provided to The Santiva Chronicle
In 1927, the original purpose of the new Community House building was to serve as a town gathering place for the small population who lived here at the time. Just a few hundred pioneer settlers engaged in farming and fishing, their homes were scattered across the Islands. There was no formal “village” at the time. They needed a place where they could come together, socialize, and share meals, entertainment & knowledge.
Pooling their resources, they built a small, cottage-style building that served them well as a communal living space …the Community House.
In the 95 years that followed, the Community House has been a busy place. Moreover, it came to serve another unexpected but very important role in the history of Sanibel—as the birthplace for many of the Island entities, activities and services we now take for granted. The foundations for many of many local organizations were laid at the Community House before they grew into their own facilities. Down through the years, examples include:
First movie shows.
First meetings to formulate fire protection services
First lending library
Public Health Services including inoculations by County Nurse
Hurricane response center after Hurricane Donna
Public Polling Place
First pre-school classes
IQ testing site for school children
School programs and ceremonies
Teen Club for Island youth—parties & dances
First organized dances for adults
Concerts, shows, lectures & plays
Holiday parties for adults and childrenn
Audubon Society meetings
First Island newspaper (Island Reporter)
Committee to Create Island Bike Path
BIG Arts Organization
Service Club Meetings and Fundraising Activities (Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, Zonta, ABWA)
Recreational & Social Club Meetings
Public Meetings to create the City of Sanibel (Home Rule Study Group/Sanibel Tomorrow)
Vote to Incorporate City of Sanibel
Earliest City Hall functions, including City Council Meetings following incorporation
Over the years, these activities helped to bring Sanibel from its roots as a sparsely populated, remote island into the vibrant community it is today. These days it has become trendy to talk about “incubators” for small business start-ups, but this community can be proud of having built one of the first incubators 95 years ago, long before the idea became popular.
In 2022, the Community House will celebrate the 95th Anniversary of its opening, and an event celebrating its Anniversary will be held on Tuesday, January 18 (“Cheers to 95 Years”). Those interested in attending can reserve tickets to the dinner/dance Anniversary party can do so at the Community House website (sanibelcommunityhouse.net) or by calling 239-472-2155.
The original idea for the Community House arose from the vision and energy of the people of Sanibel and Captiva, and 95 years later it continues to be a community-run facility. Operated by the Sanibel Community Association (SCA) as a non-profit 501c3 organization, it receives no tax dollars, and instead is supported solely by membership dues, rental fees, business sponsorships and donations from residents and friends.