Sanibel Community House Marking 95th Anniversary

provided to The Santiva Chronicle

As we turn the corner to a new year, Sanibel has more to celebrate than usual. In 2022, our Island will mark an historic milestone – the 95th Anniversary of the Sanibel Community House. Originally built in 1927, long before the founding of the City of Sanibel, the Community House has been in continuous operation since then, serving as the central gathering place for Island civic, social and cultural activities. It’s time to say “Cheers to 95 Years!”.

Original Community House viewed from Periwinkle Way

In many ways the opening of the Community House in 1927 was the real beginning of “community” for Sanibel. Before it opened, the farmers and fishermen who lived here were scattered about the Island in small, modest homes, and connection with others was difficult. Seeing a need for a place they could congregate, they pooled their resources and erected the original small Community House building using donated land, materials and labor. And what a change it brought.

The Community House became the home-away-from-home for early residents, the scene of community socials, pot luck dinners, dances, parties, weddings and town meetings. Over the years, the Community House has been expanded and renovated several times, most recently in 2016; and through the decades it has continued to serve as a centerpiece for Island community activities.

Surprising to most people, throughout its 95 years the Community House has operated without tax-payer support. As a non-profit 501c3, managed by the Sanibel Community Association (SCA), the facility has continued to operate as it did in 1927–with all funding raised directly from the public through SCA membership fees, rental fees, business sponsorships and donation support from residents and friends.

Fourth of July picnic circa 1946 at the Community House

To mark its 95th Anniversary, the Community House will turn its usual annual Gala into a special “Birthday Bash” celebrating its early years, to be held at the Community House on Tuesday, January 18 starting at 6:00 pm. The event is designed to salute those sturdy settlers who first gathered at the Community House in the days before the Depression. The evening will begin with a social hour, followed by dinner and dancing.

Instead of usual Gala attire, attendees will be encouraged to come in casual dress and wear something white (in honor of the 95th Anniversary and as a nod to fashion in the tropics before air conditioning!).

Musical entertainment will echo the early days, when many Islanders did not yet own a radio, but came to the Community House instead to listen to major broadcasts and dance to big band music. This time, a live band will be added for dancing following the dinner.

Instead of the old-time “pot luck” dinner, where each person brings their “best dish” to share with their friends & neighbors, attendees at the Birthday Bash will get to enjoy six courses of some of the best culinary art on the Island without lifting a finger. Appetizers will be prepared by several noted Island restaurant kitchens. Main course items will be prepared by new Community House Resident Chef John Wolff, a longtime Island favorite recently installed to lead SCA’s Culinary Programs. And final course offerings will be prepared by a wonderful new Surprise Chef famous for her irresistible dessert creations at Windows on the World.

The public is invited to attend, bring some friends, join the celebration, and help keep the Community House going for its next 95 years. Tickets, tables and sponsorships for the “Cheers To 95 Years” event can be secured by visiting the Community House website or by calling 237-472-2155. Individual tickets are available for $175 each, and recognized sponsor tables are available at various levels: “Islander”–$1,000 (includes 2 tickets); “Great Hall”–$2,500 (includes 4 tickets); “Community”–$5,000 (includes 6 tickets); and “Founder”–$10,000 (includes 8 tickets).

In order to provide for a safe event, attendees will be requested to show evidence of Covid vaccination or a clear covid test.

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