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Zonta’s ‘Peek’ to feature historic 1901 cottage

By Staff | Mar 3, 2011

The cottage has original wood shakes and its original wood storm shutters were recently restored.

The time capsule that is Buzz Murphy’s and Joanne Marriott’s vintage cottage contains everything that Sanibel once was — and still is for many of its longtime residents. Like the island, the little fisherman’s cottage is filled with colorful, eccentric delights that dazzle and pleasantly disorient all at the same time.

It is impossible to tour the house, one of four to be featured on Saturday, March 12 as part of Zonta’s “Peek At The Unique” annual fundraiser, without bumping into pieces of Sanibel’s past: historical photographs, and decades-old antique wicker and wood furnishings lovingly restored. Whimsical artwork, like the grinning buzzard standing guard outside the house, would make even the worst curmudgeon smile.

“Buzzard’s Roost,” as it is affectionately called, has been home to Buzz Murphy since 1969, when he first came to the islands after serving in the Vietnam War. Back then, the little house was located on Captiva, and Murphy lived rent-free courtesy of his employer, a Mr. White.

Built over a century ago of near-indestructible Dade County pine, the house was one of three located just west of ‘Tween Waters Inn, and had survived several hurricanes. But in 1974, it almost did not survive Mr. White’s plans to demolish it and build a new home in its place.

Murphy convinced White to sell him the place for a dollar… if he could move it. With an electric saw and a little help, he broke the cottage into three pieces and — in early 1975, at a cost of $3,900 — had it trucked to its present location off Periwinkle Avenue. The move had to be approved by the then-fledgling Sanibel City Council, which was finally convinced by island legends and fellow soldiers, Francis Bailey and Dave Wooster.

Every inch of space is carefully and creatively used, especially in the kitchen.

To this day, the house retains historical touches such as the original wood storm shutters, tongue-and-groove wood floors, and blown glass windows set in wood frames that slide. Newer additions include Joanne Marriott, whom Murphy met in 1984 and married in 1987 (their wedding reception was held at the house), and their son Sean. Murphy, a handyman on the island for 40 years, and Marriott, a longtime Zontian, continue to add to their eclectic collection.

Money raised during “A Peek At The Unique” is distributed in grants to organizations and programs that strengthen women’s lives on the islands, in Lee County and around the world through Zonta International. Club members also provide hands-on assistance and advocacy.

Islanders can help by taking “Six Chances at the Unique,” a raffle with prizes ranging from a stunning framed print by master printmaker Dan Welden, to excursions, dining and shopping gift certificates. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased from any club member and at the Watson-MacRae Gallery in the Village Shops, up to and including Peek Day, and at the Sanibel Island Farmers Market this Sunday, March 6. Ticket buyers do not have to be present to win.

For one of the last remaining seats on the tour, call 1-800-598-7340. For information on the club and more about Zonta, visit www.zontasancap.com.