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Sanibel City

Sanibel City Hall is located at 800 Dunlop Road, Sanibel, FL 33957; phone: 239-472-3700.

Sanibel's [1] history over the past century has been one of alternate growth and decline. About 1888, agricultural development started and spread over the next 40 years to all of the Island's arable land. During this period, several hurricanes with accompanying flood tides ranging from nine to 13 feet high struck Sanibel. The last hurricane of that period, in 1926, changed the course of the Island's history, inundating the entire Island with saltwater. After this disaster, many of the residents of the Island were financially ruined and forced to leave. The remainder stayed to seek a livelihood serving winter visitors and tourists.

Little growth occurred between 1927 and 1944, when the permanent resident population is reported to have been 100, except for a gradual increase in the number of visitors and development of cottages along the shore. In the 1950s, Sanibel's reputation for shell collecting and tourism grew, with a parallel development of residents and services.

Until this time, most buildings were constructed on the Island's higher land elevations, approximately five feet above sea level. This pattern changed radically after construction of the Causeway in 1963, when a development boom began on the Island. Land was developed that earlier residents had wisely avoided. The effect of the Sanibel Plan and flood regulations has resulted in a return to the use of piling structures, including the raised elevation of multi-storied buildings.

Historic remnants are not merely objects of interest to a pedantic chronicler, an antiquary or a passing tourist. They are testimonies of successful adaptations by past generations and thus can act as beacons to guide present and future generations in their striving to attain a fitting adaptation to the environment. This is particularly true on a barrier island such as Sanibel where structures are vulnerable to destructive tropical storms and hurricanes. Many of the remaining structures are of historic significance because they are irreplaceable as resources of educational importance and evidence of human survival through past disasters. Those structures that remain provide an important lesson in survival. The Caloosa Indians obtained additional elevation for their houses by building mounds of shells. Most surviving structures from the late 19th century were built on high ground or elevated above flood tides on piling. The Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters (1884), the Bailey House (1896) and the Cooper Homestead (1891) are all examples of successful adaptation. These historic sites and structures, among others, are irreplaceable resources that should be maintained for future residents and visitors.

  1. City of Sanibel, FL, Sanibel Plan: the Comprehensive Land Use Plan of the City of Sanibel, Florida, 2013, revised,, accessed February, 2016.
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