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Sanibel’s Historical Museum and Village will offer free admission June 18

By Staff | Jun 15, 2016

The Rutland House was built in 1913 and was the first building added to the village. PHOTO PROVIDED

For those of you who haven’t visited the historical village, now is the time to go. On June 18, the museum will offer free admission for the third consecutive year.

“We’re doing it as a service to the community and we want to get as many people as possible to educate them on the history of Sanibel. There’s always tourists and visitors who are interested, but also, you do hear of people who live on the island who have never come for whatever reason. We feel that once they are here and see how great it is, they’ll come back,” said Emilie Alfino, museum manager.

Last year, the museum had over 10,000 visitors from all over the world, according to Alfino.

The museum opened its doors in 1984 after Elinore Dormer and a few other women started the Historical Preservation Committee. The Rutland House, which was donated by the Meunch family, became the first house in the village.

The Schoolhouse for White Children, which dates back to 1896, is the oldest building in the village. The building was moved from Periwinkle Place and was used as the schoolhouse theater for many years.

The Schoolhouse for White Children was built in 1896 and is the oldest building on the island. PHOTO PROVIDED

“The building has been restored to its 1927 look and everything is authentic inside. The blackboard is even still there,” Alfino said.

Stepping into one of the old buildings feels as though you’re in a time warp. The artifacts look as though they’ve been unscathed throughout the years and, to Alfino, she feels that is the most unique thing about the museum.

“You can really look at everything and touch most things. People tell us that is very special to them. It really gives you a whole atmosphere of what it was like instead of looking at a diorama behind glass,” she said.

Alfino strives to educate visitors that Sanibel first began as a farming community. All of the previous residents on the island were known as pioneers. Sanibel was well-known for its juicy tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and watermelon.

“It was farm country back then, but of course that all changed,” Alfino said.

The Morning Glories Cottage is a favorite among visitors. It was built in 1925 and is a Sears & Roebuck prefabrication. PHOTO PROVIDED

Annette Pacyga, a docent that has been at the museum since last October, is grateful for the experience the museum has given her.

“I love working at the village and meeting all the different people from all of the different countries and surprisingly enough, I’ve met some of my neighbors that I did not know before. It’s a very fun place to be, you never stop learning,” Pacyga said.

The one thing that Alfino hopes visitors take away from the museum is a better understanding of how Sanibel was initially formed.

“I would like people to understand what the pioneers went through to make Sanibel what it is today. It was really hard to live here but some of them loved it so much they kept at it and made it into something,” Alfino said.

The museum closes in August but opens back up again Oct. 18. Admission is $10 for adults 18 and over; children are free.

Visitors at the Old Bailey General Store. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Sanibel Historical Museum & Village is located at 950 Dunlop Road. For information, call (239) 472-4648.