Priscilla Murphy’s Legacy Continues On Sanibel

by SC Reporter Reanna Haase

Priscilla Murphy was one of the first real estate agents to open a firm on Sanibel Island. Her business helped to shape the island to be the way we know it today.

Murphy was from the suburbs of Detroit, Mich. She traveled to Sanibel several times before making the decision to move to Southwest Florida. When she moved to the island, she was adamant about not working in a corporate position, as she had just left one of her own behind in Michigan.

Marri Simcox is the owner and founder of Priscilla’s of Sanibel, a small business in The Village Shops she named in honor of Murphy. Simcox said upon arriving to the island Murphy opened a ceramic shop on the east end of the island and began getting involved with the community.

“She had a little ceramic shop here first; she did not have any kids, but she would get involved with things going on at the Sanibel school,” Simcox said.

It was at a gathering for the Sanibel School where she was noticed by a Realtor. Although she was hesitant, this began her journey in real estate. In the early 1950’s Murphy opened what is now known as The Priscilla Murphy Center. The yellow building at 1019 Periwinkle Way served as her home and the central office for her real estate business.

The Priscilla Murphy Center at 1019 Periwinkle Way. SC photo by Shannen Hayes

The Priscilla Murphy Center was recently purchased by the Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, which is renovating a portion of the building, to relocate its second branch. SCCB nominated the Murphy center for the Local Register of Historic Landmarks and the Historical Preservation Committee has been working diligently with the bank to come to a conclusion on the nomination.

In the most recent meeting on May 5, representative for SCCB, Gus Simmons, presented the committee with how The Priscilla Murphy Center meets the requirements for the historic register. Although the committee said Simmons came very prepared with his knowledge of the requirements, they have decided to delay the decision until the next meeting on June 2.

The committee shared their concern about the remodel with the SCCB. Members want to make sure not only the original footprint stays intact, but they want to maintain the ‘vintage look’ of the 1950’s building. The meeting on June 2 will fall at the end of the 90-day deliberation period allocated for the committee to discuss the nomination. A conclusion should be reached with some more communication between SCCB and the committee.

The committee feels very strongly about making sure you can still tell this building is from the 1950’s so the association with Murphy is still prevalent. While working in real estate, Murphy was known for being very personable and always staying humble.

“(Someone) described her as the ‘Queen of Sanibel,’ that she just knew everyone’s name… She was just very involved with Community House, involved with SCCF (Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation). She was just you know a true advocate of the island,” Simcox said.

Both Simmons, during the committee meeting, and Simcox shared a story of how Murphy would wait for the ferry to come to Sanibel and when visitors arrived, she would let them take her car to look at real estate. Murphy helped to shape Sanibel with how she did business. Simcox said she thinks Sanibel would be very different if Murphy had a different attitude towards real estate.

“I think she changed even just real estate in general. I feel like real estate can have this vibe of a very cutthroat mentality, or like just you know sell, sell, sell. From what I have heard from people is that she just wanted everyone to have the home that they were meant to have,” Simcox said.

Simcox said Murphy was constantly looking out for what was best for Sanibel and this is what inspired her to name her store after her. Priscilla’s of Sanibel is a small boutique style shop and all the items in the store are either made by women or a women owned company.

“The name comes then from Priscilla Murphy, being one of the trailblazing women of Sanibel. She was my inspiration, so I have when you walk in there is a whole wall of old black and white photos and it is all women on the island from like 1880s through 1960s… So, there is just a lot of women history in the store as well,” Simcox said. “My whole mission is to have people feel inspired when they leave, and you know empower mostly women.”

Murphy impacted Sanibel residents’ lives more than some might even know and people like Simcox are trying to keep her story alive.


Leave a Comment

We are interested in articulate, well-informed remarks that are relevant to the article. We welcome your advice, your criticism and your unique insights into the issues of the day. To be approved for publication, your comments should be civil and avoid name-calling. It may take up to 24 hours for your comment to appear, if it is approved.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.