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Caretaker’s Cottage restored and opens for Black History Month at Historical Village

By Staff | Feb 25, 2015

Gene Gavin and Yvonne Hill talk about some of Gavin’s memories of the Caretakers Cottage, in which his grandparents lived in back in the early to mid-1900s. BRIAN WIERIMA

When history is unearthed, discoveries are usually made.

That’s what happened during the restoration of the Caretaker’s Cottage at the Sanibel Historical Village. The Historical Village held its ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the Caretaker’s Cottage Wednesday, Feb. 18, with a special guest of honor in attendance in Gene Gavin, who’s grandparents once lived in the building.

The two-roomed cottage was restored to its original form starting in the late summer of 2014, but while doing that, there was much discovery made.

“As we removed the vinyl and sheetrock, we discovered there was only one original front door for the two interior rooms, but there was also a back door,” said Historical Village board president Dorothy Donaldson. “The original interior walls, floors and ceilings were made of yellow or slash pine, a popular material of the time, but later abandoned due to its flammability.”

There were also signs of a cooking stove in on room and a kerosene stove for heat in the other, which was vented through the ceiling.

“The restoration included patching holes in the ceiling with the same wood available, and replacing one wall that was badly damaged,” Donaldson said. “All the wood surfaces were oiled for protection, vinyl windows were replaced by wooden windows as originally used in the building and an intricate ramp and stairs were added to facilitate entrance and exit.”

She said hurricane shutters will be added for protection.

The exhibit of the Caretaker’s Cottage will have photos on display, which will include the Gavin and Walker families, who each had long histories on Sanibel.

The cottage was built in 1926, and was used to house caretakers to stay over in case they missed the ferry.

Gavin’s grandparents, Isaiah and Hannah Gavin, were the caretakers for many years and lived in the cottage during their time here.

Gene Gavin recalled work was a normal day, but something in which his family never shied away from.

“We never feared work and I learned something everyday,” Gene Gavin said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “There was time for cleaning yards, opening coconuts and making sea grape jelly. Once during in-season, a Mr. Starbuck would show movies at our school (for colored children). We also had plays and church at the school.

“We also once participated in the Shell Fair and won second place.”

The historical village is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. The village is located at 950 Dunlop Road (next to BIG ARTS).

Admission is $10 for adults 18 and older; those under 18 and members are free.

Docent-guided tours are available at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at no extra charge, based upon docent availability.

There is handicap access to all buildings. Admission for entrance to go only to the Museum Store is free. For information, call 472-4648 during business hours or visit www.sanibelmuseum.org.