by SC Reporter Wendy McMullen
Post-storm repairs to the historic structure of the Sanibel Community House were unanimously approved Tuesday, June 13 by the Sanibel Planning Commission.
The building facing Periwinkle Way is the only part of the Community House on the historic register. The larger meeting rooms and great hall were added later. The historic building’s floor and foundation must be rebuilt after storm surge damage from Hurricane Ian. Since it’s on the historic register, the Historical Preservation Committee heard the matter first and made two recommendations, which they felt were more inline with the historic foundations on the island.
The existing concrete block footers and wood floor beams should be replaced with a concrete stem wall and flowable concrete floor base. Secondly, the concrete stem wall be maintained as an unfinished concrete with a sealant to protect against moisture, which means stucco or paint can not be used to cover the concrete.
The change will eliminate the crawl space which provides a haven for critters and moisture. This will also prevent the footers from floating around during flooding events, such as Ian, protecting the structural integrity of the historic section as a whole. The new concrete stem wall will be seen from the outside, right below the siding, showing less than a foot above ground.
Planning Director Paula McMichael told commissioners the Community House agrees to these recommendations and it’s how they would approach the project.
The Community House was built in 1927 on donated land. It has never been part of the City of Sanibel although the historic vote on incorporation was held there in 1974. The historic room is now known as the “Founder’s Room” and has been open to the public since it was built.
While the certificate of appropriateness was limited to the floor of the Founder’s Room, McMichael commented on a few other challenges facing the Community House in its efforts to represent historical accuracy in it. She mentioned a special brick is needed to repair the damaged fireplace due to the unusual size of the brick.