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Lighthouse, buildings added to historic registry

By Staff | Jun 22, 2016

The City of Sanibel Planning Commission unanimously voted to add the Sanibel Lighthouse, the Keepers Quarters and the adjacent Brick Hut to the local historic registry during its Tuesday meeting last week.

The structures were nominated by City Manager Judy Zimomra to be included on the City of Sanibel’s Register of Historic Sites and Structures. The city acquired the buildings in 2010.

Roy Gibson, senior planner for the City of Sanibel Planning Department, said the Sanibel Code provides two sets of criteria for the nomination, as well as a procedure, steps and process to consider a nomination.

The first step was taken by the Historical Preservation Committee, who met on June 2, to review the nomination and the criteria. Gibson said the Sanibel Code requires that at least one of the four criterias are met – historic importance, architectural importance, geographic importance, or archeological importance.

“Our preservation committee found that three of those four criteria were met for these structures to be placed on local register. Those are historic importance, architectural importance and geographic importance,” he said.

The second set of criteria refers to the evaluation of the structure. Sanibel Code sets forth five criterias for the evaluation of the nomination, which the preservation committee said were all met. The criteria includes that the structure is at least 50 years old; it has retained its integrity in either original workmanship, materials, design, setting or association; has an outstanding historical cultural, architectural significance to the community; exemplifies the broad cultural, economic and social history of Southwest Florida and has distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style representing a historic, or unique period of construction.

“This action before you today is to add this to the local historic registry even though they have been identified and recognized as a historic structure from the original Sanibel Plan. It’s just a matter of taking that recognition and placing them on the local register,” Gibson said. “I think the city manager is seeking grant funds and I think part of the application for the grant is to identify whether or not its on the local register.”

Phillip Marks, chairman of the Planning Commission, said when he moved to the island 15 years ago the two cottages were occupied by city employees.

“I felt that they added something. First they were keeping it clean. It was their home, so it always looked clean and neat. Secondly, it probably acted as a safety thing. I think when people might want to vandalize something . . . when they see lights on and cars there they know people are there,” Marks said.

He went on to say that the city is currently using the cottages as storage, which he hopes they will find a different location to store whatever is in the cottages. Marks said he wants to see the cottages restored and used for three, or four below market housing units.

“We have many other historic buildings occupied,” he said, adding that he hopes the city finds a way to occupy the cottages again for city employees.

According to the National Register of Historic Places, the Florida Peninsular Land Company, a group of investors, sponsored the exploration of the Gulf coast of Florida in search of a permanent settlement. In 1833, a small group of settlers arrived from New York. In December of the same year, 13 residents petitioned the U.S. Treasury Department to construct a lighthouse on the island, which received no interest from the government at that time.

When the request was repeated in December 1877 to the General Land Office, action was taken due to the seagoing commerce reaching importance for the area, stated the National Register of Historic Places. Within two weeks, Sanibel Island was closed to private ownership.

In 1878, and again in 1879, the Lighthouse Board recommended $40,000 to be appropriated to begin the construction of the lighthouse on the southern point of Sanibel Island.

Congress appropriated $20,000 to the construction of a lighthouse on March 3, 1881. Another $30,000 was appropriated to the cost on Aug. 7, 1882, according to the National Register of Historic Places.

In April 1883, the district engineer surveyed the site leading to a recommendation that the east end of Sanibel be reserved for the lighthouse reservation. The construction began in February 1884 and by the end of the summer the lighthouse was completed. The lighthouse was lighted for the first time on Aug. 20, 1884.

According to Lighthouse Digest, a 162-wharf and two wooden keepers’ quarters were constructed on iron stilts in 1884.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.