by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
The Sanibel Historic Preservation Committee is recommending an amendment to the Nutt home listing on the register of historical landmarks, after a 3-2 vote last week. The HPC proposes removing the structure from the register, but keeping the homesite and cemetery listed.
Bob and Florence Young, owners of Gray Gables on West Gulf Drive, requested to have their home taken off the city’s register of historical landmarks after they encountered difficulty insuring it as a registered historic home. Photo provided.
Owners Bob and Florence Young’s request to have their home removed from the register was the result of their difficulty to insure a historic structure. In December 2021, they were notified their insurance carrier would not renew their wind policy after 2022 and struggled to find new coverage with the home designated as historic.
A city staff memo states the Youngs’ year-long search turned up a single insurance carrier which would provide coverage for double the premium – $29,000 vs $14,000. And staff’s research confirmed “residential properties with historic designation are difficult to insure and premiums are greatly increased.”
Bob told committee members by phone last week this was “not about the affordability, but the availability” of insurance for historic homes. “It’s 100 percent about availability.”
Most of the difficulty with insuring a historic or antique home lies with the replacement cost coverage because they are inherently expensive to repair and rebuild. But the Youngs’ home is essentially a replica with only three original beams part of the structure.
The original home, named Gray Gables, was built in the late 1800s by Letitia Ashmore Nutt, a widowed mother and one of the first island pioneers with a well-documented family legacy. Bob and Florence inherited the home in 1978, but put it up for sale in 1991 after it had fallen into disrepair from decades of exposure to the natural elements and termite damage.
However, the property was nominated for the historical register by the city three weeks after it went on the market and caused a drop in its property value. After the city declined their offer to donate the house, the Youngs were granted permission to move it landward and create a second lot. The beachfront lot was sold to help fund the relocation and complete rebuild.
Bob and Florence prominently displayed the Nutt family’s history on the island throughout the home before it was badly damaged by Hurricane Ian. Bob told the HPC he and his wife had no intentions of removing Gray Gables from the register until they had difficulty insuring it.
The Youngs’ request was originally set to go before the committee in October, but the storm delayed that hearing. When HPC reconvened in December, quorum was lost before members could reach a decision and the matter was moved to the January agenda.
Members voiced concern in both meetings about the Youngs’ request to de-list the home and, now in the aftermath of Ian’s damage to the island’s historical structures, their decision setting a precedent. City staff noted every request should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
HPC’s recommendation to remove the structure, but retain the Nutt homesite and cemetery on the register will go to the Sanibel Planning Commission for consideration in its final decision.