Sanibel — a barrier island on the southwest Florida coast of Lee County — was first inhabitated by the Calusa Indians, followed by Spanish explorers in the 1600s. In 1832 it became a small colony with its own schoolhouse. A lighthouse, constructed on its east end in 1884, is still operated by the United States Coast Guard. During the twentieth century, Sanibel was largely an agricultural community with avocado, citrus, and eggplant farms — a far cry from the tourist mecca it is today.
The Sanibel Historical Village and Museum captures and conveys life on the island before the causeway, when everyone and everything arrived by ferry. Several of Sanibel’s older buildings including the oldest, Burnap Cottage — which was built in 1898 — can be seen here. On a more modern scale, there is a complete Sears & Roebuck catalog home, delivered by ferry and built from a kit in 1924.