The island’s street names tell of a rich history
There is a common site in any community which can tell one of its character, history and natural attractions – and it’s literally on every street corner.
Street signs bear names of a town’s past, demographic and environmental ecosystems, with Sanibel island being no different. They are mostly ignored and only recognized to find a destination, but these street signs each have a story behind them – either long and prosperous, or just short and simple.
Sanibel has a rich history, with unique ecological features which no other communities in Florida can really boast of. The street names can tell the island’s history and its natural wonders it possesses.
Names such as Lindgren Boulevard, Kaitlyn Drive, the corner of Wooster and Dunlop and Sanibel’s most famous street – Periwinkle Way – is a microcosm summary of the island’s history and ecosystems.
Periwinkle Way, for example, is traveled by thousands of residents and guests alike everyday, as the backed up traffic during the busy season of January through April can attest to.
But ever wonder why it’s called Periwinkle Way? Or how Alecks Alley got its name?
Periwinkle Way has quite the history, but the term “periwinkle” is a color in the blue and purple family. It is derived from the lesser periwinkle or myrtle herb which blossoms flowers of the same color.
The road stretches from Point Ybel all the way to Tarpon Bay, which covers about a quarter of Sanibel-Captiva islands. Periwinkle Way was known simply as the “main” road for many years and was first asphalted in the 1950’s.
Since then, the hub of Sanibel resides on Periwinkle Way, with many businesses relying on the island’s main artery, which brings visitors off the Causeway and through the heart of paradise.
It’s a long way off from its beginnings as a cart path and later a shell road, which helped the early homesteaders an effective means of travel.
But there are other roads which earned its names through history, with many also bearing names of shells, birds, vegetation and mariner terms – all of which are a part of Sanibel’s unique nature.
Much of the facts and research for this article on Sanibel’s street names were taken from Sanibel’s Story, via the Sanibel Public Library. It’s a very detailed book written by Betty Anholt, with many informative writings and great historical photos to go with it.
Not all the roads on Sanibel will be mentioned here, but if you are out and about, take notice of the names on those street signs when passing through to your island destination.
It’s all in the history
There are many reasons for a name of streets, but the most intriguing are the ones which have been a part of local history.
Sanibel has lots of it, and a slice of it is told on the street signs. Here is a sampling of historical names on Sanibel street signs.
n Woodring Road: Some of the first homesteaders on Sanibel was the Woodring family. The original Woodring home was picked out even before the official date of July 3, 1888, for homesteading was declared.
Dixie Beach Road branches into Woodring Road on the north side of the island and runs along San Carlos Bay and Ladyfinger Lake. The Woodrings moved into their home by November of 1888. When Sam Woodring Sr. passed away in 1899, his widow, Anna, operated the Woodring House, which was open to Sanibel visitors.
Woodring Point, which is on San Carlos Bay, was also named after the family.
n Algiers Lane: One of the most interesting originations for a street name on Sanibel. It runs off of Casa Ybel Road and to Gulfside Beach.
The name comes from the Algiers, which was a Mississippi River car ferry. It was purchased by New York congressman Lathrop Brown and moved to Sanibel in 1959.
Brown, and his wife Helen, moved the 150-foot long boat and turned it into a mansion located on what is now the city-owned Gulfside Park.
Brown, who was a former college roommate of Franklin Roosevelt, unfortunately would not enjoy his boat-turned-mansion, when he died shortly after the conversion was made.
Helen Brown never lived in it and it sat empty for 23 years, before being bulldozed in 1982.
n Bailey Road: Visitors who are coming off the Causeway and taking a right onto Periwinkle, will come upon Bailey Road soon after.
The road is named after one of the most well-known families of Sanibel and one of its most famous businesses in the Bailey’s General Store.
The Bailey Home, which now resides on the SCCF’s land on Periwinkle and Donax, was originally built in 1896 for $530.
The Bailey name has strong influence all over the island, which includes the Bailey Tract and the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. The Bailey’s General Store is a main hub at the end of Periwinkle and Tarpon Bay Road.
n Kinzie Island Court: The Kinzie family was basically the only way for visitors and residents alike to make it over to Sanibel from the mainland before the Causeway.
Kinzie Island Court is named after the Kinzie family, which ran the Kinzie Brothers Steamer Line. The fleet of steamers transported the mail and ferried vehicles and people to and from the island.
The Kinzie family of brothers of George, Andrew and Eric arrived from Germany to Fort Myers in 1886. Eventually, the Kinzie Brothers Steamship Line was created in Fort Myers in 1904, where they started to build a fleet of steamships.
The business started blooming when the government awarded the company the mail delivery contract to bring all the mail to the different islands off of Fort Myers.
In 1928, the first auto ferry started, with the first dock at the old Bailey’s Store and eventually moving near Lighthouse Point.
The last run of the ferry came May 26, 1963, the day the Causeway opened.
n Casa Ybel Road: The road is another main artery off of Periwinkle Way, and runs along the gulf coast and eventually turns into West Gulf Drive.
The Barnes family was one of the pioneers of Sanibel to build one of the first two hotels on Sanibel, named “The Sisters”. The other hotel was named “The Matthews”. “The Sisters” hotel was later renamed “Casa Ybel” which became a destination for a bevy of Sanibel guests over the years.
n Wulfert Road: The road which branches off of Sanibel Captiva Road and lines The Sanctuary Golf Club, is named after the old township of Wulfert on Sanibel.
The community of Wulfert had a population of 100 in the early 1900’s, and was known for producing plentiful crops of tomatoes, which were then shipped off island.
In 1902, the Wulfert school had 18 students and it operated until 1924. In July of 1935, the Wulfert Post Office was closed. The name “Wulfert” remains a mystery, but it is said to have been chosen by the postal inspector in reference to a Washington Irving novel and his “Wolfert” character.
n Alecks Alley: The alley way which is off of Periwinkle Way and travels behind Baileys General Store, is named after longtime resident Mary Aleck.
Shelling bearing streets
One of the most popular activities on Sanibel is shelling on one of the nation’s best beaches. This activity is honored as several street names on the east side of the island.
Donax Street is a popular road off of Middle Gulf Drive.
The appropriately named Kings Crown Drive is the main shelling-named road, with Pen Shell Drive, Conch Court and Oyster Court each connecting neighborhoods and ending into cul-de-sacs (except for Pen Shell Drive).
Other shelling street names include Angel Wing Drive, Whelk Drive, Sand Dollar Drive, Junonia Street and Pecten Court, which are all within the same block-grid area.
As you drive on Periwinkle towards the Sanibel Lighthouse and Point Ybel, the mariner names start showing up on the street signs. The neighborhood on the most eastern side of Sanibel bears the names of Captains Walk, Coquina Drive, Skiff Place, Schooner Place, South Yachtsman Drive, Anchor Drive and Windlass Way.
The most famous sailor honored with his own street name? Try Ponce DeLeon Road, who was one of the first European explorers to land on Sanibel. But Sanibel also was the end of the line for him, after being shot in the leg by a Calusa native’s arrow and dying en route back to Cuba.
Streets and plant names
The last set of streets before hitting Point Ybel have vegetation street names, as well as throughout the island. One of Sanibel’s most common plant, the seagrape, has Seagrape Lane, which is second to last road before hitting the gulf.
Buttonwood Lane is also located on the east side, as well as Golden Olive and Tulip. Others around the island include Peachtree Road, Joewood, Strangler Fig Lane, Wax Myrtle Way, Snowberry Lane and Old Banyan Way.
The birds of Sanibel are well represented on the street corners of the island. Osprey Court, Eagle Run, the more literal Birdie View Point, Spoonbill Court, the more creative My Tern and Anhinga Lane are all names of native birds on the island.
Next week, the Captiva street names will be explored, which also comes with rich history and creative street signs on the corner of paradise.