to learn, appreciate, and never forget the early days and people of the island, said Gleason, who has been an islander since the age of seven and ridden the mail-boat and the four ferries.
She hopes to see the original location of the Bailey’s store, on display at the Sanibel Historical Museum, added to the list.
The boards from the old wharf, known as the county dock, are reminders of the once heavily populated dock. Built in the late 1920s, it was filled with steamers, ferries, goods, mail, livestock, etc.
It remained busy until the last 30 years of its run when it all went away, said Gleason. But she remembers how much of Sanibel was based around it, and the Bayfront can be considered her favorite historical site, despite no designation yet.
The resource list is reviewed and expanded regularly by the council, but anyone can make their own nomination, Gleason said. “[The list] is kind of like our sketch pad where we just speak of our possibilities for future designation.”
To learn more about historical preservation sites, and the nomination process here.